KAPIL ARAMBAM • In Pursuit of Freedom •


A translation of Laishram Samarendra’s poem of the same title, which was originally published in Khul Amagi Wari (1985)

In the land of the baby
Everybody is a baby
All babies — emotionally and psychologically ||

The wooden water tap in the land of baby
It has no water
The wooden power grid in the land of the baby
It has no electricity ||

An old man was hit on the head with a slinging stone
He had laughed at the babies
He had bothered the babies
The babies were told the truth ||

Image: Edited from the cover pic of Complete Collected Works of Laishram Samarendra

The Politics of Special Category

We do not have only military Special Powers acts but also enjoy the privilege of being in the special-category state under financial commissions of the union government.

Special status is guaranteed by the Constitution of India through an Act passed by the two-third majority in both houses of the Parliament, as in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas Special Category Status is granted by the National Development Council, an administrative body of the government. While Special Status empowers legislative and political rights, Special Category Status deals only with economic, administrative and financial aspects. At present there are 11 states that enjoy Special Status and Special Category Status: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
—Sumit Bhattacharjee, ‘Special Category Status’ is the new catch phrase, The Hindu, Feb 2014


In everyday life, you are called special if you are unique, talented or loved; but it is totally different in a larger context. For instance, Manipur is called special because it is socioeconomically backward. It all started in the fourth five-year plan (1969–1974) of the Indian union government. Then the concerns of the mainstream were on the Green Revolution, the Bangladesh/East Pakistan war, the nationalisation of several banks, Indira Gandhi and so on. But India is a land of multiple nationhoods.

Assam, Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir were the first to be categorised as special in 1969 with inputs from the National Development Council, which comprised the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and members of the former Planning Commission. Officially, the Gadgil Formula is used as the parameter for labelling the states as general or special as well as for measuring the division of revenues and providing grants in special cases. This formula has been revised in every plan period and now it has been modified as Gadgil–Mukherjee Formula (Imagine how much different is it from Look East Policy that has been renamed as Act East Policy). Check the PDF on A Background Note on Gadgil Formula for Distribution of Central Assistance for State Plans at www.pbplanning.gov.in/pdf/gadgil.pdf.

A special status is given to a state based on the following parameters -

•    Hilly and difficult terrain
•    Low population density
•    Strategic locations along the borders of the country
•    Economic and infra backwardness
•    Non-viable nature for state finances.

In 1972, Manipur was granted statehood and it was also grouped as ‘special’ in the fifth five-year plan (1974–1979). Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and all the other Northeastern states were also added in the special class during this period. In brief, as of the latest estimation again according to the Gadgil Formula, these states enjoy 30% of the total funding with 90% of it as grants. In other areas, these states are also provided with special plan assistance for projects with 90% of it as grants. Lastly, these states have the special privilege of untied special central assistance, cent percent as grants.

The  Planning  Commission  allocates  funds  to  states  through  central  assistance  for  state  plans. Central  assistance  can  be  broadly  split  into  three  components:  Normal  Central  Assistance (NCA),  Additional  Central  Assistance  (ACA)  and  Special  Central  Assistance.  Normal  Central Assistance  favours  special  category  states  and  they  get  30% of  the  total  assistance  while  the other states share the  remaining 70%.   NCA is in the form of 90% as grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states. There is no  fixed  formula  for  Special  Central  Assistance  and  it  depends  on  the  basis  of  the  state’s  plan size  and  previous  plan  expenditures.  Besides  this,  special  category  states  enjoy  concessions  in excise  and  customs  duties,  income  tax  rates  and  corporate  tax  rates  as  determined  by  the government.
—Virendra Singh Thakur, States with Special Category Status in India: Concept and Benefits, Gujarat National Law University

Many of the states are as backward as before, but things have changed in the centre. For starters, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has replaced the Planning Commission from the present regime onward. At least on paper, it has been made promising and incidentally the finance commission had got rid of several New Delhi-funded schemes while lambasting the retired bureaucrats and policy makers after terming the former commission as a roosting spot for the inefficient over-aged members.

