Rajendra Kshetri's Letters from the Republic of Dust : A Review
- Part 2 -

Maisnam Susmina *

The book also incorporates a lucid idea of Insurgency Movements and the rise of Nationalism in Manipur. India Nationalist movements are due to its diversity in languages, religions, castes, and tribes. In the context of Manipur, when we refer to the term ethnic Nationalism, it holds a wide range of political happenings in Manipur.

And the revolutionary movements in Manipur are an outcome of several deep-rooted factors in the region. The author also devotes two chapters on how Nationalism in Manipur arises with the Insurgency Movement or The Meitei Insurgency.

Several writers have written on the denial of democratic Constitutional rights of the region by the Central Government. The author also opines that "The history of Manipur since 1949 has been the history of utter neglect and total disregard of the region by the Centre." (p.110).

In the Chapter August 27, 1965: A Sociological Explanation (p.145), the author opined that in the History of Modern Manipur, the merger of Manipur in India was indeed a disputed landmark and the author gives his view that it was the radical group of educated generation which brought into focus for public debate and discussion.

In one of his chapters, the author gives critical notes on the post-merged Manipur, saying that the region has an unbalanced development. The negligence, denial, and disregard of the region by the Central Government in the post-colonial period have given rise to numerous ethnic insurgencies in the North East region of India.

The author rightfully points out that the resentment of the Mayangs by the people of the region is infused by the unjust attitude in the political administration of the Central Government and significant control of the economy. The sense of loyalty and devotion to the State is an ethnic Nationalist feeling of the people.

The author also highlights responses of different sections of society with the followed up events against the Central Government's unconcerned attitude towards the people's grievances and disappointment for downgrading as a part C State. The book also points to the legacy of Hijam Irabot Singh and how it acts as a force of resurrection.

Thus, according to the author, the rise of Insurgencies among the youth of Manipur is because of the dissatisfaction with the political leaders in the region. With the rise of insurgencies, violence became the way of life in the North Eastern States of India. State administration became incapable of maintaining its internal disturbance.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament, and it received the permission of the President on September 11, 1958. Thus, the Bill became an Act. With the Act giving extensive powers to the armed forces, structural violence in Manipur has increased- enforced disappearance, rape, torture, and extrajudicial execution.

Highlighting two crucial followed up incidents is the naked protest by the courageous "Emas" against the Indian Army in July 2004, a response to the brutal killing of Manorama, and The Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Chanu Sharmila.

She who went on fasting for more than a decade to free her fellow natives and country from the draconian arms of AFSPA. The author in his book questions : "...where was madam Senora when the Manipuri Youth were out in the streets in 2004 protesting against the Armed Forces Special Power Act- AFSPA? Where was her concern when the entire Manipuri womenfolk were up in arms...?" (p. 163).

"All Indians are equal. But some Indians are more equal than others" (p.165). The author, in his book, portrays two Indians: One from the Centripetal or mainland India and the other from the Centrifugal or Peripheral India.

Like there are different shades of blues, there are different degrees of equality. This line also reminds me of George Orwell's Animal Farm (the Seven Commandments) "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Although the Constitution states that no person should be discriminated against because of their religion, sex, or caste, it recognizes all Indian as equal before the eyes of the law. However, the author of this book remark on the regional disparities (the peripheries being left out).

Thus, the book depicts the different degrees of "equal" -ness, citing other facts and prompts the possibility of misreading the word "equal" as a relative term rather than an absolute one. Equality and Non-discriminatory society will be a Utopian society as long as there is no legislation addressing racial or regional discrimination.

"Culture matters. More so, civilizational culture. It is what defines one's identity. Conflict/clash occurs when one's identity is questioned, challenged, and undermined. When two civilizations come into conflict, chaos and disorder follow. This is what happened in Manipur in the seventeen and eighteen centuries..."

It is also a known fact that the Indus civilization, also called the Indus valley civilization or Harappan civilization, is the earliest known urban culture of the Indian subcontinent. The author, in his book, the last chapter, Indo-Manipur Conflict: A Civilizational Perspective (p.181), reflects his desire to resurrect the Mongoloid Civilization of Manipur.

The author opines that India-Manipur Conflict is due to the conviction carried by the mainland people to assimilate its culture and civilization and, on the other hand, the leech attitude of the successive State Governments.

In this regard, the author gives his view that this conflict can better be understood by looking from the civilization perspective by accommodating the Mongoloid Civilization of Manipur (North-East) in India and understanding the diversity of multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

The last part of the book reflects the onset of one's heart to preserve the uniqueness of both the civilization and culture of Manipur. The end note opines that India's subjugation and assimilation of another civilized culture and her ancient practices of dispatching troops have not worked as it is old-fashioned and out-dated. And the alienated feeling of the Mongoloid people of the North-East can only be restored by a new idea of inclusiveness.

It is said that an author is also a conjuror who entertains with his pen. The most striking thing about the book is the unmistakeable sense of sarcasm and satire with which the author has analysed the socio-political phenomena.

The author has smartly and ultra-carefully strung together bits and pieces of events, information and ideas to deliver a new chronicle. A chronicle of our times: "Letters from the Republic of Dust".

Concluded .....

* Maisnam Susmina wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The reviewer is a Research Scholar in the Department of Sociology, Manipur University, Imphal
This article was webcasted on June 08 2022.

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