The Missing Links in Manipur: Politics of Denial and Rights
Often the term ‘people of Manipur’ has been invoked by various organizations in Manipur to strengthen the political opinion and demands without giving a hint of what the usage of the term connotes. Who constitute the ‘people of Manipur’ can easily be defined and enunciated by going into the census reports and statistics; however, when such term is used in expressing political demands, it can have numerous ramifications and implications. Of course, the term has been employed with the intention to imply the unity and strength of ‘people’ in Manipur. However, it also would mean ‘homogeneity’ of numerous social groups and their monolithic political assertion. And, more often than not, the people who reside in Manipur have represented in diverse or contradictory political viewpoints, rather than a unified one. This calls for interrogating into the validity of such usage when the ‘people’ in question are divided in opinions and political aspirations.
As it has been argued time and again that people in Manipur, although belongs to different ethnic groups, have shared relationships and historical experiences, we also need to accept that there is growing chasm which is widening with the passage of time. And, the division has come on the basis of ethnic boundaries, which has been determined by politics of identity. That the Nagas and Kukis have different political aspirations needs no deliberations, it also goes for the Meitei political vision as well. Why there is growing political divergence among these ethnic groups could also be explained from past historical experience as well. Perhaps, the ‘past experience’ was not as harmonious or unified in the manner that we want to construe, that the ‘people’ in Manipur might have existed as different groups despite geographical proximity. Conflicts between the ethnic groups have arises not only on their diverse political aspiration, but also on the notion of ‘territory’. In modern political parlance, territory is central to the political rights and aspirations. And, for the indigenous people, land is their livelihood.
The political divisions among the ethnic groups have deeply affected the relationships between the people at every level. However, the strained inter-ethnic relationships are not only the consequence of political aspirations, but also their hardened stand, to have one’s ethnic group’s way over the others. In these political dynamics, there is also the deliberate act of denial to accept that certain communities exist at all or that differences in political aspirations do not exist in Manipur. Unequivocal invocation of ‘people of Manipur’ also implies that some communities should remain silent or be made to be silent, denying them the right to speak for themselves. Denial of the right to have difference in opinion or to assert their ethnic identity is a classic case which depicts of political hegemony by the ruling class. The politics of denial is further dividing the fragmented relationships between different ethnic groups in Manipur, rather than silencing the dissent. And, in a democratic society the right to speak and differ is a fundamental right. Therefore, to bridge the political divide and chasm in inter-ethnic relationships, it should be accepted that there are varying political aspirations amongst the people in Manipur.
Apart from people to people relationships, which gets strained time and again, due to outbreak of tragic events, the relationship between civil societies have been far from congenial. Every major public organizations and civil societies in Manipur, which has huge authority within the community, are charting their own course of political actions, confronting each other on every issue. No matter how chauvinistic a civil organization may act, the fact remains that solutions to critical issues have be solved by the people who shared the same geographical locations or locality. And, no efforts have been made by any major organizations in Manipur to open channels for communication and sharing of opinions, whether their opinions are similar or contradictory. And, even the attempts to have ‘dialogue’ have also closed, with inexplicable reasons. On the other hand, the frontal organizations of every community are speaking through actions and propagandas, adding fuel to the fire. The interventions from ‘state’ would be temporal and limited, unless the people themselves reconcile to the political realities, the issues and problems will remain. To bring any solution and bridge the strained social relationships the civil societies must come together and act with reason rather than emotions.
In this anarchic social situation, the role of the state government needs to be more calculative and constructive. By taking a partisan approach, the State Government in Manipur has already distance itself from certain communities. The state government has taken decision which is affront to the will of the people and interest of certain ethnic groups. By doing this, the ruling government has clearly revealed itself which side it is taking in the political dynamics in Manipur. Although, the politicians at the helm of affairs may be ‘hero’ for certain ethnic groups, the others might see the person as a ‘villain’. With the losing relationship between the people or certain ethnic groups and the state, the ruling government has contributed its fair amount in creating volatile situation in Manipur. One really wonders how the government in Manipur will rebuild its position and confidence amongst all the communities as the damage has already been done. And, in the case of Mao incident the ruling government and its agencies have emerged as the main culprit, as the sleepy town has been transformed into a warzone. Even after the blatant violation of human rights and inhuman atrocities being meted out to innocent civilians in Mao gate, the state government is yet to take actions on those erring officers. It clearly appears that the focus of the state government is only on one side and not the livelihood and sufferings of certain ethnic groups, let alone their interest and welfare. If the state government continue to act and work for the interest of particular community, the situation in Manipur is unlikely to take a positive turn.
The Missing Links in Manipur: Politics of Denial and Rights