By: Heikrujam Nabashyam
“ Chahi Lishing Anigi Mamangdagi Meitei Phooroop Asi Nation Amagi Thakta Masagi Civilization leijaraba Amasung Chaokhatle Hairiba Jattisingdagi Tadraba Phooroop Amani Maram Asina Meiteising Indian Constitutiongi ST Listta Yaoba Haibasi Maram Sukcha Chade “
— the Meeteis have been living since the last 2000 years as a nation ; they are no less than any other civilized nation. Therefore it is truly unreasonable to include the Meiteis in the ST lists of the Indian constitution.
The above is the stated position of PPCM (Protection & Preservation Committee Manipur) which came in the media yesterday, November 4, 2017 in regards to the demand of STDCM (Schedule Tribe Demand Committee Manipur) to include the Meiteis in the ST lists of the Indian constitution. The statement is certainly pleasing to the ears of the Meeteis, because it kindles their pride of being the descendants of those brave men and women who had lived gloriously in the past in this part of the world.
It is true that Meetei were no less than their neighbours of Awa & Kabow (present north west Myanmar) and Takhel and Tekhao (present Assam and Tripura) etc. In fact, as late as the 19th century our sovereignty over the Kabow Valley, that is , the swathe of land upto the Chindwin of present Myanmar, was recognized by the 1826 Treaty of Yandaboo that ended the first Anglo-Burmese war, until the lapse of British suzerainty.
Our forefathers had the courage and the spirit which the present generations hardly match. To keep their words and commitments our ancestors could play with their life. “Nongmada Pokpa Machana Nini Shiba Hounade” these were the honour words of our forefathers which may be equated to the English saying, a coward dies many times before his death. This was the principle of their life. To them their honour and self-respect was more valuable than their dear life. That was the value and the way of life that our forefathers followed.
However, today we often talk of our “Naat-Chatnabi” —— our culture and values which can hardly be related to values of our ancestors and their culture.
First, let us try to understand our Naat-Chatnabi in common man language. One’s Naat-Chatnabi is one’s value, philosophy and way of life.
Now, what can we observe in our present social mores and values —— our integrity, discipline morality, social spirit and our sense of commitment, etc.
Now let us take the example of mob justice in our society, among the youths and the students — since this aspect is most visible. Today mob justice is the rule of the day. What does it mean ? It means the law enforcing machinery of our Meitei nation has lost their credibility. It means our leadership have not or unable to discharge their duty to the public. It means the words and commitments of our leaders have no meaning.
This is the comparison between the present day value and the values of our ancestors, that is, between us, the present generations and our forefathers.
Let us see how we could understand this paradigm change. The values of social hierarchy in our Hindu culture which had so subtly taught us the Mantra “You are small, he is big” had gradually destroyed the honour and self-respect that our forefathers had so dearly loved and lived with. The fact is the Meitei had experienced a tectonic shift from an egalitarian society — like our hill brothers do till today — to a vertically divided society.
Now what could one expect from a community of people who have no honour and self-respect. This is the reason why we are what we are today. Scientific studies on human behavior had proved that a community devoid of self-respect and integrity has no future. Anyway everybody is free to refute what I have said about our present social values.
Today we seem to be living in our past glory, telling the world that the Meiteis are as good as any civilized nation on this planet. But the reality is otherwise; we have started losing confidence in ourselves, in other words cynicism has gradually taken the place of our confidence and self-respect. This metamorphosis in our value and culture is absolutely unpropitious for our children and the future. The truth is such a situation certainly calls for immediate attention and initiative especially from social scientists, academics and most importantly enlightened social workers who would work relentlessly among our women, youths and students so that we can bounce back to the position of honour and self-respect that we had lost so thoroughly.
Today we have landed up at a critical crossroads. It is time for all of us including PPCM and STDCM to have our moments of quiet introspection. We cannot afford to forget the fact that the Meiteis are the smallest and the most vulnerable among our three indigenous brothers — Chin-Kuki, Meitei and Naga.
Thus far, we have come from a historical vast swathe of land from Chindwin to Takhel to the valley of hardly 700 square miles.
However we need not lose our hearts; we would find our ways. But we need to change our attitudes and our mindsets and certainly we need to get rid of our mob culture, which I am afraid has taken over our youths and the students. This must be stopped and instead we need to expand our horizon.
The need of the hour is to understand where do we stand; it is needless to say that we need to sit across the table for serious discussions or else we will only hurt ourselves more and more and history will not forgive us.