There are many ways to add value to the idea of historical episodes. One such way is taking cognizance of personal experience in making sense out of the events that have unfolded in one’s spatial and temporal encounters. Under such conditions, how does one negotiate his or her understanding of an event like the “Great June 18 uprising” in 2001 or in short how does such an event challenge the overarching dominant narrative and discourse from within.
Every year, people from different corners of the Imphal valley come to Kekrupat, Imphal to pay their tributes to the 18 protestors who were killed during the mass protest against the Bangkok Declaration which said that the cease-fire agreement between the government of India and the NSCN (I-M) was extended without territorial limits. The day is marked by a solemn resolve to defend the territorial integrity of Manipur and ward off divisive policy that could disrupt communal harmony.
As people revere and observe the event every year, one should also be reminded that memory is selective, shaped and affected by the subjectivity of the actors and influenced by the passage of time. The usefulness of collective memory is not necessarily built on just the sustenance or reviving of events but also in charting out concrete paths to be followed. However, this does not mean that one forfeits memory of its essence and turns every event into ritual emptiness.
An event like the June 18 uprising reveals more about the state of one’s being constrained by history and restricted by the consequences of short sighted imported visions if they could be called visions at all.
While there is a need to check the fecundity of our efforts on building a collective future, diversity of thoughts and actions should be in sync with certain realities that have triggered covert fear in individuals. However, one also needs to be exposed to the fact that history as has been constructed needs frequent review based on the experiences of the contemporary times. While doing so, there should be a clear distinction between what has been represented and the truth that needs to be emphasized.
The questions one needs to raise here is how have we understood our own history and how have it been produced and reproduced besides finding the rationale for a stance taken after collective resolution. However, the exercise can be fraught with the danger when one is left to choose between multiple constructions mired in skewed narratives, interpretations, worldview and use of events as evidence of history. All that discerning citizens need to do is to give a chance for deep reflection.