TODAY -

Meiteis must unite for survival in the current ethnic clash

Dr Mohendra Irengbam *

Meetei settlement razed to ground at CCpur in May 2023
Meetei settlement razed to ground at CCpur in May 2023 : Pix - TSE



People in Manipur want to be happy. Meiteis want to be happy. But we are all still really struggling. We are sad and we are angry. Why? Because of armed assault by the Kukis, and Meitei disunity in the face of it, knowing especially that, the current Kuki terrorist violence is not the last hurray. It had been elaborately planned, heavily armed and ready for battle, in association with their kindred ethnic Kuki-Zo-chin in Myanmar, just across the porous border.

Up front, I would like to discuss how to help us in defending against further stealth Kuki assault. I am going to talk a bit about this strange side of Meitei national character, which I call narcissism [Ref. Author's book, The Origin of Meiteis, Meitei National Character, pp 115-182, 2009]. Unfortunately, this character did not end climactically, among other habits, such as our 'quick to roll up sleeves' [khudang hekta takhatnaba] for minor fracas, as a turning point, by the end of the Japan Lan (WWII) in 1945.

Meitei narcissism is Meitei pride, napan chaoba, which is always as big as Loktak Lake. Every Meitei man has an archetypal personal squib that derides other men's virtues: "Eina mahele, mana eingondagi kari henna khangdana." I am the best. What does he know that I do not know ? Meiteis were never left to drown it even during our down to earth existence and flubbed living conditions.

This trait persists as dominant expression because of those Meitei ancestors who were born during those times of harsh environment, fighting the surrounding hostile tribes [known among old Meiteis like, Haona landarakpa, such as akam haona landarakpa], as well battling powerful neighbours like the Burmese, Tripuris and Ahoms.

This acquired trait is known as "Strauss and Howe generation theory." As examples, children born between 1945 and 1960 (following WWII) are referred to as 'Baby boomers' in the UK, because of the boom in births, as soldiers returning from the war, wanted to raise big families.

Lately, we have 'millennial children,' who are known to be progressive, creative and far thinking than earlier generations, because of the economic boom. You will find them among the Meiteis (cf. series of Meitei scientists, E-Pao net news).

Meitei narcissism persists as 'Old Habits die hard.' It is like, women still carrying the main burden of looking after home and family, which was a necessity during the stone age when men were hunters and gatherers. As 'exception prove the Rule,' there is ethnic Khasis of Meghalaya in Northeast India and the Nair community in South India, with the opposite tradition.

More profound and less primitive is the racial discrimination of Indians in their own country by white Britons. It is about the Breech Candy Swimming pool club in South Mumbai. This saltwater pond shaped like the map of India, is located on the beach of the Arabian sea in less than 2km from Chowpatty Seaface (Marine Drive).

The blatant racial profiling was a trait the Britons inherited from the time of the East India Company. It continued long after Indian Independence in 1947 and ended only in 1967 after a lengthy agitation by Indians. Still, the club makes it excruciatingly difficult for Indians to become a member, calling them euphemistically as 'Ordinary member.'

The late Bollywood star Sashi Kapoor was one of the very few Indian members, admitted because of his English wife, the late Jennifer Kendal. Jennifer came to Imphal in 1947. It was just before Indian Independence. Jennifer (22) came as a member of her father's 'Shakespearian Drama company.' She was in the drama Macbeth, which Moirangthem Gojendra and I went to see. It was performed at the MDU Drama Hall in Imphal.

Suspected Kuki militants burn down Meitei houses in March 2024
Suspected Kuki militants burn down Meitei houses in March 2024 : Pix - TSE



I went to this club with my wife to have lunch at the poolside restaurant in 1982, as a guest of an Indian woman friend, whose husband was an English company executive working in Mumbai. And refreshingly, when I was at St Xavier's college in 1952, my class fellow friend Mahmood, a Bombay resident, used to take me often, in his car, to Breech Candy beach, near the club, to watch the sunset and eat Panipuri (Golguppa).

Now, slowly grinding to the theme of this dissertation, I will begin with Meitei civilisation, which had always remained fragile and unstable, because of disunity and betrayal among the Meitei princes, as it were during the Chahi Taret Khuntakpa [Seven-year Devastation]. We cannot blame them. Meitei royals were Meiteis only. Our narcissist trait.

This trait is like the gene the Native Americans have inherited a weakness for alcohol. They lack an enzyme ALDH2, which protects other people from developing alcoholism.

My thoughts in this precis, focus on the overall purpose of my research study while specific statements describe the steps or actions needed to achieve my goal, which is to defend ourselves against the Kuki-Zo onslaught. Self-protection justifies defensive actions like using pre-emptive force to stop an attack from happening, like the much acclaimed Indian 'surgical strikes' across the LOC in Balakot in 'Pakistan occupied Kashmir' in 2016.