The Prime Minister’s Office requested the erstwhile Planning Commission to undertake an exercise to prepare a roadmap for development of eastern and northeastern states of the country. An exercise has been initiated by the NITI Aayog in this regard and comments and suggestions from the concerned ministries and state governments have been sought.
— A written reply in the Rajya Sabha by Inderjit Singh, the Minister of State for Planning, The New Indian Express, July 2015


In early August, 2015 the Assam state assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking the Centre not to revoke the ‘Special Category Status’. A month earlier the Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had urged the Indian Prime Minister to reconsider the decision of scrapping the special-state category. In the most depressing way as always, Manipur is not only backward but it does not even have the space for discourse on development, leave alone the informed decision for the welfare of the people. Presently it is occupied with a tardy approach on civil society’s demand for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System and in the recently concluded framework agreement of the Naga Accord between the NSCN IM faction and the union government. ‘Occupied’ does not necessarily mean the government is putting up an effort but it also implies it is lethargic, incapable and hopelessly involved in all the issues.    

Bogged down by the ILP protests, in July 2015, Chief Minister Ibobi had to skip the NITI Aayog summit in New Delhi. Let’s leave the BJP–Congress mass orgy to the party members and the reason for missing the show was indeed announced officially—besides the five Congress chief ministers had skipped the grand Indian political show. Now, to ask if Ibobi had succeeded in his plans of government intervention is evident from how his partners committed a blunder by passing the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers’ (MRVTMW) Bill and sheer inability to contain the issue for the last three months.

Unusually he did speak up in another summit that was held in February 2015. He mentioned he supports the setting up of the Regional Council of Chief Ministers for Northeastern/eastern states with representation of all states in the region and with the Prime Minister as the chairman.

Amongst the Central Assistance, Block Grants such as Normal Central Assistance (NCA), Special Plan Assistance (SPA) and Special Central Assistance (SCA) have played a pivotal role. Most major infrastructure projects in the State, across all sectors are SPA/SCA funded which together accounts for more than 33% of Central assistance. Besides, SCA/NCA has been helping to meet the State’s matching share of central-sponsored schemes. The current method of allocation of Normal Central Assistance (NCA) to the Special Category States, on the basis of Gadgil-Mukherjee formula for non-statutory central transfers may be continued. We would like to be re-assured that even in the absence of Planning Commission, SPA/SCA funds which were available for maintaining the financial stability and equilibrium of the NE States would not only remain protected but would be provided substantive annual incremental increases.
—Chief Minister Okram Ibobi, PM chairs first meeting of NITI Aayog; Ibobi stresses on essentiality of planning, The Sangai Express, Feb 2015

It is not a coincidence that a section of Manipur is also demanding for another privilege: for an inclusion into the scheduled tribe category. Under the constitution, the groups in this class enjoy protective arrangements, affirmative action or widely known as reservation and extra development benefits. Apparently the mighty spirit of freeloaders runs in our blood. We are even ready to take poison if it is given for free. Realists might argue that it will be a foolhardy act because Manipur is impossible without the central assistance. That’s the main problem: the slave mentality.

If you go by the literal meaning of being special as in being unique, talented or loved: well, Manipur is uniquely in a mess with Marx-, Smith- and Mao-defying problems; talented because of sexual-innuendo-filled art forms and third-division sports; and loved, because the Indian nationalism is just not enough with hating Pakistan; also because it has the blessings of big-hearted mainlanders and conforming natives of the underdeveloped and backward-going region.  


We know from day one how the Indian government, from our merger into the union, has been infested with lies and coercion. Most probably a nation-building process is as trade-markedly cunning as its ideas on the conception of statecraft though we would never admit it, because politically we are under the Indian constitution now. Only retired government officials can reliably claim how we have existed, in the veil of lies and deception. Yes, it’s not a conspiracy but the reality per se. There are reports, literature and news information to prove it accurately.

It’s not only the forlorn Northeast states which are facing the brunt.

These states fear with the Centre having accepted the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendations, it is possible their special category status could be taken away. A state is given this status so that it gets a higher share of Central resources to bring it at par with developed states.
—Animesh Singh, Eight Northeast states plan to tell PM Modi: Retain our special status, The Asian Age, July 2015

The major contention of the Northeast states is that due to geography they suffer from economic-infrastructural deficiencies. This makes it difficult for them to cull out even their share of funds to meet the expenses of New-Delhi-sponsored schemes. Elected representatives are of the view that there will be a new and better policy will be in place to take control of the situation (read the price to pay for a nation-building process). In March 2015, NITI Aayog Advisor BK Pandey visited Imphal to review the implication of 14th Finance Commission and left with a detailed report on plans and schemes. Apparently, this was economics and nothing was related to army deployment in the region.


