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June in Manipur

By: Jinine Lai
The rain of June cannot flush out the ethnic scum and rather the air around June 18 breathes like toxic again. Groups are grasping every bargaining straw in such sultry summer. Sudden emergence of new Chief Minister from BJP has endeavored to ease the bad weather yet showdown seems unpredictable.  A couple of delusions come in my mind; “delusion of grandeur” of the valley and “persecutory delusion” of the hills.
Perhaps it is rather of the delusions because we, the stakeholders are not able to see real things with us. The Meeteis feel more Manipuris, more important than other communities. Jingoistic attitudes are often reflected in many ways. On the other hand, the Nagas and non-Nagas communities perceive that Meeteis are doing harm to them. We ignore our common destabilizers of the bigger power of the New Delhi and mammoth force of globalization.
The preserved prejudice of the Meeteis towards other communities are something to be reviewed and rectified to gain happy tune with the future harmony. In fact,it is amidst the hostile air inflated with by some non-Meetei-armed political groups.
No doubt, the Naga armed political movement was able to climb up a good height in a relatively short period of time. It has become history, pulsated aspiration and apprehension to the diverse stakeholders, even triggered emergence of armed groups among non-Nagas, and unfortunately the energy is fading in to unproductive engagement, the domestic violence. It all happened before Meetei could not prepare themselves to rectify the past screw-up coupled with prolonged indigent governance. Thus, anti-Meetei campaign has been permeated and retained in the landscape.
There may be some good contents in the proposition by the some Nagas and their armed group regarding the Exclusive Naga Administrative Arrangement or Unification kind of, and of course there may be some beautiful thoughts too in the opposition by the Meeteis regarding Territorial (and Organic) Integrity of Manipur.
Together we can re-identify the “Needs”, “Interests or Positions” and “Causes” if this is a case of conflict involving the communities. It does not mean that the role of the Government of India, its complex behavior and alleged question of sincerity is ignored. Let’s just keep it out of the picture for a while. Having said that, luckily new Chief Minister, Nongthongbam Biren has shown some positive gesture and endeavor.
There has been advocacy from stake holders that display the idea of needs and interests or positions. For instances, from the Nagas view point– no to June 18, self-determination towards political status and freely pursue economic, social and cultural development; single administrative unit; free from exploitation and discrimination; and from the Meeteis – yes to June 18, retention of the territorial (and organic) integrity of Manipur; continuation of coexistence of (hill-valley) communities under same political, economic administration.

We ought to keep our minds on process-driven orientation focusing on dialogue rather than advocacy. There is a critical importance of the dialogue among the peoples at various levels. So far, most of the communication has been of the advocacy in the local media, and unfortunately this communication is predominant with our pre-determined solutions, articulated demands, rigid stances and limited awareness of real needs.
If we look forward to a favorable future, little way to avoid the conflict or to compromise it either.
Either the Meeteis or others will Lose or Win or all Lose if the conflict mode continues in competing each other with our interest or position but some other third parties from far and near will gain in terms of extractive industries, controlling water, other natural resources and utilization of political economic conditions.
Let’s realize that we will enjoy the Win-Win experience out of this conflict if we are able to adopt the ‘collaborative’ approach.
Therefore sitting together, starting dialogue about the needs and values behind ‘our want’; awareness and appreciation of complexity – complex needs, challenges, emotions; and openness to negotiation and flexibility is a prerequisite.
It will be desirable in case we are able to distinguish what are the needs of the communities and which are the interests or positions. Theoretically, towards resolving the conflict we need to be omni-biased to identify them. “To eat food is a need and eat it on table or floor or with finger or spoon is interest.” People of Manipur in general is a principal stake holder of the conflict – so what are the Needs for the people? Fundamental Human Rights for Individuals, Restoration of Sovereignty, New Political Layout of NE India, or all of these?
Will it be a better example of Needs for all of us? An indigenous mother works and earns decent income like other families across Manipur. Today she is visiting an old college friend who lives in a village bordering another hill state. So she comes out of her house to catch a late night public bus. Her teenage daughter is seeing her off as she wants long walk to maintain her healthy shape. The girl would return home alone treading the clean sidewalks of the streets where well-lit lamps flanked. After a week mother returns home enjoying the trip through the highways and roads where no military, no gunmen, no bumpy ride, no dust experienced. She has seen her friend’s family enjoying organic harvest satisfactorily in the year there comes no rain, all the kids go to a government schools cleaner than temples and the sick people get adequate medical attention from the nearby health centre.
(The writer is an Asst. professor, University of Suwon, South Korea)

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