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Prologue by MC Arun

Land of thousand surprises, hundreds of contradictory characteristics, and many more impossibilities are the new lexicons of Manipur. There are many patriots as much as scoundrels. In this land of jewels, political rhetoric is as much enjoyed as they are critically rejected. The pragmatic approaches are defeated by tradition fixation; and the same fixation is rejected equally by a fanatic love of revolution. While promising a mannaba khunnai, the love of past culture which legitimized inequalities in feudal Manipur is strongly advocated. There are many voices among the people in the form of their heated arguments in local 'hotels' or their favorite Leipung. Simultaneously, there is a total silence on the social and political issues at the state-level. More vocal and violent are the localized Joint Action Committees (JAC) whose demands are more specific and local in nature. The silence at state-level, however, becomes volcanoes at times such as the Great June Uprising; the voice hidden in the silence is heard at times demanding repeal of 'Draconian Law' which is jealously guarded by the State. Again, Manipuris are proud of their long political and cultural history for having a State which played active role in the Western South East Asia (WESEA); there is a demand for Inclusion of the Meitei in Scheduled List of Tribes in India. Many demands are in the air without proper informed debates; nobody is serious enough to engage himself in a controversy. The people appreciate the heroic acts, but they are advised with the age-old saying: Ningthou Semba Yaoganu. There are brave heroes in various fields in which the air is full of fears. Manipur witnesses, in its political arena, a tug of war between People's doubt of the government's sincerity in developmental works and Government's suspicion of people's link with insurgent groups. The most surprising is the scene found commonly in local dailies. The first headline is about the call for peace by the Government in the name of development and the second headline is about the corruption in Secretariat office. Is the Government or a Minister an uncontested symbol of peace in Manipur ? Can anyone speak without fear about the events of current history of Manipur? The voices of the people die young or are killed at its budding stage before these voices encounter with the existing social ideology.

The weekly column of Mr Seram Neken, 'The Voiceless speaks' in the Hueiyen Lanpao English daily, arouses a curiosity among the readers on the things the speaker talks about. Mr Neken who works for the betterment of the State in different capacities, writes tirelessly on various untouched areas of social and political life of Manipur. His selected narratives of current history and interpretation of these narratives have a firm root in general framework of morality rather than a particular political ideology. The author's first book, 'State, Society & Governance' (published in 2012) shows his capability of observing the events carefully and of reflecting what he thought on these events in short writings. Writing a column in local dailies has its own limitations such as limited space, of choosing target readers in a mass media. The reproduction of those articles published in columns in book form poses a new challenge. The reader's expectation is quite different. The book has its own identity too. Certain articles on events have their meanings in particular and immediate contexts which may loss their relevancies when published in book form. His first book, however, provokes readers' mind to look into the events from a different perspective. In his journey, the present book, 'Voice of the Voiceless' is second adventure of reproduction of newspaper articles in book format; this time, the articles mainly deal with wider range of issues of society, culture and the state. Hence, the readers are engaging more actively while listening to the voice of the voiceless.

The Voiceless is encountered with endless encounters in readers' minds. The trickiest part of the book is waging war against the collective wisdom on various events such as election, child right, concept of hero, womanhood and over-used term, 'Feminism'.

In this book, Mr Neken also tries to peep into the cultural realm of Manipur. Unlike his devoted mind in social and political issues, his writings on tradition and performances show his strong sentiment and emotion. In the test of time, many cultural performances are in crisis. This crisis in culture is looked from different angles and generates many modes of reaction ranging from war cry to preserve the 'past' cultural traits to an indifferent attitude to the past mode of production. Mr Seram Neken has a great concern with the cultural roots of the present life and admires the newly emerged culture of contemporary Manipur, also. His articles on different cultural traits show his firm stands on looking the cultural traits. His bold pen shows he has a romantic nostalgia of the dying cultural performances such as Khongjom Parva and Pena. On the other hand, he also loves to see the smiling faces of successful sports persons and tries to locate them in a wider social and political canvas. This leads the readers to a wider network of thought and sentiment. Mr Seram Neken writes on small events and explores the complexity involved therein. He does not conclude anything out of his observations of these events to forward any theory or advocate any practice; rather he is enjoying the war - war in collective psyche of the Manipuris.

MC Arun
Department of Anthropology, Manipur University

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