Manipur, one of the tiny states of the Indian Union, a picturesque dreamland with colourful people belonging to different tribes, is at the crossroad of tradition and modernity. Every community has a unique culture and ethnic consciousness and a fierce love of freedom and independence. It has been aesthetically described by many as ‘the land of gems’, a flower on lofty heights’ and the jewel of India’ a term used by Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. It has also merited the name the ‘little paradise on earth.’
Resplendent with nature’s pristine glory, Manipur lies in a melting pot of culture as one of the world’s most beautiful spots. It is a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Every tribe has its own unique culture, dialect etc having the true spirit of patriotism. The lyrical Ras Lila dance and the various spear dances are gifts to the Indian panorama. The people of Manipur love war games.
There are some burning issues which trouble the State of Manipur, but no one has dared to speak out or to challenge them for fear of bullets. This leads to rampant corruption, bribery, nepotism, violence and a breakdown of law and order. Small minorities have got the lion’s share of government jobs, but the majorities get only the scraps.
To get a job of an assistant teacher in a government school you need to bribe at least two lakh rupees. Due to rampant practices of nepotism and bribery, above all violence, corruption and subjugation prevalent in the State, each community begins to form its own groups- insurgent groups, fighting to better their own community in narrow selfishness. Each group fights for power and supremacy, creating havoc in the State. The chance of development, progress and prosperity seems an impossible dream. The ‘the land of gems’ becomes a ‘land of violence and corruption.’
This ‘Little Paradise on Earth’ becomes the Sodom and Gomorrah of the modern world. Almost everyday there is a strike or bandh or shooting or killing. Innocent people are most often the helpless victims. The internal problems are so acute and complex. Problems in Manipur are far worse than in Jammu and Kashmir. Unlike the issues of Jammu and Kashmir the complex problems in the North-East in general, Manipur in particular, are problems within the state. The Central Government is aware of them, looks down from its comfort table chair but does nothing. It washes its hand of its responsibility to solve the problems of Manipur. This leads to the formation of more insurgent groups fighting for succession from the Indian Union.
There is no respect for human life. It is worse than that of a street dog. Violence and corruption are in their very blood, whether it be army or various insurgent groups. The brain is the central office of all human activities. Just as a machine works smoothly when it is kept well oiled and is not left idle or unused, so too the brain remains active with work. The young hot-blooded school and college drop-outs and even educated people, are left idle forcing themselves to join the various groups for one’s own narrow selfish reasons. Some others join them to fulfil their ideal of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, considering it to be fair play, and none can be blamed if one wishes to take revenge. The government tries to build a tourism centre in the State. There is not a shadow of doubt that the government alone cannot solve the problems of unemployment. Private sectors will have to come up. But setting private sector calls for a work culture, peaceful political conditions, etc. Despite the practical problems the government tries its best to create more job opportunities to solve some problems.
Every day one sees the reality in the newspapers or T.V news, which cover not even a quarter of what is actually happening in the State. One cannot travel or roam the ‘little paradise on earth’ safely for sight-seeing without an ID Card. Even if you have your ID card, you will be caught for suspicion of being a member of the insurgent groups, detained you in the Thaana for at least a night. A few years ago I happened to witness a terrible tragedy. An innocent youth, my neighbour, was brutally tortured to death without any reason like a cat mercilessly torturing a rat to death in a playful manner, by so called “friends of the hill people” who stayed at Mao Gate. He was, after being mercilessly tortured to death, tied on a tree and shot with some bullets on the dead body. They put some AK47 bullets in his pocket. They cooked up a story, saying that he was a smuggler of weapons and bullets. This is the situation where we the people of Manipur live in the beautiful state so called ‘A Paradise on Earth’. These things are happening not only in the Imphal valley but even in the hilly areas, especially where the army, who ironically claim to be “friends of the hill people”, but in reality they too create havoc in the State.
Those who visit the ‘Jewel of India’ will experience the reality of the State. No one knows when and where one will be getting stuck. No one knows when and where one will be given a tablet for eternal rest. Has Manipur become worse than Iraq? If you were killed you were to be blamed, the incident of your killing would be declared a fake encounter by putting some bullets and even a pistol in your pocket by the army. Don’t be scared, this is the reality.
Every now and then, schools and colleges are forced to close down. Due to strikes, bans etc. the price of commodities shoot rocket high. To construct a house or building, at least a quarter of the budget for the construction will be demanded by various groups at gun point. To install a factory or industry or to repair a road or highway, a quarter of the money will be demanded by various groups and another quarter will be in the pocket of the few bureaucrats. No privates company will come to invest in the State due to complex problems:- political problems, work culture, situation, etc. Besides, the salaries of the government employees usually are delayed for months and months. In this situation, can development and progress be possible?
The legend says that the discovery of Manipur is the result of the delight the gods took in dancing, but the reality says that the present condition/ situation of Manipur is the result of the delight ‘Satan/Evil’ takes in dancing. It is this awful image that gives Manipur its present, unenviable identity “A Little Hell on Earth.”
Despite being ‘A Little Hell on Earth’ the ordinary people are still good at heart, dreaming that they will be able to feed the various insurgent groups and the army with the purest milk of reconciliation, understanding and thoughtfulness, through mutual dialogue, to restore the name ‘Manipur, ‘A Little Paradise on Earth’.