We are in no position to point this and this and that and that are the reasons of Meitei tribes having no interest in any nationalist agenda to safe-guard of its tribe. Meitei tribes have history of more than 3000s years; from caves of Thalon, Kabru, Nongmaijing ching, Tharon, Hundung, Makhel, Khamgkhui to establish Meitei kingdom with capital as Kangla by Nongdalen Pakhangba a Tangkhul guy from Hundung village at the start of the Common Era (as many historians believed so). Even before the establishment of the present Kangla, there were many Kangla established by various kings belonging to different groups of the Meitei tribe. The last king of Manipur is considered as bloodline of that Nongdalen Pakhangba. In between Burmese had invaded Manipur and defeated many times and Meitei tribe and allies also return the favour from time to time. The last major defeat of Meitei and its allied tribes was in 1891 at the hand of British India Empire. When British India Empire transfers its power to “Dominion of India”; Manipur of Meitei and allied tribe hold and exercise independent for two years with written constitution before the merger with Dominion of India.
That is not the answer of Meitei tribes not interested in Meitei Tribe nationalism. Before coming to an answer to that question, why the authors raised the question of the need of Meitei tribe nationalism. These fact might be the answer (1). There are only 17 lakhs Meitei in the whole world (this weird community living like a major community in India with super-microscopic representation), Meitei are vanishing from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Tripura (state of India), Meghalaya, Assam and even in many districts of Manipur they are vanished or vanishing (2). About 60-65 percent of Meitei population are inhabited in Manipur’s urban and semi-urban region of Manipur, Manipur is classified as third poorest of state of India by RBI and Manipur Urban and Semi-Urban is poorest in India according to the same; naturally this mean Meitei are one of poorest community in India, (3). Meitei language is discriminate and discourages to learn in Bangladesh, Assam and Myanmar by the authority there, (4). Supreme Court of India indentified Scheduled Tribes as the indigenous people of India, Meitei Tribe who are living in present day Manipur for 3000s of years are still yet too recognised as indigenous people of Manipur, (5). NGOs, Civil Society Organisation, Student Organisation, club etc. are missing working to ease the pathetic condition of Meitei Tribe, (6). Meitei Tribes pray to caves (Kabru, Nongmaijing Ching), e-put (spring), lok (pond in hill top), umang-lai (forest god), turel (river), ching dol (hill or mountain top), corner God and Goddess (Lainingthou – Leimarel), Lai-esing chaiba (rain god), Pakhangba (snake god), Stones (enourok) etc. and many of its worshiping places are under the occupation of Indian Armed Forces or organised advance religions. This denies the right of Meitei Tribes to access to its worshiping place and practices its religion.
In simple word, Meitei tribes are facing harsh challenges to the practice of its religion, language and culture due to legal, administrative reasons and exploitation of advance organised communities. Meitei tribes are also very poor and its population is reducing drastically which may be due to various causes. It is the duties of members of Meitei Tribe as well as duty of Government of India to safe this endanger tribal community from extinction. If this ancient serving tribal called Meitei is allowed to extinct a huge human treasure of 3000s years will be lost with it. These some-what highlight the need of Meitei Tribe Nationalism in Western Southeast Asia. Nationalism is not Jingoism which think their nationality is the best and hate others nationality. Here, nationalism means just the love of one-self nationality and identity and also respect and regards other’s nationality at the same time.
Normal average psychological well sound individual does not want to associate or identified self as poor, lost, weak, and express their helplessness and pathetic conditions (which Meitei Tribes are according to data). This may be due the human ego. That’s why one rarely found people’s post about their miserable life in social-media. Everyone post about how wonderful their life is, even at times most of their wonderful lives are simply faked. That may be due to peer pressure or create a fantasy to escape their miserable living condition. Meitei tribe movies, music album, stories written and print, newspapers, T.V. channels, Web-sites, discussions in academia or others etc. It seems all enter in unsigned unwritten agreement to not utter a word on woes of Meitei Tribe as they are owned by handful of people. This handful of people created ‘manufacture consent’ for them to work with which does not necessary work for more than 90 percent of Meitei tribe population. The whole procedure of Meitei Tribe’s elite agenda of identity, manufacture consent, narrative etc. can be understood with open or disclosed section/area of ‘Johari Window’ in slightly twisted way. The Open area of a Johari Window is the portion of self which the self-wish to show, acknowledge and let others to know also. This is just the one-third of whole self. In Case of Meitei Tribe the open area is feel with self-create fantasy of happy wonderful dreamy society with lot of resources and the Meitei Tribe’s ruling elite let this accept as true by others. Like that the narrative of Meitei Tribe is a major community of India is just a hoax created by the Meitei ruling elite to feed its own ego. The stories of Meitei tribe are well-do community is also mirage which data don’t agree with. The narrative of Meitei Tribe capable people is a disarrange hypothesis.
