Exorcise 18th June’s ghost

Exorcise 18th June’s ghost
By: U A Shimray

The BJP declared: “the Ramjanmabhoomi [Ayodhya issue] movement was the outcome of national sentiment.” Apprehension build up whenever the 6 December arrives [anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid] and great relief when there is no major incident. Before the date set in, elaborate security were arranged by the Central and state governments. On this date, section of people commemorate as a “Day of Courage,” some “secularists,” described it as a “Black Day.” Other just does not want the day to be celebrated.

The question is why such commemoration is so important. In other word, such celebration expresses assertiveness of the past strengthening the social memory and its entity. Sometimes, the assertive rather pitched to certain section of people. Commemoration date[s]/day[s] is also common in troubled-torn Manipur state and the 18th June is one of them. No doubt, the incident is regrettable which is a fallout of the tag “without territorial limits” in Naga peace talks. In the process of anti-ceasefire agitation, fourteen protestors fell to CRPF bullets in the valley areas. Since then, the date is capitialised as the “Great June Uprising Day.” Naga community term as regrettable for not allowing peace process [ceasefire] in Naga dominated area. Sad intervention is the Secular Progressive Front (SPF) Government led by Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh for declaring the 18th June as “Manipur Integrity Day.” However, the decision for Holiday is not endorsed by the Cabinet as clarified on the floor of the Manipur Assembly by Senior Minister, Shri. Th. Debendra. Even, the longest serving Opposition leader of Manipur, Shri. O. Joy thinks the declaration is not right, because June 18 is not a function celebration by the State. Inspite of non-listing in Manipur Gazette, the 18th June remains as a package with “unofficially-official” holiday and celebration [Some section of the people also demanding to declare 15th October as State Holiday or Manipur Merger Day].

As a counter to the declaration, Naga students under the aegis of All Naga Students Association Manipur [ANSAM] burned down Government Offices in Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel and Tamenglong districts. Also, called for indefinite “Economic Blockade” in two National Highways. The editor of the Imphal Free Press, Pradip Phanjoubam writes: “The Chief Minster probably thought he was playing to a cheering gallery, but to his dismay, the move is turning out to be another nightmare of his own making and which he is not sure how to get out from. Naga civil society bodies in Manipur, who feel this is an official insult to the Naga aspiration for a greater unified Naga homeland, are now literally up in arms, demanding through the familiar coercive means of economically blockading the State, that he retracts the decision” [North East Sun, July 31, 2005: 18].

Recently, the Naga apex council, the United Naga Council (UNC) has cautioned anyone who deceptively tries to represent the Nagas during the June 18 programmes by wearing the attires of the Nagas. The UNC has also appealed to all the Nagas to stay away from the June 18 programmes. The statement further says that since “a section of the valley based organisations have been opposing the Indo-Naga ceasefire in the present State of Manipur,” the Nagas should stay away from the June 18 programmes.

Every year there is ritual celebration of 18th June under the aegis of the United Committee, Manipur (UCM) observe the day as the “Great June Uprising” at Kekrupat, Imphal. However, another valley based organisation; All Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation (AMUCO) observe the day as “Unity Day” at elsewhere.

Indeed, such ritual commemoration essentially refreshes the bad memories. The 2001 June spectacular protest by the anti-ceasefire agitators in the valley areas create an atmosphere of fearful anticipation which compelled many Nagas fled the valley of Imphal. This particular momentum has led to a devastating capitulation of uncaptured animosity between the hills and the valley in general. Here, the 18th June connote of both “good and bad” epitaph nonetheless re-asserts social mobilisation. In other words, such celebration creates a domain rather renew of social apprehension. For the dominant Meitei community the day could be deemed fit to commemorate as “martyrs” or “historical event” however, the Nagas reiterate as unfortunate. Such confrontational attitude somewhat send wrong message and would vitiated the atmosphere.

I have no hesitation to called Manipur as “difficult” state. Today, the state is systematically capitalise ethno-political aspirations and insurgency politics. Most unfortunate is the state’s “unofficial” celebration as “Integration Day.” In fact this implies that the state is appropriating the dominant’s interest. To be rational and for practical use, ethnic relationship is indispensable co-existence. Unfortunately, in this co-existence tradition the most important called “respect” is missing. Instead the assertion is routing towards one sided politics. Celebration at the expense of “uprising” could invite countervailing tendency. Experience had taught that participation in either the celebration or the observance of the day would have served no useful purpose in term of ethnic relationship in the state. Just says that the incident is unfortunate and also non-recognise the event as “un/official” state’s celebration [leave it to individual option].

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