Two centuries ago, the dying Simon Bolivar- the liberator of South America and the greatest revolutionary the World had seen or has since- lamented: “He who serves the Revolution, ploughs the Sea.”
One would’ve thought that two centuries and millions of fruitless deaths would’ve served to drive such wisdom into everyone- but it would appear otherwise. Instead we see that increasing academic advancement and celebration of modern civilization has only led to a glamorization of such affairs. Like the amateur gardener who can’t bear to prune his trees for fear of ruining the dense foliage, these academicians and reformers merely end up with too little fruit and too many greens.
Is it any wonder that so much of modern academia churns out only bullshit?
A very common item of news coverage in the past one or two weeks has been that of Irom Sharmila and her breaking the 16 year long fast she’d been on to protest against AFSPA. The lady’s actions were and are impressive, her strength of will extraordinary, her willingness to stand up to one of the World’s great powers- the Republic of India- commendable. And yet, it was evident from the start that her efforts were all but misguided- and bound for failure and grief.
First of all- we must address a vital issue. The liberal reasoning goes that Indians- mainlanders, to be exact- have been oppressing the Manipuris, destroying their culture, and committing horrific crimes upon the population- apparently reasons enough to drive anyone to rebellion. Such views may seem obvious- especially if the reader is the typical sophisticated, English-speaking young urban youth who decries racism in public and mocks ‘Chinkis’ (used just for presenting the point) in private.
Such views are also wrong.
Manipur is what a dying Empire looks like- and like all dying Empires, the wreckage of its corporeal might would hardly fall to Earth without helmeting itself with part of Heaven.
Recorded history about the North-East is scanty- but what little we do know tells us that around the 15th Century, Vaishnava thought started to slowly filter into the area on the backs of Assamese Hindu monks. The local tribals of the area- Meiteis- had long been influenced by Hindu and Buddhist ascetic traditions but organized Vaishnava thought changed the area overnight. Like in Cambodia and Thailand millennia before them, the Meiteis adopted Hindu political and military thought- complete with the traditional image of the God-king and the professionalism of dedicated warrior classes. The Meiteis started to overrun the surrounding lands; from a handful of villages in a single plain, the Meitei Empire expanded to take up a massive territory- almost the size of the Lower countries in Europe, and claimed dominion over the little explored forests up to the Burmese border.
Then came the British.
Jet Li has already taught us that Kung Fu can’t fight guns (and proves that Bollywood’s actors are semi-treasonous and by no means, the norm among World culture). The Meiteis had few guns- and no Kung Fu. At any rate, they had no Gatling guns- the epitome of Western civilization- and only so many warm bodies to soak up British bullets. Manipuri Empire-building came to a halt.
From a proud Empire, Manipur became just another slave state of the British.
Since then, the story of Manipuris has been that of constant cultural loss and ethnic weakening. Christian missionary activity in surrounding territories dismantled almost all Manipuri Imperial institutions. The liberal apartheid on Hindu thought spilled over and swept away most of their local traditions. Restrictions on Manipuri military power weakened the State and encouraged raids by Nagas and Mizos; the latter were soon conquered by the British- but the damage had been done. Manipuris had been driven away from the hills and forced into the plains. Independence didn’t stem the damage. Nearly 70% of the population was Meitei Vaishnava in the 1940s. Less than 35% qualify as such today. The Hills are dominated by Nagas, Mizos, and Muslim Bengalis- and increasingly the plains are being taken over by Christianity- and its total disapproval of local traditions.
Liberals often blame Right-wingers for oppressing North-Easterners- and yet, they forget that the Wars were ALL begun by their inaction and apathy for the North-Easterners! It was the Congress’ ignoring the bamboo famines that sparked off the first round of insurrections. It was the liberal softness on the Naga issue that inflamed the problem. It was Liberal ham-handedness that has led to the ruin of Arunachal Pradesh. It is Liberal communism and intellectualism that has alienated Tripura.
The Manipuri issue stems not from any nonsense about Indian fascists oppressing the locals- but in that of total cultural breakdown and simmering ethnic warfare coupled with economic deprivation.
At last count, there were more than 40 insurgent groups in Manipur- and many of them aren’t even Meitei. The two centres of power upon which stability even rests is the Manipur State Police and the Indian Army- and the former is as riven with ethnic splits as the state itself. If the Indian State leaves, the State won’t flower into renaissance. Instead it will descend into bloody ethnic strife.
This is the simple and brutal truth no amount of Liberal calls for ‘Human Rights’ can hide.
