The longest peace talk which ran for more than 22 years, the Government of India- NSCN (I-M) peace talk, of late became Indo- Nagas peace talk by bringing more Naga groups and organizations on board, is almost wrapped up. There is an air of great expectations inside the Nagaland state while a wind of anxiety and uncertainty is blowing in the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur having there large Naga populace. Nagaland is hoping for a lasting solution with peace and prosperity ushered in at last after a long tedious walk while Manipur is all worked up fearing dismantlement of the old social, cultural, political, administrative equations between the Meeteis and the tribals. It is a question of mindset and outlook.
In life nothing is permanent. Everything changes, nothing remains without change. Situations and relations change in time giving rise to new equations. Nations, civilizations and human societies are dynamic and subject to changes through retrogradation or progress. It is the law of Nature, it is the eternal Truth. Many old civilizations and powerful nations remain today as mere subjects of archeological studies. In this dynamic survival for the fittest, as Charles Darwin proclaimed, would be the norm.
Meeteis of Manipur are still living in history with a feudal mindset when our hegemony ran. History relates to the past, neither to the present nor to the future. When one talks of history it is of the time gone by long ago.
A man wise in ways of life lives his life in the reality of the present striving to progress every minute while remembering lessons learnt from the experiences in the past and leaving the future on the fruits of his positive hard work. But, being lost in fantasies of the days gone by, far removed from the realities of the present is not the way of the wise. To insist on a practice that served him in the past is to carry the raft on his back after having crossed the river.
For the Meeteis to survive and excel we have to come to term with a few fundamentals. We need to identify these fundamentals, study and understand them objectively. Egoism, perceived self-importance or self- superiority can only breed hostility and bring downfall. It is we, who should visualize a Vision of our Destiny and prepare a roadmap towards a goal and then work single mindedly with a robust heart prepared to meet all challenges on the path, never ready to give up any time at any cost until the end. It would be a costly blunder for us not to do this and not to start walking the path or to leave it midway, dwelling on fantasies of the past. Our vision and our goal should be constructed on hard foundation of facts based on reality and truth with all positivity. Envy, jealousy, grudge, hatred and ill-will against any one should be given no room in the scheme of things. Ability to think upon and analyse going deep down to the roots of things, events and circumstances and to come to proper understanding in the light of the present realities are fundamental. The current habits of the Meeteis of being pushed and orchestrated from behind by the powers- that- be needs abandoning.
But alas, having come to the crossword Meeteis seem to have lost the way. We are out of tune with the changing time. We seem to have lost the capacity to think and understand.
Gautama Buddha taught us: APO DIPO BHAVA- Be a lamp unto yourself. Depend on yourself and not on others. Work out your liberation (success) with diligence. We need to understand that no one will save us but ourselves - no one can and no one may. We ourselves must understand and walk the path.
It is natural for the Nagas, the Kukis, the Pangals or any other community to have their own visions, ambitions, aspirations and to work to achieve them. It should be clear as daylight that no other community or group of people would work for the welfare of the Meeteis in preference to their group or individual interests, even if their hearts are full of love and best of wishes for us. We should not grudge this. Rather, it should teach us to fasten our belt and to stand up to run and win the race. We should cultivate a strong positive mindset and outlook to work for our own future and welfare with love and fellow-feeling for other communities. No negative behavior should be encouraged. This would foster camaraderie, trust, unity and mutual respect between the people of the hills and the valley in contrast to hollow and deceptive slogans. Positive and healthy thinking with accommodation and compassion for others is the best way for co-existence and for our way forward.
This is the era of technologies where knowledge, competence and competition matter highly. Hegemony will have little space. Coming of age of the Naga and Kuki insurgent groups is a good lesson for those willing to learn and go forward with time. These communities will soon be baying to sprint forward to bigger heights. Caution be with the Meeteis lest we should be left as onlookers with a gapping mouth full of surprises.
While working out our vision and the goal we need to re-examine our values and systems - social, cultural and political. Our society is today in doldrums, and the family system has broken into splinters without value, discipline or decorum. Speaking about our social values, Money, as one example, is given such a high pedestal in our lives that even our God may feel threatened.
In the impending Grand Finale of the Indo- Nagas peace talk what are we, Meeteis demanding and expecting? Are we laying SPECIFIC, CLEAR and POSITIVE demands before the Central leaderships, or are we shrouded with hazy, vague, ambiguous propositions? We should fight shy of paranoia and hysteria.
Many would like to know the stand and road map of the State government at this critical juncture. Does it have a Vision Document for Manipur to present to and negotiate with the Centre? It is time for negotiations and hard bargains.
It should be obvious to anyone with an iota of intelligence that the Final Accord of the long drawn talk on a long drawn bloody insurgency will bestow concessions, benefits, and empowerments to the Nagas. Presence of NSCN (I-M) led by Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah, hailing from Ukhrul district of Manipur outside the Constitutional State of Nagaland as the main actor in the talk process is a sure flag that the Nagas outside Nagaland shall also be beneficiaries of the Accord in some degree or the other.
Objections of the Meeteis against benefits to be conferred upon the Nagas in Manipur may be considered and accepted by the Centre, if found reasonable and conducive to time, circumstances and justice. It is highly unlikely for the Centre to do otherwise. Whether the accord affected Manipur or not will largely depend on the interpretations of the Centre.
It is unfortunate that Manipur at this critical juncture lacks a selfless leader with understanding, vision and courage. One of the present day laments of the State is the quality of the people’s representatives.
[The author is a Senior Advocate & former Chief Minister of Manipur]