Despite the national-marketing hype and spending the tax-payers’ money on a ruling government’s advertisement, the only clear reply from the government is that the special category status will be taken away from them. As elucidated in the Gadgil–Mukherjee Formula, the only problem that the Northeastern state faced is in their transportation and communication problems. Or in the chief ministers’ word, due to geography, they suffer from economic-infrastructural deficiencies.
However, the post-independent India history has shown that the nation, in our perspective, has been built on sheer ignorance and arrogance. The only best result from such assistance is visible only in the deepening federal relationship with the state and the union. All along the political class is the sole beneficiary and if it is not enough, just picture the vicious cycles of violence and destruction on any Manipuri street, regardless of the hills or the valley.

In any development talk, there might be genuine economic concerns regarding a state like Manipur, no doubt but the problem is our leaders whose motive is led by the desire to loot as much as possible from the public exchequer. After all we live in a world where daylight robbery, percentage cuts, construction delay, unplanned urbanisation and so on are just ordinary terms. New Delhi can easily wash its hand of this madness, citing it is providing funds wherever necessary—though we know exactly the number of lies it has been telling us in the name of the nation. Other expressions like restructuring the economic system, transforming the outdated methods, developing institutional mechanisms, and others too, are as empty as my bank account.

First, we have the political crisis of an armed movement against the union; second, the power players are hooked to snorting easy money; third, the social systems are surviving to wait for their death; and fourth, we are clueless about what is happening or what future holds for us. In this context, how are the erstwhile Planning Commission and NITI Aayog going to help us? Trimming down the process of militarisation might definitely help. Seeing the people of the land as real people and not just the land as a geopolitical tool will definitely help as well. Developing the plans like Act East Policy, as promised by the political representatives, needs further engagement with the people. Telling honestly that the present-day crisis is political and not some law-and-order-and-unemployment problem will also win the confidence of the people.

The funds and scheme are a one-way method of running the oils of a society but those are utterly lacking to lubricate the other social and political engine sub-parts. What else would explain the rising cases of poverty and militancy? Experts have delved into the issues of peace and development in the region, only to conclude with the story of whether the egg, peace, or the hen came first. What we need is a special category of approaches that would take us out of the prevailing insanity. Personally, it is not possible in the existing system. The answer, perhaps, lies in turning the land upside down; but in any case, we have to get rid of the contemporary special political class and bureaucrats. This is not extremism and it is mentioned clearly in the objectives of NITI Aayog that the new system will do away with the bureaucratic hurdles. Finally, the politics of special category, well, never say never!


where would you end?

where would you
among the missing pieces in a puzzle
on the pages of a never-ending book
you think you’re going to end?

—wait for the fucking armymen
hold back for the trigger-happy policemen
put off for the person you love to destroy you?
—everything is possible for you

ruin and wreck
—oh, you believe in justice?
good for you
but where would you end?

by the fucking nambul-turen riverside crematorium?
i’m too drunk to listen to your choice
just be blessed
wherever you would end


like a vase thrown out on the concrete yard
like china dishes fallen on a kitchen floor
when the whole world turns against you
all the solutions maybe lie in death
like those of my dead father
and dead grandfathers
and dead uncles
and dead friends

maybe it runs in the blood of mortals
the family is fucking over-rated
maybe I should
blow up the government house
and leave this painful world
like a true gentleman

Saolin Sam Koi Kakter Is Back: 56 ‘Types’ of Moustache

I started shaving when I was 15 borrowing my father’s razor because I saw some unnatural hairs growing on my face. My mother and sister told me—rather they scolded me and reasoned that it would rather make the facial hairs would grow longer! What was that suppose to mean?

When I got some sense about the beard-and-moustache thing, I was 17 and the school teachers added insult to the injury because I liked natural growth and there was only one reason for the confusion: they were assholes. One of them who taught biology, would say that he read newspapers from backwards, leaving the political craps on the front pages, so that he can read the sports news first and then whatever-he-liked-we-never-knew craps in the shit-scattered newspapers. I’d assume he read about Sunny Leone (or any porn stars of those days), like the esteemed The Hindu featured ‘sensational news’ these days on their back pages. It was not that he liked sports, because apparently he was a fat guy who a few years earlier had got married to a famous local smuggler’s daughter, and he told us he didn’t like politics. See how much these assholes distract me!

