Christmas Peace is Needed in Manipur
By Robert Thongkholal Haokip
Taking a walk down memory lane, Christmas to me as a child was the season of peace, goodwill and joy. It was the time of leaving cities to the enchanted villages surrounded by misty mountains and the harvested paddy fields covered with hay and beast of burden shrouded with cranes. The hamlets represented the source of love and affection; the home of people who bring joy. It was the time of appreciating everyone’s accomplishments.
The hamlets neither heard the gunshots of recalcitrant policemen nor the warring militant groups except the hunting party. Children’s overjoyed with the visits of eema who came to sell kabok. At dusk, the dim light lanterns and smoky houses can be seen from a distant; Romeos’ with their guitars roaming around the houses and villages, and children playing with reverberated voices. Peace and goodwill existed between the various communities in the hill and valley of Manipur.
The beginning of the 1990s was a turning point in international politics and also in the domestic arena. The end of Cold War brought about opportunities as well as challenges. It provided the opportunity to establish a new regional order where countries could coexist peacefully in spite of different ideologies. Globalisation of world economy began to shrink the world into a global village. The period, most importantly, witnessed the reemergence of ethno-nationalism and the shift toward market-based democracies. There is an increase in the number of violent incidents perpetrated by insurgents in Manipur in particular, and Northeast India in general. Ethnic schism became the order of the day.
Due to the government’s ‘rural electrification’ programme during this period, villages began to be electrified. Northeast India is proclaimed to be the future ‘power house’ of India which has the potential to generate hydro electric power over 50,000 megawatt. Nevertheless, everyone knows how many hours do we receive power supply in a day in Manipur. Despite shortcomings, thanks to the corporate world for bringing wireless communication networks even to the remotest areas. A poor and an uneducated person has a mobile phone now. One can see Direct-to-Home (DTH) antennas bulging even in such areas.
Though connected with the world through mobile phone and DTH services, one has to go through unmetalled roads, not to speak of villages but even sub-divisional headquarters. With high incidence of poverty, this situation can be termed as what Marie Antoinette uttered on the eve of the infamous French Revolution: "If they have no bread, let them eat cake."
Economic reforms under the then Congress government of P.V. Narasimha Rao in the mid-1991 with the slogan ‘Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation’ (LPG) brought about sweeping changes in the Indian economy. The booming of Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) in various cities is a boon to many educated but unemployed in Manipur despite the decline in morality. The increasing employment in BPOs, hotels, and other companies resulted in the perpetual rise of the to and fro movement from the state.
There is even a citation by various media persons and noted academicians that such a small state can have four to five daily flights with fully loaded passengers. Thanks to the government’s LPG initiative! As such, these entities brought about considerable changes in the lives of people and the way Christmas is celebrated.
As Christmas draw near, students and families studying and working in various cities of India and even abroad flock to the misty villages to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ together with their beloved families. But will the festive mood of Christmas be dampened by the fratricidal killings and terrors perpetrated by the insurgent groups are a thing to be pondered upon? The prominent description about the state of Manipur in the existing literatures and media reports is that there exist a perpetual cycle of insurgency, community conflicts, drug trafficking, abductions and killings.
The killing of two innocent Kuki Students’ Organisation, Shillong (KSOS) executive members by the unruly mob violence in the valley and the fratricidal enmity and killings in Churachandpur are the latest developments. The two murdered KSOS executive members were part of the thousands who longed to meet their loved ones and traveled hundreds of miles. But, fate had been unkind to them.
In this festive season and when everyone put a break, it is pertinent to give peace a place in this vicious cycle and spread to the world that there is at least a time when people forget their ordeal. John the Baptist told people to repent of their sins and prepare for the coming of Jesus. When people asked what they should do, John answered them, "If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry" (Luke 3: 11). That is the same message we need to hear today as we look forward to Christmas.
If we want to experience the real joy that Jesus wants for us, then we must learn to share. By sharing what God has generously given us, we will receive an even greater gift – the gift of joy. One of the greatest gifts we can give during Christmas in this trouble torn region is the gift of forgiveness. Christmas of forgiveness can ensure lasting peace.
The peace of Christmas is not only about peace among mankind but also peace with God. It is not the mere absence of strife between men, but also the experience of a harmony with God. This is what God wants us to do as it is found in the scripture: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased" (Luke 2:14).
The writer is a research scholar at North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) in India, and wrote this article as a tribute to Paosat Kipgen and Paolen Chongloi, both KSOS executive members of 2009-10, who had been killed by the unruly mob violence on December 22, 2009.