Separation Anxiety

Published on September 10, 2015

By Dennis Misao

Among the many failed slogans that supposedly proclaim the Manipur fusion has been that of hill-valley integrity. This failure is quite obvious and apparent today. There is nothing else to do but wake up and face its bitter realities. Apart from opportunistic photo-ops and selfies, we have had no real integrity, either in the past or in the present.

If the idea of an undivided Manipur had any real content, it would not be questioned today simply over the issue of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) related bills. It would have taken more than the jibes on social media to create this storm cloud looming precariously over both hill and valley. This monster was not created overnight. This long standing grouse is rooted in racial slurs and slights exchanged with mutual disdain over generations. Shooing the other away as an anathema, it was quite natural then, for hill and valley to mark out territories and comfort zones.

As time went on, this pettiness extended to politics and economics. The dividing lines blurred a little, but mostly stayed the same. The hills remained distant and aloof – partly by choice, partly by definition. The valley realized that its comfort zone was rapidly shrinking, almost as an afterthought. If racial profiling divided Manipur, the same profiling has united the hills. The hill tribes, who were accustomed to hunting each other’s heads, found common ground in a shared distaste of the valley. An opportunistic union, but a union nonetheless.

Successive governments only succeeded in maintaining their position as the invisible “foreign hand.” Never seen, never heard, omnipresent in loot and misgovernance, and responsible for all manner of evil therein. The burning of effigies and houses is but a desperate attempt at exorcism. The government remains, yours sincerely, favourite whipping boy. Caught in the crossfire are the migrant workers. Their only crime is that of making an honest living. Their contribution to the economy of the state has been unfairly demonized with the exclusive language of the ILP.

Given a choice, they would gladly seek greener pastures elsewhere. Even if they did leave, they would probably do so with no hard feelings. The hard feelings, if any, remain in the hills and valley. The current crisis is therefore more emotional than political. Take away the raw emotional undercurrent, and what you see are two sides of the same coin, each justifying and presenting its own side of the story. What is currently at stake cannot be defined simply as a struggle for or against ILP.

It cannot be defined from the point of view of one community only. It cannot be an emotional definition based on past history and ancient glory. It must seek an honourable settlement for both hills and valley. This settlement is long overdue. Too many precious lives have been lost already.

What now then? Do the hills and valley continue to step on each other’s toes? Do they forgive and forget? Or do they peacefully part ways and get on with their lives? We await the answer.

The writer is a philanthropist based in Sadar Hills, Manipur and can be reached at den_misao@rediffmail.com.

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