Your story, my story and no one’s legacy

While rejecting the imposed grand history and trying to write our own histories, most of the projects end up rejecting each other’s history.

Maharaja Chandrakirti Memorial Park at Chivu Lake

In recent times, Manipur has seen debates surrounding Maharaja Chandrakirti Memorial Park at Chivu Lake, Churachandpur district in Manipur, along the Indo-Myanmar border. There have been allegations and counter allegations over how one has interpreted certain events in the past depending on how the present has been appropriated through narrow and politicized ethnic churnings. The trepidation of interpreting the past hinges on the claims over “your story, my story and the legacy” thereafter.

This is why a cursory look at some of the engagements by those in the enterprise of writing public or private “histories” of Manipur throws up some very interesting developments. Some proponents of the ‘nativist’ approach attempt to set the record straight. They say that the ‘fabricated history’ of the state has misled many people and the same needs to be countered and rectified.

While arguing for an acceptable approach, the political content of their works can be gauged from a stance taken after reviewing events celebrated as infallible markers years ago. From within the same school of thought, there are those who not only seek the ‘truth’ but also attempt to see the ‘truth’ in the light of reason, liberty, equality and fraternity.

The rise of the ‘nativist’ history was made possible via the exclusion by the dominant discourse on the history of the Indian subcontinent and the rejection of the same history by the ‘nativists’. The current engagement with ‘our history’ seems to suggest that we have opted for a path quite distant from how history is ‘derived’. We have set our eyes on a path that seeks to know how history has been ‘represented’.

Any serious engagements with history also give a hint at the process of knowledge production. However, what seems to be part of an emerging bigger discourse on the history of society, ethnicity, women, gender and culture, we are hesitant to project a durable vision of the past, the present and the future. This hesitation is borne out of the intricate relation between current ethno-political situations on one hand and the ‘ought to be of our history’ on the other. The consequential fallout of these engagements have been ‘disturbing’ if not ‘disastrous’. While rejecting the imposed grand history and trying to write our own histories, most of the projects end up rejecting each other’s history. The impact of this process get well reflected in the spawning of political missions at cross purposes in the Northeast region.

We rarely adhere to the norms of writing a collective history and are too deeply entangled in our specified peculiarities. Are we getting closer to the correct interpretation of meanings of the past through multiple claims to sources? Answering this question has less to do with trusting or rejecting the ‘sources’ or taking any given historical texts including those texts countering the dominant ‘representation’ as self-evident.

While making an attempt to construct meanings to our history, we cannot just pile up a corpus of data based on a given idea of trust/distrust or acceptance/rejection binary only. There is not just one ‘story’ but many to be recovered and how we represent them is much more important than what and how the historians find it. 


First Published:June 10, 2020, 2:31 a.m.

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