In need of a superman!
By Jyaneswar Laishram
I was born and brought up in Bishenpur; spent most of my teenage years in the sleepy semi-hilly town, mingling with a host of friends from diverse communities who lived in the town and its neighbouring Chiru, Chothe and Kabui villages dotted sparsely on the surrounding low hill slopes. The villages turned into a treasure trove for all kinds of seasonal fruits that I enjoyed plucking and eating with my tribal and non-tribal friends during mid-winter school breaks. Winter time in the villages was always a delight as Christmas and New Year celebrations united all of us, irrespective of the religions or communities or tribes we belong.
Before the dawn, in every single morning during the Christmas and New Year seasons, I heard carols playing at the churches in the hills of Nungsai and Parengba villages. Still curled up in a heavy quilt, I enjoyed the songs that brought to me by a puff of morning breeze blowing down from the hills. Every year when the Christmas was around the corner, wherever I am, whether in New Delhi or somewhere offshore, sound of carol reminds me of Bishenpur and those younger years I spent in the town. Though my mind is lingered in nostalgia of the then Christmas and New Year celebrations in Bishenpur, the current atmosphere in the town and its neighbouring hills is no longer like what it was.
When I rang up a cousin of mine to find out how things got geared up for the New Year celebrations in the town this year, he desperately uttered a big fat f-word, blaming those responsible for the ongoing ‘economic blockades’ and ‘counter blockades’ that led life all around to a miserable situation. “The highway blockade was called by some United Naga Council (UNC) in the far-off hills, protesting against CM Shri Okram Ibobi Singh’s creation of Sadar and Jiribam districts, which startled those meditating on creation of Greater Nagaland; how come its effects reach out to Bishenpur.” My cousin argued, “So what? Every tribe in the hills, who are not Kuki, in Manipur these days is Naga; and it’s Kuki, if not Naga. All of them anti-Meitei!”
I think the sound of Christmas carol that the morning wind brought from Nungsai hills to my bedroom might no longer be as mellow and soothing as it was. This hatred of Meiteis by hill tribes is an age-old adage, which has been obscured for ages; but it recently broke into mainstream in the form of an outbreak, like wildfire spreading from vulnerable zones, such as Senapati town, to unruffled sleepy places like Bishenpur. I’m pretty much sure those living in Senapati and its surroundings have long been merged with Nagaland, mentally. Most of them in these areas, whether a layman or a luminary, an educated girl or an elderly lady, do introduce themselves as Naga of Nagaland to others, particularly when Meiteis are not around.
I have no bad feeling those particularly in Senapati, showing extra affection for Nagaland. There’s a reason for that; and there’s also a reason for their discontent with the state political leaders like CM Shri Okram Ibobi Singh. When it comes to leadership, Manipur needs a superman, not a minion. Wound of the communal hatred born out of the lack of a competent leader in the state is now gradually deepening; it may take time to heal, but leaving it untreated for an extended period may lead to fatality. In the remedy, a string of treatments must undergo, step by step, at regional levels as there is no point of consulting far-off consultants when the problem is resolvable at leikai level, which means locally, with a little understanding.
Hopefully the divide between the hills and valley in the current Manipur can only be stitched by the superman, letting hill people agree Meiteis are no alien to them, thwacking all unfounded theories of the origin of aborigines and bloodlines developed on the basis of some emotion, which eventually result in nothing but unproductive debates and accusations, particularly on social media. For hill tribes, they must be rational about what they want. It’s crucial for cordial co-operation to be seen and mutual dialogues must be heard. All can be resolved before the time being lapsed and things swiftly get deteriorated.
It’s common to find elderly people all over the world celebrate their birthdays in a memorable manner when they turn 80. But the manner that the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world’s longest reigning monarch, celebrated his 80th birthday was something beyond common, quite inspiring. It was inspiring because people all over Thailand wore yellow. Why yellow? Because it was the king’s birthday; people longed to show their love for the leader by simply wearing the colour he loved. Wish we could make such thing happen in Manipur, producing a leader whom all in the hills and valley love—the superman, at least for now.
The superman could start his duty with a maiden visit to the hills to check infrastructures around, including the pathetic conditions of the two national highways where the UNC carried out the blockade. Truck drivers on these highways require no milestones to figure out where they are the moment they enter Manipur from Nagaland because the conditions of the roads say it all. Please superman, provide the hill tribes better and equal infrastructures, not only the roads but all similar to what they usually see on the other side of the fence (in Nagaland). Such nourishment will only bring at least a pride of belongingness among all of us.
I don’t know whether it was deliberate or just an oversight, a friend of mine from Senapati a few months back in New Delhi said to me, “A beautiful cultural programme of our Nagaland will be aired on NDTV tonight.” It was a swift roadside meeting. I was taken aback; she fled away immediately, leaving me dumfounded about her belongingness to Nagaland. Whatever they have in mind or at heart for the love for Nagaland, everyone in the category of my Senapati friend in New Delhi must aware of the sensibility, reality, rationality and reasonability of it.
Hate of Meiteis or certain indifferences cannot be an ultimate reason to slice Manipur for the formation of a newfound land. Instead of it, we all must learn the art of co-existence, in which Nagaland can be brought closer to Senapati people than ever through social and cultural tie-ups, improved commutes, mutual trade relations and many others that can be productive to both sides. Communal disparities in Manipur, since the Churachandpur agitation, have been soaring up with several tribal groups carrying out constant anti-Meitei crusades all around. Superman! Please curb this commotion!
(The writer is editor at S-Media Group, New Delhi. The view expressed is his own.)