In a recent editorial column in Morung Express, Witoubou Newmai cautions Nagas of the South the dangers of uncritically embracing developmental packages from the Meetei majority government of Manipur. And despite committing redundancy, I have decided to further situate the significance of the discourse. In what Newmai initiated, serves us well to take a moment to seriously ponder on our own state of condition – more particularly on the idea of charting our future – a common Naga future, a future of our own tribes, a future of individual villages if we cannot come together as people, or has it been the survival of the fittest even amongst us?
We all know that our entire gamut of socio-political and religious-cultural systems will have to function coherently in order for us to advance as a people. Whereas, every now and then, our own elected representatives and the elites will rather advance a very simplified notion ofthe realities of our socio-political existence in seemingly exclusive terms. But of course, one gets suspicious of the motif. Because the matter of truth is that the survivability of a people requires both material advancement (read development) and its corresponding self-determining power as a people. The question is, how do we as a people led by our leaders chart a future path in which both of these can be realized without compromising the other. A balanced approach to economic growth can be only realized when people are gradually empowered to self-determine their own future availing their best resources from within. Hence, the important question then is, can the present trend of developmental packages enhance our peoples’ self-determining political power along the way? Or, in the uncritical acceptance of the same, do we see the danger of our people becoming even more subservient to Meeteis’ hegemony? While these are uncomfortable questions, my objective is to bring to the fore the inherent challenges confronting us now and more so likely in the future. And raising these questions does not in any way undermine the positive achievements of our people – we must and we should collectively celebrate all the good things we are blessed with and continue to strive for greater heights.
Yes, we are all aware of the complexities of the geopolitical conundrum in which we are placed – that is, in light of the Nagas’ long suffering history vis-à-vis Meeteis’ ongoing project – “Manipur & Manipuri”. Despite being placed in such a weakened position the crucial question is how are we Nagas of the south posturing our Naga narrative in light of the larger Naga national narrative? It is true that to cohere with the larger Naga narrative is more challenging for those of us who are continually being minoritized and gerrymandered by the dominant peoples who literally control the entire state apparatus – who has the power to legislate laws to their whims and wants and advances their own interests using the same machineries. It is no exaggeration to note that Meeteis are establishing “colonies” outside of their ancestral domain through the deployment of the state law enforcement agencies being spearheaded by the state police commandos. And thanks much to the draconian law, AFSPA, the state police forces can run loose as and when needed without constraints. And to the chagrin of the dominant people, we still have to inescapably relate with the state for much of our livelihood.Or, have we somewhat succumbed ourselves even worse by our own greed? Or, have we become too flexible as a political community? That, our leaders vacillating between different political positions and parties is but an accepted rule of the game?
I am not in any way suggesting that our posture should be always antagonistic. While I lack wisdom and the expertise to comment on such a complex matter I have decided to interject on the “crucialness” of this subject matter. In reiteration, – “How are we crafting our narrative as a people?” I felt the need to pose this question with the motif to urge our visionary leaders and our hopeful youth to question as to whether our people have uncritically embraced the present political arrangements as the means to gain immediate material benefits? Have we given up HOPE on the need to struggle for a must alternative dignified political future for the sake of our progenies because the power will never consent to our liberation? Or, have we reached the point of dire situation that “surviving” today has taken precedence over a future hoped for?
Talking about struggling to survive, I am not embarrassed to state the fact that the majority of my family depend on the little means and ways to survive. My point is, because of who I am and how I was raised in the given particular context, I understand the realities of being poor and being powerless. And similarly, I also understand the temptations and the desperation of being poor and being disfranchised. In the extremity of life, it is easy for one to give up one’s sense of agency and resign to a fate of dependency on the power that be just to survive today. Whereas, as the poor give up their sense of humanity (agency) in desperation to survive, there are the major beneficiaries of the present political arrangement from within and without. And they are quick to defend the present power status quo as if it were fixed and preordained from the beginning of time. Either through political cooptation or through voluntary offering of oneself for meagre power and material benefits, many of our Naga leaders have ended as conduits for dominant people. Likewise, they have also joined the bandwagon in promoting and justifying Meeteis’ domineering grand-narrative.
It is in this context of dire situation of being challenged from within and without, Nagas collective wisdom and imaginative courage are called for to chart out a clear liberative empowering path for our tomorrow. Embarking on this journey with clarity and commitment will also help us debunk the enforced dominant idea that there is no alternative to what it is now. The notion of resigning ourselves to the idea that the present is fixed, and so is our future already determined by the Meeteis, is a narrative that has been nurtured for a long while with far reaching ramifications. Against such a numbing power, the imaginative courage called for is to envision an alternative future where Nagas will one day be empowered to advance and grow like any other free people.
Setting aside the importance of theorization for now, what matters at the end of the day would be to explore effectively on how to relate with the contemporary real politik and chart our narrative path as a PEOPLE in congruent with the future we have collectively hoped for our children. A sensible undertaking of this journey will help us to navigate contemporary political quagmire and save ourselves from the danger of uncritically acquiescing ourselves with the power that be – of whose end goal is but inclusionary domination of the “other.” And within such arrangements, we know that the question of equality as peoples is outside the purview of its imagined relationship. Whereas, by embarking together on a conscientious collective journey we can break-through the enforced idea of an unalterable fixed future that is supposedly justified on the basis of the present political power arrangements. Further, this idea of an unequal society as is continually advanced by the Meeteis is made explicitly clear in their (as represented by UCM, AMUCO, CCSK) latest memorandum to the Prime Minister of India, dated Dec. 1st, 2017, that, by any means the present Manipur state political arrangement be left untouched. In other words, Meeteis hegemony vis-a-vis Manipur state should be accepted as a “state of exception”. This call for the notion of the Manipur state to be accepted as a case of exception scarily reminisces that of Giorgio Agumbem and Carl Schmitt’s theorization of the concept of the state being conferred with absolute power in the days of Hitler’s national socialism. Amidst this mounting threat, it is high time for all the Naga elders and intellectuals to be more forthcoming to guide us through with their blessed wisdom and prayers as to how we should as people of faith demonstrate humility and love and yet affirm an uncompromising stand on the fundament of our humanity and peoplehood.