August 27 2011
The Sangai Express

There are reasons why the pressure of pulls and pushes exerted by the growing centrifugal forces have come to define today's Manipur and one of these could be the tenuous ground on which the idea of Manipur as a political and social entity rests. The pace at which these forces of pulls and pushes have grown as well as the trail of deep divide that these forces have spawned along ethnic and community lines is amazing and surely there are factors and reasons for making the ground so fertile for these forces to grow and prosper. Apart from the dirty hands of politics contributing its share in preparing the ground work for such forces to bloom, what is disturbing to see is the failure of Manipur as a whole to take everyone along with the idea of its existence as a political and social entity. The many disturbing issues which continue to haunt the people on a regular basis can be traced to the exclusivist identity that the term Manipuri has come to mean down the last many years and it is here that questions, however uncomfortable they may be, should be raised for the time of tinkering around has seen its expiry date come and go. Manipuri is a term derived from Manipur and intrinsic in this derivation is the belief and conviction in the existence of Manipur as a distinct political and social entity. That not all community or ethnic group living in Manipur exactly identify themselves with this term is clear and this is perhaps the first point that needs to be tackled objectively and sincerely. The Greater Lim issue is integral in any attempt to understand what the term Manipuri connotes and it says something very significant that an idea, which was given birth to by an armed outfit, the NSCN (IM), has today become the slogan of quite a number of Naga people in Manipur. This is in direct contrast to the idea of a Manipuri people, which predates Greater Lim by decades. However it stands that  the question of being in usage earlier has been turned on its head and hence the question of why the idea of a Manipur or being a part of an identity known as Manipuri finds no buyers among a great number of Naga people in Manipur ? The same sentiment is palpable among the Kukis, the Paites, the Hmars and other ethnic group which come under the bigger family of the Nagas and the Kukis. Greater Lim is the anti-thesis to the understanding of the term Manipuri and so is Kukiland or for that matter Meiteiland. Kangleipak and Meitrabak are some of the terms which have been toyed around as the substitute for Manipur, but by and large there has been no sustained campaign or drive towards this end. And so it stands that today the term Manipuri is generally associated only with the Meiteis and this has had a profound impact on the political and social existence of a place known as Manipur. 
Why has a situation been created wherein  some ethnic groups fail to identify themselves with a term that is derived from their place of residence ? This is a point that requires an honest and sincere approach which should have no room for sloganeering and gimmicks. Why is the term Manipuri seen to be associated only with the Meiteis including the Meitei Pangals and not the other communities ? Herein lies the question of whether the Meiteis have been able to don the role of the big brother, by virtue of being the dominant community, or not ? Disturbing it may sound and to some it may even be blasphemy, but to a large extent the disconnect between some ethnic groups and the idea of a Manipuri people may be ascribed to the collective failure of the Meitei community to take them along with the idea of a Manipur.  This is apparently a  failure to give an accommodating idea of a space within the term Manipuri and hence the exclusivist attributes attached to this term. This is not a sociological or a political treatise and hence cannot be an exhaustive explanation or a study, but nevertheless this cannot be the reason why questions like why a Kuki dance or a Naga dance cannot be called a Manipuri dance should not be raised. Why are dances associated only with the Meiteis known as Manipuri dance ? Why the need to qualify a presentation from the other communities with such term as a Tangkhul dance or a Kuki dance ? This is a simplistic take on some of the factors that may be responsible for making the term Manipuri the exclusive domain of a particular group of people, Meiteis in this case, but it is pregnant with meaning. Or is it because only the Meiteis have been true to the social and political understanding of a place called Manipur ? This is a sensitive issue no doubt but there comes a time when sensitive issues have to be addressed by raising questions, however disturbing it may be. The Meiteis need to do much more than talk about integrity. The need to shed that arrogant demeanour is high time. The need to climb down from the high horse is necessary. In fact, it is time for all to introspect why a Nation with a 2000 year old history should start talking about the need of keeping alive the bond of oneness and belongingness at this point of time when the world has increasingly come to be understood as a global village. Isn't the need to  carry the banner of unity and integrity contrary to the global trend when every group of people seem to be drawing closer to one another ? Or is it a case of the global trend being merely a cosmetic time filler which will dissipate and disappear in no time ? Slogans like Ching-Tam Amattani has outlived its utility. Instead of this, it may be more prudent and more practical to acknowledge the differences and accordingly take up efforts to respect the differences and yet at the same time find common cause under the understanding of a Manipur. Can the Meiteis live up to the challenges ahead ?

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