Gandhi was one stupid leader. He strayed from his vision. Had he not, he would've lived to see the fruits of his labour. His anger was against the British, his determination; to drive them away from India. And his pet hate was the haughtiness and arrogance of the British citizens in India, and abroad.
Success made him heady, made him lose focus. So, at the end, after attaining what he started out for—independence—he shifted his interest to Hindu-Muslim unity. That was his biggest mistake—and cost him his life.
There's no denying that Hindus and Muslims are born adversaries. It's more likely that the snake and the mongoose will share Pepsi before a Hindu and a Muslim live without mutual ill-will. Defying this strong force of nature, Gandhi worked against it, and obviously lost the battle. Such was the stupidity of the great leader who paid the inevitable price.
Okay, what did Gandhi's folly have to do with us anyway? And when I said 'us', it usually means the Zomis. The state elections had gone. The ethnic strife had blown over for quite some time now. And Zomi seemed to lost steam and relevance today. The mass appeal it once commanded seemed to have slipped out of its hands. It now only works in the background and sidelines of our communal interests.
Well, I'm not actually against the idea of Zomi as a filler to the political and social vacuums of our society. But I strongly wish it is taken to higher grounds, to its due pedestal, to the extreme of making it our first identity. I'm really saddened that Zomi has to play a second fiddle to our communal entities. But who is interested in giving Zomi a priority, anyway? I'm speaking Paite, so I'm Paite first, and Zomi can come aeons later. This applies to all constituent language-based components of the Zomi umbrella. I'm not being conservative. Even the Government of India recognises it and approves it. If it were a book, Zomi will be pulp fiction whereas Paite a documentary, a true story. Fictions are never taken at their words unless they tell of religion like that of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.
This tribe recognition thing has fascinated me for a long time. Who started it? Who revolted for it? Who brought it into being? When we cannot change the name of our beloved town CCPur to Lamka, who had sacrificed his head for such a significant socio-political mileage? Indeed, it must be the greatest achievement the tribals had so far. But, observing from a different angle, nothing like it ever so divided and diversified the hill people: chipping out assorted bits off the same block.
In his autobiography, 'Ka Hring Nun', Mr. Rochunga Pudaite wrote [free translation]: ...A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the Secretary, Ministry of Education, Delhi. It says, "Hmar is not in the list of tribes in India. Your application [for tribal scholarship] is therefore denied." At that, friends from Lushai Hills, Naga Hills and Assam and Manipur reassured me saying, "Send another application indicating that you're Lushai or Kuki. You'll get it right away. There'll be no problems." But I know writing 'Lushai' or 'Kuki', which I'm definitely not, will displease God, my maker.
Had Mizo been recognised, I didn't mind calling me that, for that's what I indeed am.
After me [came] Mr. Ngulsing Paite who applied it as 'Kuki'. He got it in a trice.
I was pondering in my room when it came to my mind to write the Prime Minister, Nehru [about the tribes in the Manipur, Lushai Hills, North Cachar Hills, etc.].... Before two weeks, a post addressing me by name arrived with "From the Office of the Prime Minister" embossed on it. It says: The Prime Minister received your letter...forwarded [it] to the Ministry of Education for inclusion of the Hmar tribe in the List of Tribes in India....
Pursuing Nehru's reply to his personal letter and assurance regarding inclusion of Hmar in the list of tribes in India, he wrote [a free translation]: Taking my roommate Mr. Chiten Jamir, we headed for Delhi....Pandit Nehru said, "Tell me what you have to say." I replied, "I want to make sure that the Hmar tribe is included in the Tribal List of India. I am coming to follow up our discussion in Allahabad." Nehru said, "I've already forwarded the case to Dr. Kaka Kalelkar, Chairman, Commission on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, for inclusion. To confirm, you better meet Mr. Kaka Saheb..." As we were sipping our tea, Dr. Kaka Kalelkar said: "Your tribe Hmar is already recognized. It will appear in the list in the Revised Tribal List when published. Now, before the list goes to press in 1955, I want you to let me know if there is any tribe in Manipur we might've missed out." He haned me a chit of paper to write on. In it, I jotted down tribes that I don't know as already being included like Paite, Vaiphei, Gangte, Kom, Anal, Ralte, Simte. Then, he said to his secretary, "Check the list. If anyone is not already in the list, include them... [Ka Hring Nun, Vol.1, 10, pp.59-61 & 18, pp.111-113]
I am not insinuating that Pu Rochunga was driving a wedge between us with his great job. Not at all. Rather, I am just surmising the hills might have fared differently, perhaps better, had they been clubbed as they were under Lushai or Kuki. I know even God would tear his hair to bring back the status quo. But I still couldn't help dwelling on this speculation.
Now enters Gandhi. If I'm not wrong, he was assassinated by a Hindu, his very own religious brother.
Apparently, the Hindus and the Muslims, in spite of their natural antagonism, are wise enough to strike a balance of coexistence. And the same pretence of peace has been kept in the hills of Manipur. If this fragile shell is shattered, then a Zomi will hunt down the head of a Zomi with the alacrity with which he feigned unity.
And if the leader is as obdurate as the Mahatma in having his own way—sometimes calling up the masses, sometimes abandoning them in mid rebellion, sometimes walking ahead of them to break a popular law, and sometimes hiding himself away with his mysterious inner voice—then, it will be no wonder anyone who rises to lead the Zomis be run down by a fanatic compatriot.
Indeed, the price of leading is high.