An Open Letter to the Coordinating Body of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur
It is time to play with your grandchildren, laze and lounge in your home having work for half a lifetime and reflect on the successes and failures of the past. But it is quite commendable that the old-timers like you have been taking an active role in addressing socio-political issues, particularly on the ‘growing need for protection of Meitei/Meetei under the Constitution of India’. However, in the brouhaha, you are missing some fundamental points that can prove foolhardy for you if you overlook it or are too much committed to the cause that you see nothing but your prized demands.
For such an unbending commitment, it is no surprise that you have stocked up some generic responses to any argument against those who are sceptical about the inclusion of the Meiteis in a ‘privileged’ class. Anyway, today, we have some facts and you need not argue and considering your vast experience from professional and personal lives, you can see that these are indeed true.
A long time ago we are told we led an egalitarian society and we never needed modern constitutional provisions to say that all of us are equal. Of course, time has changed and now all of you even swear by the Indian nation-state, while it is an open secret every Manipuri has a grudge against it. Anyway, inequality is a result of injustice and neglect of the state and imbalanced access to the socio-political and economical benefits. So it is pointless that an action of a dominant group—in our case, the Meiteis converting to an ST group—will solve the issues of inequality.
It is painful, already made worse by the chronic mess of our collective life, to see that experienced and respected personalities are so desperate to do anything to achieve social goals. What’s even more pathetic is the rationalisation of choices that could have been pretty cute for schoolchildren, but which are simply not expected from highly qualified army men, professors, journalists and the likes.
Nevertheless, your idea of Manipur becoming equal by including the Meiteis in the ST category shows the depth of your commitment. Maybe you are role-playing as a moron or maybe you are really a moron. It does not show a good sign of your long illustrious careers that have so far benefitted you and your families very personally. Between the personal and the political, maybe you are too old to see the things clearly. See it again that Manipur already exists as a ‘special’ province, akin to the SC/ST people, surviving on ninety percent of grant-in aids and other alms from the Union. Everybody can see what that kind of special-ness has made us; the least said the better.
Truth be told, the primary solution lies in the renegotiation of the Merger Agreement 1949. The stand against the inclusion of the Meiteis is more about claiming our real identity and has nothing to do about elitism or arrogance. The Coordinating Body of Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur believes that the appropriation of the ST group will also benefit the Meiteis but it has been nearly seven decades and all along what we have received from the existing establishment is the ceaseless fragmentation of the idea of Manipur. Let’s not even talk about the condition of SC/ST people in other parts of the so-called country. A constitutional provision from such an establishment is hardly going to make a change and you love not to care two hoots about the historical narratives that we have as a people. Note it.
Some of the respected members of the Coordinating Body might be apprehensive about the state government taking the issue up to the union by October 2016. However, if all goes well, the union will readily accept because as long as it is gotten rid of any obstruction to its subjugation. While the members are at it, if possible, would the representatives be able to speak a word about the Merger Agreement? It is hardly improbable despite the fact that this agreement is the foundation of all the problems in the modern fragmented political entity called Manipur.
Again, some of the respected members, out of their opportunist agenda, have completely ignored the fact that self-rule is the foundation of equality and justice. On the contrary they have taken the dependency syndrome to a whole new level like true slaves. Once it was said that Manipur cannot survive without India, though it has existed for more than several millennia, and now the word on the street is that we cannot survive without the provisions of benefits made by the Government of India under certain conditions.
Your half-baked articulations on the inclusion of the Meiteis in the ST category is not surprising if we consider that those are made by members such as those superannuated army men of the Coordinating Body. For a lifetime they had only smelt the derrière of the superior army men, and now they can afford to be independent and speak their minds. However, it is quite paradoxical from those journalists and professors who have seen the political realities of the region first-hand. No wonder today, people listen to none of you or the experts. On retrospection, ‘Teak houdaba mafamda kegena yumbi sai’.
In this regard, it should be also noted that we the people are tired of the existing condition that now we are coming out in droves for protests and rallies of any kind, with the feeling that if only, if only the condition changes for good. I hope you, old-timers, would not proudly claim that a hundred thousand people took part in your hopeless rally.
You cannot keep hoodwinking the masses by promising benefits and privileges from provisions like those provided under the categories of scheduled castes and tribes. For instance, the elected representatives have been doing it for year in and year out. In our never-ending dive into the abyss of decadence, the momentum has been enhanced by the supposedly people-friendly campaign of bracketing the Meiteis into the ST category. Leave your opportunist mindset for a while, and which we can clearly see that you have ‘come outside on a matter’, as we say in Manipuri, to denote shamelessness—and please do consider about the consequences of your incredible vision, which is as ridiculous as the promises of a politician.
You are also kindly requested to read the history of reservation policy that was planned for a specific amount of time after India became an independent, neo-colonial power and see how the conditions have gone from bad or worse in the subcontinent. Today the policy has been used as an instrument of vote bank by politicians and a tool for hate propaganda by leaders of any two groups of communities which receive the benefits and which do not. Here, I cannot help observe some people saying that you, the honourable campaign leaders, belong to the royal creamy layers and never got the privileges and that now you are fighting tooth and nail for all the missed opportunities.
Lastly, if you have the guts, let’s talk about the Merger Agreement. That is, again, the origin of all the problems that plague Manipur today. All the migrant issues, slaves’ sickness, beggars’ syndrome and others will be solved on their own if we sort it out. Otherwise we will always remain as slaves and beggars even if the Meiteis are eligible for selection in civil services by scoring just the pass mark.
21 September 2016
PS: On this day in 1949, Manipur was forcibly merged into the Union of India after the representatives of the latter forced the Manipuri king to sign it.