Now that the Naga have already gone far away from the concept of a united Manipur, the Chin-Kuki-Zomi group is going to follow suit in no time. If Meiteis can refuse to listen and understand each other in a democratic way, if Meiteis can outrightly insult the Naga tribals by bulldozing over their just demands and treating them like criminals, what can Chin-Kuki-Zomi people expect from a Manipur, which is hopelessly divided emotionally and its territorial integrity held together with plasters called IRB/ Police commandos.
Let us give the tribal its dues. We have shared a common history with them but let us accept that we have different cultures, social values and way of life. But instead, with our superiority complex, we have been saying that whatever tribals are shouting about is harmful to the Meitei society, confident that the table can be always turned and project the tribals as oppressors and deserving of brutal suppression. That tribals of Manipur had always been distrustful of the Meiteis was evident even when the Manipur constitution was being drafted in May 1947, preparatory to the withdrawal of British paramountcy. The hill leaders, including Mr Tiankham, secured the incorporation of a clause on pg 12 that provides for "the right of any section of the hill people to secede at the end of the 5 year period, should conditions within the constitution not be satisfactory." But the integrated Manipur administration of Hills and valley started functioning on 15th April 1947 with high handedness and thus the Naga tribals launched a "No-tax campaign" in Mao area refusing to pay the hill house tax and demanding the merger of Naga areas with the Naga hills under Assam and in the campaign three Nagas gave their lives on 27th August, 1948 at Mao Gate. This is not the genesis but a landmark in history which continues to be relevant and is being reenacted all through these years since then, the recent sacrifice by 2 students on the 6th May, 2010 at Mao Gate being another one.
At the present moment, the ADC issue explains the continuing distrust and why it is so ? Tribals want greater autonomy of the hill areas and we the Meiteis with our majority 40 MLAs in the house of 60 for sometimes said 'yes', sometimes " with local adjustment" but finally after more than 20 years we manipulate the equation and come out with an act that enables us to take away their lands, override their traditional institutions and customary practices. It was done so very stealthily that the tribals of Manipur in general were unaware of the implications even when it was notified for suggestions and objections. But tribals are no more ignorant and stupid. A vigilant somebody raised hue and cry. The ANSAM and the UNC then took over the lead to protest. Now the tribals are angry not only because their inherent rights are being threatened but are greatly infuriated by the deceitful and subtle engineering to hood wink them into getting the Act passed in the form and content that serves the interest of the Meitei people alone. Even as the protest became visible and organized, the Government of Manipur decides to impose the ADC elections under this very unwanted Act, instead of listening to the demands of the hill people and accommodating their will and wishes. Yes, it is in the interest of Meiteis, mostly our economic interest that the territorial integrity of Manipur must be continued. But as the tribals are getting organized, even with the disadvantage of physical distance between them, absence of a unifying common language, access to media etc., we must not fail to see the writings on the walls.
These confrontations and the contest of strength in terms of force, publicity and media coverage, lobbying with Delhi and national political parties will continue. Then one day, which may not be far away, when the tribals get better organized, better equipped and have mustered their collective strength, what options will be left to us, the Meiteis. As of now we are at leisure callings the shot. Let us think seriously. Can we not change? Is there no other way to address the issue of Manipur integrity, besides using force or trying to divide the tribals by wedging in whenever there are local conflicts among them, setting one tribe against the other or promoting some treacherous tribals, who did not represent the will and wishes of the tribal people as leaders and using them to parrot and campaign the issue of Manipur's territorial integrity. This is the age-old policy and technique of divide and rule. But all these tricks are evident to the tribals and they are not being taken by surprise.
Immense resources, in terms of fund and manpower are deployed by the Ibobi government to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur. But what about building bridges, both physical and metaphorical , constructing roads or providing electricity or health services ? Where is the fund, the will and the desire to truly provide governance to the people of the state. Look at the inordinate quantum of food supply brought into Manipur inspite of the ANSAM economic blockade to augment the already available stock of food grains produced from the rice bowls of Imphal valley and the artificial scarcity and deliberate price hike that is being orchestrated to defeat the voice of the tribals. The agitation of the tribals for their rights is being judo-ed and made into a humanitarian issue. But will we Meiteis not come together to question Ibobi and his abuse of power to save his seat by using the name of territorial integrity of Manipur. Manipur and its resources are not his personal fiefdom to be used to perpetuate his reign in power. To save his chair, the Muivah mantra is conjured up by Ibobi. But to save Manipur, the rights of the tribals have to be addressed.
The economic blockade has been temporarily suspended with Ibobi seemingly emerging victorious. But will the issue die? The tribals will come back again more resolute, prepared and with greater strength. The point therefore of this article is that tribals have reasons to be dissatisfied with the present arrangement where the 40 MLAs of Imphal valley can decide on any issue any day and willfully ignore, neglect or reject the wishes, will and interest of the tribals represented by their 20 MLAs. See ! the equation is so very tempting and comes naturally to every normal person to capitalize on the advantage that has been built up over the year since 1949 when the integrated administration of the hill and valleys began after the independence of India. Even a good man like Ibobi, who not so long back had stuck to the end to protect his poor commandos who shot dead a youth in broad daylight in the crowded Khwairamband bazaar and skillfully turned Manipur into a failed state., would be compelled by his natural instincts to perpetuate this arrangement.
So without breaking up the territorial integrity of Manipur, let there be a separate administration for the five hill/ tribal districts and another for the four Meitei districts of Imphal valley to administer over areas and aspects that are specific to the respective areas. A common state government that has representation from both the tribal and Meitei administration in proportion to population can be put into place for governance and administration on issues , projects, and programmes that concern the State as a whole with Imphal city continuing as the state capital .This new arrangement will bring about a win-win situation for everybody and all communities in the present state of Manipur. With a contented Naga population, We Meiteis will not need to fear Muivah nor any other.
This is the essence of the only arrangement that will ensure the territorial integrity of Manipur. Otherwise let the Nagas in Manipur, with their land integrate with Nagaland state and the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people and their land join the brethren in Mizoram. The Imphal valley can remain as 'Sanalaibak' undefiled with tribal mixtures.
But I do not think that we, Meiteis can live happily with themselves only. Without tribals to put down, we will turn on each other and we can very well imagine that world. Our mental and social upbringing are like that as we are so very unaccommodating of others then our own individual self. Meiteis should end and change their attitude to life and their world view or otherwise the tribals would continue to go away and farther. Consensus must emerged out of a sober and rational discussion on this line so that Manipur and its people can be saved. Muivah is not the issue but the tribal people and their yearning for autonomy and their inherent rights definitely are.
Ch. Jugindro Singh, MSW
at Senapati Dist. HQ