Ms Irom Sharmila’s protest was based on a beautiful lie- that a viable Manipur State was even feasible without the Indian State putting a lid on the ethnic strife. The idea is beautiful. Yes. But it is a lie.
Multi-ethnic, multi-cultural states are indeed possible. But the ugly truth is that India is one of the very few countries where such states can survive- and the single biggest reason why they do is because of the infinite pluralism tolerated by Hindu civilization. At present- and shorn of mainstream, Indian influence- it is likely that Manipur would end up as nothing more than a war-torn African puppet state- rich in Guinea worm and Bibles and little else.
Too many Manipuris have been carried away by the usual Leftist denunciations of the Indian State. Too many have fallen into the trap of Human rights- the same Human rights that led to the Arab Spring and millions of corpses. Too many, egged on by the blind violence of the insurgents and the Machiavellian anarchism of the Left (both Indian and Foreign), have conflated the actions of a few evil men in uniform with that of the Indian State in general.
Which is why Ms Irom Sharmila’s announcement to reject fruitless protest for fruitful cooperation was met by such vociferous antagonism in so many circles.
Both her mother and her brother had rejected her choice to end the fast. When she received bail, there were shouts of her having betrayed Manipur- or more accurately, Meiteis. Multiple local newspapers- including the Imphal Free Press and the People’s Chronicle- have criticized the unilateral way she decided to end her fast and raise questions that the anti-AFSPA protest would fizzle out without her ‘martyrdom’. After the much-reported press ceremony, Ms Irom Sharmila roamed the streets of Imphal for hours- turned away at every door. In the end, she even approached an ISKCON temple for aid- where again she was turned away for fear of the ‘commotion’ that has been following her because of her decision.
Ms Irom Sharmila spent the first day of her freedom in the same hospital room that had served as her prison for the past 16 years.
Tragically- it’s almost patently obvious- even though no one has had the balls to say it out loud yet- that everyone was happier with Irom Sharmila acting out the half-living, half-dead, eternally suffering banner of self-sacrifice instead of as a real human being with hopes, dreams, loves, and aspirations. What else can explain the near-constant mentions of her British partner, Coutinho, in practically all coverage regarding the conference? What else can explain the reduction of one of the greatest heroes of State rights in India- and I freely admit Ms Irom Sharmila’s greatness despite loathing her politics- to a lovesick girl?
This is how all Revolutionaries end up- at least those who don’t end up rotting under the Earth. Isolated. Despised. Ignored.
Gandhi, according to Collins and Lapierre in the Freedom at Midnight, spent his last years as an ignored, inconsequential old man- left alone in his prayer meetings and shanti sammelans as India burnt and the Congress went about trying to ignore that it hadn’t been Hitler’s Nazis and the mutinous Indian Navy that had been the real cause of Indian independence.
Trotsky got an ice pick in his head for his troubles. Guevara was shot like a dog- the same way he murdered so many. Fidel Castro led his people to ruin. So did Chavez and Hitler. The Red sceptre of the Soviet Union wouldn’t fall until it had brought down the entire Slavic race. Blood ran in the halls of India’s colleges and rice fields in the 60s; and shows little sign of stopping even now. The so-called American Revolution cemented the power of Anglo-Saxon men over that of the Enlightenment for decades and wouldn’t let the US progress until the righteous scythe of Lincoln would finally crush the treasonous and the sinful, and liberate that great nation to pursue greatness.
The Manipuri insurgencies are a story written by multiple writers. To deny the chaos and horror of the tale in favour of a binary myth which paints a single side as an ultimate evil is hypocrisy. Not only that, it is wrong. Despite all cries of ‘Chinkis’(the same disclaimer stands) by liberal cool kids, despite all the ignorance and paternalism of earlier socialist governments, despite a; that has happened, the Manipuris are Indian- far more Indian than the 18h Century Americans were English or the French serf was French. And as Indians, they deserve safety, representation, justice, and the right to pursue happiness in partnership with all other Indians.The Republic is clumsy and chaotic and is yet but a child- but child learns and a child has reason.
A bayonet- and as Napoleon once said, what was a Revolution but an idea with bayonets- has none.
When Ms Irom Sharmila finally rejected the meaninglessness of sedition for the reason of Republican polity, she went against the desire for blood and chaos that lies in the heart of all men, especially in a beleaguered, besieged Empire like the Meiteis, staring at cultural oblivion. It is easy to hate the State. It is easy to hate a ‘traitor’. But it is difficult, extraordinarily difficult, to look within oneself and mediate on the end of everything that defines one.
Irom Sharmila did. And for that, we applaud her.
The Republic has endured. For yet another year. Belated, Happy Independence Day.