If one recognizes existence of a problem and take another step to separate the problem from the persons then ideas for problem-solving can unfold. Johan Galtung, a Norwegian peace activist and academics, says it requires just a twist in the mind to move from problem-making to problem-solving processes.
Any conflict situation can create problems within oneself or with others because of the ways people engage with the problem within oneself with others and so solution may also follow different ways of engaging with the problem. For a problem to move towards a solution, first, it requires that there is a mental shift in oneself. Then only ideas for solution may sprout in one’s mind or found with the others. Ideas for solution will seek appropriate tools and methods to first understand the problem well and then set a process of solving the problem.
Knowing the problem first to begin is important as G. K. Chesterton, a British philosopher rightly said, it is not that people do not know the solution but the problem! Manipur society apparently carry multiple problems without any solution religiously believing in matamna ahongba purakani without any guarantee that the change in time will be the desired one. But if the people wish to see the change they want to then following what Gandhi said, “Be the change...” may be right path. To be change is to take a few steps ahead.
Recognizing key problems commonly known as “Ani-thokpi”, or “Punba-yadabi” or “Thaksi-khasi khngdaba” or “Lawai-macha” and “Imphal macha” spoken and unspoken mindset; derogatory connotations extending to hill peoples as “Hao”, “Hao-macha” as one whole block of people and “Meeteis/Meitei as the only author of Manipur” and the sole keeper of its territorial integrity expecting hill people to act in accordance with the aged old idiom – Manipur sanaleipak, chingna koina pansaba; chingmi na koina pan-ngakpa, without any actually making any structural and cultural changes to satisfy the aspirations of education generations, may be seen as the beginning of problem-solving processes.
Such attitudes also seem to create perceived/real fears expressed as mass hysteria like “Manipur gi territorial integrity kaiba yade” and “Leader Leite”, generally accepting that Meetei/Meitei cannot unite under one idea and one leader. Even while many feel unity among Meitei is the way out, “Maana kari khngana”, or “Mawa loude” seem to close all the efforts to unite while belittling one another “Sidhanabi-chingthanabi”, and “Kounadabi-nganadabi” as cultural practices on everyday life. These are the enemies here in our minds that fail us on everyday life while not to denying the external enemies preying upon this divided mindset! It seems to key to break open this cultural and structural barrier in our minds is to LISTEN to one another without prejudices, stereotypes and judgments.
Inability to listen to one another with open mind and heart has time and again failed us to respond to problematic situations appropriately and has allowed problems of pile up. Such attitudes and behavior among the people in Meetei/Meitei community denies any space or opportunity to assess both external threats and opportunities collectively and take any proactive or preventive actions as an indigenous community.
Conflict studies inform that course of any conflict is determined by the attitudes towards the dangers and how the people engage with the opportunities. The usual attitude towards dangers or adversarial situation is win-lose as has been wired in the brain for survival. However, win-lose approach does not guarantee win on one side all the time and often lead to problem-making processes that may be inherited by the future generations.
The present warlike conflict situation facing the Meetei/Meitei community illustrates that our past attitudes have not changed and so the method of engagements with the dangers posed by the conflict situation may also lead to either of the two probable outcomes: win-lose or lose-win on any side at the end. Which side wins may depend on which side has resources enough to sustain the confrontation for longer time with long-term strategic plans. However, a twist in the mind can save Meetei/Meitei society from the present dangers. This process may be starting anywhere by consciously refusing to be part of the problem but choosing to be part of the problem-solving simply by listening through series of consultative and brainstorming sessions with more and more concerned people. Tara Gi Cheisu as one among others seems to have taken right path.
Tara Gi Cheisu as the twist in the minds and space for open listening as the second step:
Tara Gi Cheisu is an initiative led by medical professionals, and seems focused on facing the dangers by capturing the opportunities for win-win solution. To begin with Tara Gi Cheisu aims to destroy and deconstruct 3Cs in the minds of the people, namely: criticism, condemnation, and complaining attitudes and construct new thoughts with corresponding with 3Cs which means honest compliments, clear communication and cooperation to create positive synergies in the society.
Tara Gi Cheisu believes that this mission of deconstructing the old habits of creating negative energies and constructing positive social energies is possible through 3Es strategies; which are right education, and economy key strategies that will bring out empowerment by awakening the human agency. Such paradigm shift may lead to not only unite the deeply divided society but also enable to see the “Anit-thokpi” in the light of building democracy from the grassroots by engaging in healthy debating informed by empirical facts (head) and dialoguing informed by acceptance of multiplicity of truth (heart). It is observed that Tara Gi Cheisu is opening up the space for change among others in small sections of society and individuals. There is an urgent need to connect these pockets of hope to create an congenial environment.
Seen from this new perspective, Ani-thokpi may be seen positively as the basic foundation for creating a healthy democratic society based on the foundation laid on 18th October 1948 by the people of Manipur as part of evolutionary processes of the native state of the Meetei/Meitei. Such shift in the minds from negative appreciation of self and others to positive may open up huge opportunities of creating new meanings and adopting methods for creative and productive social engagements through healthy debates and dialogue to gain deeper understanding one another. “Mana kari khngana” can be changed to Ma gi su khngja ba khara leibani, taminasi kanani, “Mawa-loude” to Maagi mawa su tasi aduga yanaba ama puraksi, “Sidhabi-chinthanabi” to Singthanasi-sougatminasi, and then to building respectful relations “Thaksi-khasi’ among individuals within and without linguistic boundaries. It may be noted that Darwin also said survival of the fittest need not be competition or win-lose engagements all the time but species survive based on cooperation. However, such transformational changes can be actualized only when people who seek the change also have control over the most critical strategy – Education.
Reclaiming right to right education is the third step: It is tragic that broken walls and empty classrooms of primary schools in both urban and rural areas show abject poverty and neglect of the most important social services in the state. Formal education sector is in pathetic condition. State govt has been obediently following the central education policy without any effort to develop state specific policy even when the sector was under the concurrent list. Now that it has been moved to the union list the political elite seem to find even more convenient to follow privatization regime.
The education department too is more focused on construction works and distribution of Mid-day meals than educating the children and training of the teacher for quality education. This sector has been reduced to opportunities for earning extra money through construction works and employment. Since Govt has absolute control over formal education the site for change has to be in nonformal and informal sectors of education for sometime until people set the education as agenda in the next election.
If these shifts in the minds and new brain rewiring go on through right nonformal and informal education that provide knowledge and skills to analyze the problems for correct understanding it can bring about the larger image of the Meetei/Meitei as a composite (mixture of different gene pools/bloods and not as homogenous tribe or pure gene pool but hybrid population) population indigenous to the valley and a pluri-cultural society which can connect with all respectfully as equals then lots many other imaginary problems can simply disappear one after another like; Leader Leite to Leader Leire, Territorial integrity Kaiba yade to integrity leiri.
Manipur can be the best place in the world because we refuse to react but respond differently to the warlike situation of our own creation. It is time educationist come together to write the right education that equips the present generations; old and young with the right knowledge, tools and skills to develop positive attitudes in responding the problems confronting our survival within the scope of NEP 2020 and NYP 2021 to hand over a secure and peaceful society to the future generations.
The writer is Visiting Faculty, NEISSR, Nagaland and Coordinator PINE (Manipur-Nagaland)