The terrorist Kukis are now looking for opportunities to trip Meiteis up and write our history for us. Isn't it marvellous? To dampen their enthusiasm, we Meiteis cannot remain complacent with a laissez-fair attitude. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survives.

In their domestic terrorism, the union of Myanmarese Chin-Kuki-Zo narcoterrorists in collusion with Manipuri Kukis (Khongjais) are attacking Meiteis, where effective countermeasure is zero or ineffective, like sniping helpless unarmed farmers in the ploughing field or, shooting the unsuspecting vulnerable villagers and burning their houses while they are fast asleep inside with the family. For them 'The end justifies the means' [Machiavelli in The Prince].

Initially, the Khongjais began their abominable attacks on unwary Meiteis villagers, inhabiting the foothills of Churachandpur on May 3, 2023. But to their dismay, they were outclassed by Meiteis in their retaliation, by attacking Kukis, living in the Imphal city. As it happened, seventy seven (77) Kukis and ten (10) Meiteis were killed during the first week of this ethnic clash
[Wikipedia.org>wiki>2023-2014_manipur].

Their loss thus, was more inordinate than they bargained for, despite their well-rehearsed choreography for such an attack. Following which, their battle plan now seems to pitch not only against the demographically centralised Meiteis with the only all-weather airport in Manipur, but the peripheral Tangkhul Nagas, whose neutrality they broke.

The Tangkhul Nagas and other Nagas tribes like Mao and Maram, straddle on Kukis' only lifeline highway NH2 that runs from Imphal in Manipur to Dimapur in the Naga Hills. Meiteis still have NH 37 that connect Imphal to Assam.

The Kukis have never forgotten that nine hundred Kukis were killed by the Tangkhuls with the help of NSCN (M) in the Kuki-Tangkhul clash at the Kamjong district of Manipur in 1997. They regard both Meiteis and Nagas are inimical to their own existence. This is not true. We all can live in peace together, talking things out across a round table conference.

This will not however, be the case for some time ahead. In the present interlude, we Meiteis per force, need to defend ourselves against such an adversary (not enemy). The only problem is, we are like a two-headed snake, each head fighting for food, though it shares the same gut. This is the crunch of the matter in my view.

This Meitei character gains from our trait of 'collective narcissism.' There is a common belief among Meitei men that he is superior to anybody. Not only that, but he may also be willing to conspire against members of his own group, leading to fractionisation. I know it very well as I am a stereotype with the motto, Ei meena utsitaba yade [I will not be intimidated].

To prove my point though at the risk of being jejune and petulant, I have collected the names of a few organisations for the record, to impress on the truth of the matter. No offence intended. We are on the same side: (1) Meetei Leepun, (2) Kangleipak kanba Lup, (3) Salai Kanba Marup, (4) TAPTA one man show, led by Jayanta Loukrakpam, (6) a group led by Maheswar Thiounaojam, (7) a group led by Somarendro Maheswar, (8) Taragi Cheisu led by Khaidem Mani,(9) Manipur Nupi Marup (10) Imagi Lambie (11) Meitei Lanmee (12) Coordinating Committee on Manipur's integrity (COCOMI), (13) Meitei Heritage Society (14) Thawai Meeral (15) Manipur Chanura Lamjing Lup, etcetera.

There are others in addition to these de novo coteries. The old stalwarts of Meitei revolutionaries/insurgents, such as CorCom (Coordinating Committee). They were formed between 1977 and 1980 and thankfully now, a united body of seven groups. (I was one among others, pleading for their union). They are: (1)PLA, (2)PREPAK, (3)KCP, (4)KYKL, (5) UNLF, (6) RPF and (7) UPPK. However, since the expulsion of UPPK in 2013, CorCom has now six members. Thank goodness. For the record, one group was led by the late Irengbam Chaoren, a nephew of mine.

True to Meitei national character, there have been spectacular splits in the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP). It is now divided into ten smaller groups: (1) KCP (Noyon), (2) KCP-MC Lanheiba Meitei, (3) KCP-MC Lanjaba Meitei, (4) KCP Lamphel, (5) KCP City Meitei, (6) KCP Kokkai (7) KCP Nando (8) KCP KK Nganba (9) KCP-MC.

In the beginning of Kuki-Meitei clash, I was very proud of the emergence of the 'Arambai Tenggol' and the 'World Meitei Council', which endeavoured to protect the Meitei community, the first by physical means and as an organised regiment under one leader, Kourounganba Khuman, and the latter, by nationalism that emphasises cohesion of Meitei communities all over the world. It has Heigrujam Nabashyam as chairperson.

