Making peace work
A day after the Khurai mob rampage yesterday, it is important for everybody to take a deep breath and reflect on what has happened in order that such atrocities do not recur ever again. But first and foremost, let everybody turn their attention to the innocent victims, for indeed, in the politics of blockade and counter-blockade the innocent are ending up on the sacrificial altar. Besides escorting the stranded people safely to their homes in Ukhrul, let the government come up with a compensation package for all those who lost their belongings in the carnage and in similar carnages elsewhere. Second, as a token of repentance and humility, let Meitei civil organizations also raise a parallel fund through crowd funding, and contribute to this gesture of humanity and compassion. Let all parties look no further than this immediate mission, and be deterred by anything in the past that may have rubbed, or still rubs anyone of them the wrong way. The present must be where this beginning is made towards building a future of peace and reconciliation. Let us remember this is Christmas season, and the birth of one who the Christian world knows as the Prince of Peace will be celebrated in about a week from now. It would be especially pertinent then for all to remember the eight prayers of the Beatitudes, undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and poetic in the Bible. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate these, for they are also the essence of all other religions, though articulated in their own peculiar ways. Most pertinent of these eight prayers at this moment is the one which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” Let attention be also turned to the Manipur Baptist Church, and the diktat of the Chingmeirong locality that church services will have to have their consent. Even if this is also a case of response to other thoughtless acts of unkindness, let all have the courage to look for reconciliation and peace. Let normalcy return.
Since the contested issue is the government’s creation of districts, perhaps it will also help if all were to reflect on what these districts actually mean, and if they actually can amount to dividing up people as many allege. There were no major reorganization of district boundaries, and all that was done was to split some existing administrative districts into two, and these splits were also generally not on ethnic lines, except perhaps in the case of SADAR Hills, which is now Kangpokpi district. But if this is so, this divide was very much already de facto even before the district creation. Perhaps what the government could have done is to name these new districts by derivatives of their original names. As for instance, Tamenglong could have become Tamenglong-I for the original Tamenglong and Tamenglong-II for the bifurcated Noney district. Ukhrul too could have been Ukrhul-I and Ukhrul-II for the bifurcated Kamjong district, and the same in the case of Chandel district etc. In effect, as we see it, this is what it is and nothing substantial has changed. By contrast, the non-Naga districts of Churachandpur, Thoubal and Imphal East districts which too have become two each have no issues of perceived divisive politics and have welcomed the government’s new move. A few decades earlier, the splitting of the original Imphal district into Imphal West and Imphal West too created no stir although they would have had more tangible reasons to do so, considering both, unlike the hill districts which were recently split, are revenue districts and revenue lands of many private owners would have come under two separate DCs/DMs, therefore they would have had to pay taxes as well as pursue land mutation cases in two different courts. This logic should also apply to Thoubal district with its extensive agricultural revenue lands.
In all likelihood, even if the nomenclature changes worked for most other districts, it would not have been so in the case of SADAR Hills. Let us also have no doubt then that this is yet again the notion of the old ethnic exclusive homeland rearing its head yet again. In this vision, the Kukis who are concentrated in the SADAR Hills are supposed to be aliens, therefore can be only tenants of the original owners of this homeland. Curiously, the Meiteis in the valley could have remained out of the current controversy as the moderating influence amidst the tensions, but the UNC blockade has ensured this is not the case, and in fact the fight is now coming to be between the Meiteis and the Nagas. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the ethnic equation in the valley, where different communities have come and set up homes, and were in the process of adjusting and accommodating each other to evolve into a cosmopolitan society, is being upset tragically. We should not allow the dawning of this liberal, fraternal society disappear altogether. It will set the evolutionary clock back by a 100 years for the state.