Manipur, a crucible of identity & division: Prakash Belawadi at ‘Vishwarpanam’ lecture
Manipur, a crucible of identity & division

Udupi (Agency): During a recent lecture series titled “Creative Indian Identities and Manipur Incidents” organized by Sri Krishna Seva Balaga at Admar Math, Prakash Belawadi, a renowned actor and theater artist, delivered a thought-provoking speech on the complex issues surrounding Manipur, its history, and its current state.

Belawadi began his address by describing Manipur as an “experimental ground,” drawing parallels with past situations in West Bengal. He highlighted the disturbing consequence of violence in Manipur, stating that it has led to a complete separation of the Meitei people from the hills and the hill communities from the valley. He emphasized that this division is a dangerous development in India.

Exploring the historical context, Belawadi recounted how Manipur faced adversity during the Burmese invasion between 1819 and 1826, a period of profound suffering known as the “seven years of devastation.” Subsequently, Manipur was governed by the East India Company for several years before becoming part of India through the instrument of accession. He noted that the accession process was with the Prince of the Kingdom, rather than with the true freedom fighters, raising questions about identity.

Belawadi also touched upon the diverse religious practices in Manipur, highlighting the transition of some Meitei people to Hindu traditions following the devastating period. In addition to the Meitei community, Manipur is home to around 30 different tribes, including the Kuki, Zomo, and Naga hill tribes, many of whom possess advanced weaponry.

He referenced the United States Information Services, which pointed out the role of Christianity entering Manipur as a response to the conversion of Sanamahism to Hinduism.

He further discussed identity issues, mentioning Rahul Gandhi’s campaign “Bharat Jodo” (Unite India) as opposed to “India Jodo” (Unite India), and the complexities of the inner line permit in Manipur. Belawadi pointed out that the northeast hills of Manipur have faced challenges related to illegal opium production, which the Biren Singh government is trying to address.

He also recounted an incident where women from the Maithreyi community surrounded and prevented a central government representative from entering Biren Singh’s house.

Belawadi expressed his concern about the misrepresentation of events in Manipur by some online news outlets, mentioning reports of “500 churches burnt in Manipur” and calling for a more comprehensive examination of such occurrences. He questioned the source of guns in Manipur and the origin of the drug supply, urging journalists and society to investigate these issues.

In conclusion, Belawadi stressed the need to create new identities while preserving existing ones. He called for a reclamation of lost identities and emphasized the importance of unity and cultural affinities among diverse communities in India.

The session was moderated by columnist Rohith Chakratheertha, who highlighted the emergence of identity-related disruptions in India and the need to shift from “unity in diversity” to “diversity in unity.” He emphasized that tolerance is not the defining value of India but rather the respect for diverse identities.

During an interaction with Rohith Chakratheertha, Prakash Belawadi emphasized the importance of understanding our identities and their significance. He emphasized the need to find common ground and unite as a nation, citing Bharatha as the unbroken civilization that can serve as a unifying force.

The lecture series received contributions from AP Bhat, administrator of Admar Math Education Trust. (Courtesy: Daijiworld)