The world Meitei Council stands to be admired as it perseveres with the demand of the ST status for Meiteis. Achievement of this goal will end all the woes of Meiteis in their fight for survival.

I have great adulations for these young patriots, but they are good in only a mob setting. With their inferior armaments and various leaders, they are no match for these organised Kuki militia with an avowed goal of self-administration, like the indoctrinated communist Vietcong guerrillas.

They also have modern sophisticated weapons, obtained often by moonlighting through the porous border with Myanmar, with their kindred tribes. They include rifle grenade propellers and mortars firing mortar bombs. They also have sniper rifles.

Sniper rifles are long range guns with optics, or telescopes with cross wires that provides a correct point of aim. They use larger 50 calibre ammunition with high accuracy. With a standard Indian Army issue of sniper gun Dragunov SVD59' with scope, they can pick a target on their cross hair, anywhere within 1.3 km. And if they have the handier Chinese PLA sniper rifle 'QBU-88', they can shoot at a target as far as at 1Km.

Houses torched at Torbung by  Kuki militants in May 2023
Houses torched at Torbung by Kuki militants in May 2023 : Pix - TSE



I am not just blabbering or talking over my head. I have done quite a bit of shooting in my young days, with family guns and my personal semi-automatic 7-round pistol. Also, during my seven years in colleges, in the NCC, reaching the rank of Senior Underofficer.

I once stood for my college in Agra, in a shooting competition in Lucknow for all the NCC units from colleges all over the UP. Not that I got anywhere. I also did some target shooting with pistols including the German Walther PPK (James Bond's gun) with 7 rounds. in a pistol club in England.

From the military strategic and operational levels of warfighting, these young groups are like the German boy battalions that were sent out to fight the Russians towards the end of WWII in 1945, and the young Japanese Kamikaze pilots, called 'Boy pilots' sent out for suicidal dive bombing of American warships in the Battles of Okinawa and Leyte Gulf. Thousands lost their lives. They were desperate then, but Meiteis are not, for now at least.

My essay is motivated by the recent gruesome murder of a Meitei, Soibam Saratkumar and rampant torching of 70 Meitei houses on June 25, 2024, at 1.30am, by Kuki terrorists. Their aim was to terrorise Meiteis living in the Jiribam district of Manipur. Further horrible shooting and arson were carried out on June 26 2024 at 2.30 am, with the obvious aim of ethnic cleansing of Meiteis from the Jiribam district [cf. E-Pao news).

Their determined but frenzied gambit should invigorate Meitei resolve to defend ourselves as effectively as possible. The situation is now very serious. It is like the early phase of the civil war between the frantic Tamil and Sinhala in Sri Lanka, which claimed the life of Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India in 1991, before it finally ended in 2009.

The Kukis are now manoeuvring like those American GIs of 'Merrill's Marauders', who were dropped in Burma, behind Japanese positions. Their tactics were to disorganise Japanese defences and capture the Myitkyina city, the capital of Chin state, with all its all-weather airfield.

Meiteis need to unite and choose a leader or a committee of leaders as a mini war cabinet, who know when to fight and when not to fight [cf. Sun Tzu, the Chinese general]. We must unite before falling to the bottomless pit [Bible, Revelation 20:1-3], due to premature resource exhaustion and contradictory common interests.

'Too many cooks spoil the broth' is an adage we are all familiar with, [as each try to add something to the soup which finally taste awful]. Factionalism is animosity, bickering, rivalry squabble, arguing violently and fighting among ourselves. It is always full of strife, hindering to the persecution of our goal. That is to defend ourselves successfully. As the American General Patton once said, " You do not have to die for your country, let the bastards die."

The Meitei community now, stands revealed as one at war. Be it small, but still a war in which people do get killed. We need collective endeavours, as an alchemic mixing of duty and patriotism, to create a cartographical and vivifying defensive structure. Gone with the wind is the notion of quintessential Meitei superiority complex with egotism.

We must have methodical planning for self-defence, using techniques that are used in the post-World War II era. We need to marshal so that the whole aggregate works as a unit with each component having a proper function [Manoeuvre warfare]. This military strategy uses the principles that emphasise initiative to achieve a goal, by minimising in frontal combat.

We must do it on a war footing as the civil war is escalating while 'All is quiet on the Central front' with our beloved PM Modi. No guidance as a Prime Minister should do, had been forthcoming. He is on a maun vrat [Mute] while we are fighting a civil war. You may prefer to call it euphemistically, as "the Kuki aggression," "Brothers' war," "Kuki agitation for an independent state" and so on. Killing each en mass between organised groups in a state or country is a civil war.

Our pyare Modiji, who likes to hear his own voice in Hindi, is silent. Though Gujarati is his native language, he speaks Hindi better than many Hindi speakers in the Hindi speaking belt of the North. I do not know what Sigmund Freud would have thought about his infantile psychodynamics [cf. Freud's paper on narcissism, c. 1914], but I have my own.

