MANIPUR ON THE MAP OF INDIA: BRONZE FOR ‘RECOGNITION’
This editorial was published by the Sangai Express on 10 Aug 2012
If the Bronze medal winning effort from Mary Kom and the awesome performance dished out by L Devendro in the boxing ring has stirred the consciousness of the country to a place called Manipur, then it is also a question on the very idea of India as a Nation. A damning statement on how the North East States, perhaps barring Assam, have fallen off the map of India's consciousness. In all probability it was an error in Geography when Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan referred to Mary Kom as someone from Assam but it is also reflective of the ‘chicken neck syndrome’, where the ‘ignorance’ hovers disturbingly close to a social and political conditioning promoted and protected systematically down the decades. A tragedy it would be, both to the idea of India as a Nation as well as to the spirit of the people of the North East region and Manipur in particular, if the Bronze that Mary won is to be equated with ‘recognition’ by mainland India. Such a mindset comes close to saying that a medal at the Olympics is the antidote to the racial abuses that people from the region are regularly subjected to once they cross the ‘chicken neck’. Such an attitude also comes close to a condescending attitude towards the North East region and Manipur. Is the region and Manipur so pathetically in need of ‘recognition’ from mainland India to qualify as a people ? Putting some basic facts in order is definitely in line here.
It says something significant when history text books, as taught in the schools, say nothing about the North East for decades, with some rectifications being done only in the last couple of years. Not deemed fit in other parts of the country, but an Army Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, has been in force in many States of the North East for decades. If Manipur is the home of Mary Kom and numerous other sportspersons who have excelled at the National and International stage, then it is also the home of Irom Chanu Sharmila, the lone ranger who has been on a fast demanding the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for close to 12 years now. Manipur is also the place which gave the nude protest by womenfolk in front of Kangla on July 15, 2004 to the world. Richard Loitam may just be another figure to be added to the statistics of students found dead in their hostel room, but the feeling of discrimination in his death is too real to write off that easily. The story of Dana Sangma runs along similar line and so too the tragic death of Ramchanphy Hongray. For the idea of India as a Nation to have any worthy significance, Delhi seriously needs to get down to the business of studying where everything that could go wrong went wrong and why everything that could go right did not go right. Bronze for ‘recognition’ would be to demean the existence of a people. The North East and Manipur are not only about territories but also about people. This is a point that should register in the consciousness of Delhi.