August 23, 2015

India: If peace is to prevail in Manipur, Meitei majoritarianism has to go


“Akhoina taaliba ILP se noigine”

Roughly, the above phrase is translated as “We are campaigning for the implementation of ILP for you”. Well, this phrase was not proclaimed by a jovial kawaii friendly youngster, rather it was proclaimed with much gusto by a middle-aged man, holding a huge stick with alcohol oozing out of every expletive he supplied in addition to that phrase. So, who is the ‘We’ and who is the ‘you’ in this phrase? Don’t tell me I’ve to go through the whole bovine excreta of explaining the concept of ‘othering’!

Ok! Granted I’ve chosen a highly cantankerous and volatile phrase for the title of this piece, but I am no Arnab Goswami and I’m not into sensationalising an issue. So, let’s try to leave our egos aside and try to dissect and examine if there is some iota of logic behind this. And in the manner of the usual run-of-mill arm-chair wannabe intellect/academician, let me begin by defining what majoritarianism means.

Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy or agenda which asserts that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language, social class or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society.

Now that we’ve understood the meaning of that word, let’s go to Step 2 of dissecting Meitei majoritarianism. Yes, I’m talking about the ILP issue. And I shall go through a suicidal journey of inviting hate mails and comments henceforth. May the force be with me!

The opening quote of this article presents the very chauvinistic condescending tone of the ILP movement itself. Further more, with the next plot twist of the great ILP saga, the Kuki-Meitei conflict in Moreh Town has laid bare the inherent flaws in the way the movement was going. I was stuck in Imphal for the longest time amidst the ubiquitous tyre-burning and khoti-post clanging rituals. And trust me, trying to reach a safe haven crossing those bandhs and nitro-high agitators was like a video game. You maneuver through the lesser known leikais, count the short cuts, say a silent prayer and take your chances. Every hurdle crossed was like a level up in a Super Mario Bros game.

Instances of ambulances being vandalized, pregnant woman giving birth in a car and a patient dying in his vehicle, unfortunately, illustrated the violent and utter lack of empathy and logic of the self-styled ILP heroes! The so-called committee had created a Frankenstein which was going clearly out of control.

It doesn’t matter if you try to reason out, and God forbid if you happen to have a dissenting perspective. They will snap-shot your comments/posts/pictures on Facebook, cyber-bully you and turn your well meaning criticism/introspective contemplations into a blasphemous infidel’s rant. Of course, threats to burn down your house will follow suit, and if you happen to be a woman they’ll brand you a ‘kasubi’. And in some parallel universe, introspective contemplation and being a slut are totally related!

Anyway, coming back to the idea of majoritarianism. Yes, I know I’ve digressed much, but anyway let’s get back to the topic. My essential question is, have the Meiteis ever asked other communities what or how they feel about the ILP issue or have they ever incorporated their opinions before the commencement of this movement? Of course, public meetings at GM Hall, MDU, etc etc are very trendy and sounds ‘democratic’. But have you, my dear Committee ever tried listening to what the Nagas, Kukis, Aimols, Hmars, naturalised ‘outsiders’ have to say about this movement to protect ‘yelhoumee’? Have you ever tried initiating a peaceful dialogue on who are the ‘indigenous’ peoples of Manipur?

What good is the ILP if the big corporations are anyway going to take away our land? What good is the ILP if the AFSPA is still in place? Are you going to implement ILP on the Army jawans?

More often than not, I end up experiencing people replacing the word Manipuri for the term Meitei. Yes it’s used interchangeably. I have to admit I use it myself, from time to time. Manipuri food means eromba and ngaa thongba; Manipuri language means Meiteilon and of course, we want our fellow Manipuris (read Nagas, Kuki, Meitei Pangals, etc etc) to have their vehicle numbers written in perfect Meitei Mayek, or else.

We have become so entrenched in our ‘Or else’ culture that we have forgotten what dissent, positive criticism, logic and critical thinking are. We impose everything onto the minority communities, and if they toe out of line, we’ll give the usual shaking up by letting them know ‘Hey you’re in my land…..my state….you foreigners!’*

*For those who do not understand sarcasm, I’m being sarcastic (yes, people don’t understand sarcasm too).

There is a very pressing need to respect differences and stop homogenizing cultures and communities based on the likes of a certain majority. If the Meiteis keep imposing their whims and fancies without consulting or respecting the traditions of others, there will be no future, forget Manipur, but no future for humanity itself. Let the communities who have lived, thrived, survived on their respective lands govern themselves. They know their neighbourhood better than us. It’s simple logic.

In case you’re wondering about my ethnicity, I am a Meitei. But we have to do away with this chauvinistic condescending tirade of how we are letting them live on ‘our land’.