But I am still puzzled whether it is a religious silence, following his inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, remembering how King Dasharath went mute after Ram was exiled. Or, is it an assertion of his right to remain politically silent as he is not legally forced to engage in such a talk [Freedom of speech]. Whatever it is, Pranam Modiji. Bhagwan Bhalla ho tera.

It is equally difficult to decipher whether his sankalp (solemn vow) to remain silent is incorporated in his 'Modi ka grantee' (Modi's guarantee ), or in his Dilki baat [Talk from his heart], after all the marathon speeches he made during his 151 travels, all over India except Manipur, and abroad so far, as of June 2024.

Whatever our great Modiji's yojana (program) be, Meitei civilisation is not ready for gayab honeka (vanishing) like the Maya civilisation of Mexico that collapsed between 800-1,000 CE]. Maya civilisation and Meitei civilisation have some similarities [cf. Author's Modern civilisation in Manipur Revisited].

Bearing this in mind, I am about to launch the ancient proverb, 'United we stand, divided we fall.' Most educated Meiteis are familiar with this adage, but for those who are not so familiar, I would like to emphasise on its virtue. It is metaphoric or symbolic in nature. It will impart knowledge, offer advice and relieve interpersonal tensions, as for example, in our disunity and factionalism.

This phrase was first attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller's, AESOP'S FABLES in "The Bundle of sticks." which we all read during our high school days. It was also mentioned in the historic Greek translation of the biblical New Testament : "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand" [Mathew, 12:25]. I am a Bible reader, but a Hindu.

I first learnt about it in Manipuri literature class when I was in class iv. The teacher explained, showing a broom packed tightly with many thin strands in it. He took one strand out and showed how easy it was for him to snap it, but it was difficult to break the whole bundle that easily.

Narcissism, a trait that teeters between arrogance and caustic, which is the cause of Meitei disunity, is partly inherited and partly influenced by environment. And it can be altered by environmental factors or personal efforts.

Recent research showed that higher education promoted more enlightened world outlook, including racial tolerance and sense of equality (cf. Apostle et al, 1983; Schuman et al, 1997). Further studies in the universities [colleges] in England, had showed that students were more likely to be 'aversive racists.'

They will not show racist attitudes openly like the Joe Bloke, Andrew Parker, a literate political activist, who called the Indian British Prime Minister of Britain Rishi Sunak, a f***ing Paki (The Daily Telegraph June 20 2024),

There is no reason why Meiteis could not do without this narcissistic trait that is like a bone with a dog. We are all very educated now. It is of immense importance during the present conflict, as all that the 60,000 Indian military and paramilitary is doing is to stop Meiteis from retaliation "to keep the peace."

They do not go up the hills for search and destroy operations to stop the Kukis from bombarding the Meiteis. Most combing operations by the security forces are conducted in the valley. It is much safer, but to the obvious detriment of Meiteis.

The security forces will fire a few random rounds back, towards the source of the incoming fire, just going through the motions, as they must be seen to be doing something. They have no orders to end the armed fighting.

New Delhi benefits in the Divide and Rule policy in the Northeast because of the existence of so many ethnic communities. The East India Company was notorious for using it first, after the Indian Sepoy Mutiny. Call it the 'First war of Independence' if you like, but it is not true.

I know the so-called retaliatory return fire by the Indian security forces, are two-a-penny. They cannot hit anybody even by mistake. The chances of anyone of them hitting a target with his standard Indian Army issue assault rifle (INSAC) with a range of 400m, like the popular Russian AK47, is next to none.

They remind me of the poklaobi guns we played as little children, with 1 cm calibre and 20cm long bamboo barrels, using chewed up newspapers ball pastes as bullets. They made a noise like 'pok' when we fired.

We have no shortage of retired Indian Army generals, brigadiers, colonels and lt. colonels in Manipur. If guidance is necessary, they will be quite happy to give us advice about the measures of self-defence within the remit of law and the parameters of the UN Charter 51, for the right of self-defence against an attack by non-state actors.

I personally know Lt Gen Konsam Himalay Singh of Kargil War fame. And the first general from the Northeast.

But we must not forget that the Kukis are not our enemy but neighbours. As Jesus said: " Show kindness to your neighbour and hate your enemy" [Mathew 5:43].

Remember "Nothing ventured, nothing gained"(Chauser).

Safeguarding ourselves is "A good deed in a naughty world" as Shakespeare put it.

I hope I have been helpful.

Viva le Manipur.

 Most decorated Lt Gen Himalay
Most decorated Lt Gen Himalay :: Pix - TSE






* Dr Mohendra Singh Irengbam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 03 2024 .



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