May be Indian political structure be the reason of Meitei Tribe not able to developed nationalism of its nationality. When Manipur was merge with the Dominion of India and later become of part of Republic of India, Meitei tribe were classified as Hindu and make group with all un-reserved advance communities of India. Manipur got its first educational collage in 6th August 1946, while the normal un-reserved community of India got collage in 1815, almost 140 year difference. Un-reserved advance community of India got university in 1857, while Manipur got its university in 1980, again almost 140 years difference. Government of India as well as Government of Manipur did nothing for Meitei Tribe to develop from 1950 to till date. As classified as Hindu, Government of India left Meitei Tribe with highly advance unreserved community like of Bengali, Marwari, Rajput, Malayali, Tamil etc. with huge population to compete with. And the result is obvious i.e. total humiliation in every field in today’s open economic era. May be the Indian Government realised its mistake to classified Meitei Tribe as un-reserved in 1990s, and later classified most of Meitei Tribes as Other Backward Class in 1995. This realisation of Government of India was protest by many ruling elite of Meitei Community. But the harm was done; 45 years of almost no access to development took toil in the psyche of Meitei Tribe. Many start feeling to distort identity in exchange for part in development process of India.
In 1990s many NGOs start working in Manipur mainly in the area of AIDS, Environmental issue and Human rights related topics which they did fantastic. Most of these NGOs were funded by left oriented donor (we have no issue with any left ideology). Brotherhood san nationality is one of the core principles of left school of +of nationalism from the already trouble Meitei Tribe. Now, they feel nationality or nationalism is not important. While in the west world book like “the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” by Samuel P. Huntington rules the day. After 45 years of no access to India’s development, the good NGOs did a good job in iron out the ideas of nationalism from Meitei Tribes.
Then, comes the age of TV channels, internet and globalisation in a fast pace in Manipur sweeping the feet of Meitei Tribes. First there were TV channels like MTV, V channel, Star TV followed by Magazines, Computer, Mobile phone, Tabs etc. The identity of Meitei Tribe is not cool any more to the new generation of people. Even larges countries like Japan, Germany, England, France etc. have problem with globalisation with its nationalism. With just 17 lakhs people Meitei tribes stood no chances in the tsunami of globalisation. Now, Meitei kids and youths carried the notion of “we don’t care of Politics”, “I Hate Politics”, “we are human not Meitei”, “we are international citizens”, “we are individual not part of ‘groups’”, “individuality is more important than culture”, “My life my rule”, “Damn care”, “be rich or die trying”, etc. These entire notions carry and have implications on the already poor and weaken society of Meitei Tribe.
The Meitei tribe’s Academia also played a role in the demised of Meitei Nationalism. Most of Meitei who get access to early educations were the handful of ruling elite family. The next few generations of Meitei that were educated in colleges and universities were part and partial of top of Meitei Tribes society. They were silver spoon kids, aloof from the reality of common people’s life. They try to look everything from their perspective and explain what they show from their understanding of education they get. This took their understanding of Meitei tribe’s society far, far away from the reality. Looking themselves they feel all Meitei are well to do. Looking their servants or helper (whatever they called) in house, they explain there are lots of Meitei and Meitei is one of major community in India. And these generations become the pioneer of Academia of Meitei Tribes and they set the rules, agenda and the discourse. When they teach their understanding of Meitei Society to common mass, the children of common mass faith up with education and drop out. (Only able to read and writes its name is not educated). When new academic comes to the system they have to follow the already established norms and understanding. To get their degrees they have to parrot what the children of elites have set. That’s why even the present generation of academia still parrot the already set agenda, if someone tries to shows the reality of Meitei Tribe to the academic world or mass. They gang up and ridicule the individual who tries to show the reality. Here, the situation is similar with “Allegory of Cave” from Plato.
The parasitic nature of many of the so called revolutionary groups of yesterday years and their nexus with contractors who become law-makers plus the Civil-Societies took a toll on the society. The youths and kids don’t know who to trust and what path to follow for a prosperous and healthy life. The violence, corruptions, nepotism, drugs wars, fake encounters, bandhs, bans, curfews associated with the previous generation make the coming generation thrash out the culture and identity of Meitei Tribe as undesirable.
Meitei Tribe is vanishing and now on borrowed time. All its rich heritages, language, dance, martial arts (thang-ta, mukna, mukna-kanjei), music and songs, culture of 3000s years will be lost from human history. If something is not done for this endangered tribe called Meitei. Yaipharay (All is well)!
(The views expressed are the writers' own)