By RK Rishikesh Sinha
(Opinions are personal)
The linguistic and ethnic minorities occupy a significant place in democracy. Their empowerment in terms of participation in political processes, ability to avail of the distributive justice, security, freedom, equality, etc., is indicative of level of success of a democracy. And north-east India, which have been witnessing the political movements for self-determination — autonomy movements, secessionist movements, insurgencies — assume special significance. In this context, Bishnupriya Manipuri group, whose population is smaller in comparison to the other majority group both in Assam and Tripura, is a case in point— as members of the group doesn’t speak the language of majority in both the states, lack the power of political mobilization, and fear extinction of their cultural and linguistic identity.
In the mainstream India, where north-east struggles to find a place, the state and affairs of the linguistic minority, the Bishnupriya Manipuri, to get highlighted is beyond imagination. Since decades, the population has been subjected to structural violence, as the majority community with their access to goods, resources, economic and political opportunities, has created undue advantage into the very social, political and economic systems that govern the society and the state.
The members of the community find itself in a catch-22 situation since unlike the politics of the ethnic majorities; the politics of this group does not take the form of formidable political parties or effective political mobilization. Whatever grievances they have, it is expressed in the form of being discriminated against in terms of right to get elected (members of the community to get elected in both Assam and Tripura assemblies is not a rule, but an exception), get jobs, and enjoy basic rights. Except the provisions for setting up the cultural and linguistic institutions, (like any linguistic minorities) the Bishnupriya Manipuri community, do not enjoy any protection.
Things get grim, when the political parties (both regional and national), which are pillars in the democratic set-up, do not take up the concerns of the Bishnupriya Manipuris discontentment. Chances are there that fear and aspirations of the community is being termed ‘imaginary’, from the majority perspective.