If the politics of ethnicity that has for long been practiced in the state as were everywhere else where pluralistic societies exist begs the impression of one characterized by deep rooted suspicions, protracted conflicts and extremisms, it is the inherent undercurrent of instability and unpredictability marked by acute passions and excessive emotions amongst the public. The feeling, although understandable runs the endemic risk of uprooting social systems and creating political and social pandemonium from which none emerge the winner, if let off unchecked. The public of Manipur does not need to look far to experience the feeling. It is these feelings, when compelled to act upon, would spell disaster for everyone without any exception.
There is however a glimmer of positivity with the obverse of such passions and feelings. It is these very heightened emotions that is essential for creating solidarity amongst the different ethnic groups as well as compel higher participation in politics- a paradox that has played out to be true. And like a double edged sword, it ultimately rests on those at the helm of affairs of the state as well as to either resolve such conflict situation and steer the emotions towards solidarity and stability or to further push the state into chaos and spiraling violence. The role of Civil Society Organisations in forming and fueling ethnic passions cannot be ignored, especially in a state like Manipur where the state government is perceived to be despotic, nepotistic and self-seeking by many cutting across ethnic and communal lines while these CSOs function as pressure groups thereby maintaining checks and balances.
Admitting the failure of the state to accommodate the pluralistic and ethnic diversity within the framework of the state and society can be a starting point, however, the instrumental roles performed by the ethnic elites in ethnic mobilization and portraying issues should also be questioned and analyzed from an impersonal point of view to try and understand the political, economical and social implications of such assertions. In other words, the present social development should be taken as an opportunity to get at the root of the problem and subsequently to draw up a pragmatic and enduring solution which will enhance solidarity, peaceful and participatory coexistence which will draw strength and inspiration from the cultural diversity rather than making futile attempts at ethnic exclusivity which reflects a regressive mindset out of synch with the developing world.
William Gurumayum, Sub-Editor of Imphal Times is a resident of Sagolband Salam Leikai. He has been with Imphal Times since beginning. A avid adventure lover, writes mostly travelogue.