These graphics are not related to family, fucked-up teachers, smugglers or whosoever/whatsoever. Typography was never political, and I believe it will never be. For instance, font combination never depends on a majority party or an incestuous political group but on a certain level of design layout. Design is, according to Robert Bringhurst in his The Elements of Typographic Style, the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form.

The following circled graphics are from a list of braces that can be used as an moustache icon and that are known by different names: flower brackets, French brackets, curly brackets, definite brackets, swirly brackets, curly braces, birdie brackets, Scottish brackets, squirrelly brackets, gullwings, seagulls, squiggly brackets, twirly brackets, Tuborg brackets, accolades, pointy brackets, fancy brackets and so on.

Developed from Saolin Saloon — Moustache Mania that was posted in May 2012 on this blog
Saolin Saloon — Moustache Mania

Haiku Laobiyu: A Series of Haiku Squeezed Out from Popular Rock & Roll Songs

Listed in order according to the name of the band/group/singer

ANTI-FLAG: Hymn for the Dead

The voice of the age:
Please sing a hymn for the dead;
In death we are one

BAD RELIGION: Voice of God Is Government

Neighbours, he loves you
Voice of god is government;
‘The’ might be missing!

BOB DYLAN: Ballad of a Thin Man

Something’s happening
Mr Jones, do you know it?
Are you all alone?

BOB MARLEY: So Much Trouble in the World

The people strugglin’
The ego trips sailin’ too!
Still so much trouble

CHUMBAWAMBA: Give the Anarchist a Cigarette

Nothing burns itself
Give the anarchist a puff
The fire needs a flame

CLASH, THE: Lost in the Supermarket

A special offer:
Assured personality;
Now here I’m all lost

It’s not you or me,
They have tanks and bombs and guns,
Since 1916


Your name might be Joe
We call you 6-3-0
Just follow the rules

GIL SCOTT-HERON: Home Is Where the Hatred Is

Home is where I live
Home is where the hatred is,
You don’t convince me
JOHN LENNON: Give Peace a Chance

Craps and maps and kings
Though all of us are busy,
Please give peace a chance 
KREATOR: Violent Revolution

Society has failed
Save violent revolution
This rage has a cause

MOLOTOV SOLUTION: Injustice for All

Our lives are in stake
Justice, liberty, all dead
Authority rules

NWA*: Fuck the Police

Authority kills
They got a badge and a gun
Justice! A fuck bit!

(*It’z no Tupac Shakur but hip hop duz da rock & roll thin’ too)
OPPRESSED, THE: Anti Fascist Action  

We carry nothing
We carry only hatchets
—Let’s go, A-F-A
PAUL ROBESON: The Four Insurgent Generals

Rivers onto seas;
John, Mao, Tommy and Ivan,
Work out together!

PETE SEEGER: Which Side Are You On?

Amidst lies and scabs
Are you a union person?
Which side are you on? 


Take the power back
It’s mass militant poetry
Just hear no more lies

SAM COOKE: A Change Is Gonna Come

Life’s been always hard
But a change is gonna come
It’s been a long time

SEPULTURA: Refuse/Resist

There’s fire on the street
The foe, the army in siege
I refuse/resist

SINEAD O’CONNOR: This Is a Rebel Song

My hard Englishman
You never say you love me
Crazies kill our sons


Worry for the oil
But why do they send the poor?
Pray tell, fucking why
WOODY GUTHRIE: This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land,
Is this land for you and me?
—It was made for us.

on becoming objects

i’d consider there is no hope left in me
and when I recollect each passing second
of hopelessness and living for living’s sake
the things are becoming objects
the world is dividing itself up into objects
things do seem to be what they are
the world seems to be what it is
a second, a moment before they are recaptured
in words and a thousand-word defying image!
objects have no feelings
like I do, no, don’t, for my homeland
—imaginary, memorised, selectively

ps: a cross-diagonal reflection on how a planet and all things in it transubstantiate and get manifested into physically viewable objects in an interval of a few nanoseconds: oh, this could have been a studied title for a thesis on things becoming objects  


Around My Hometown in an Alphabetical Order

Some of the terms I might have missed:

Beef-Eating Fucking Hindus
Combing Operation
Contractor-Minister-Naharon Threesome
Contractor-Minister-Naharon-Bureaucrats Gangbang
Daktar, Enginiyaar & the Family
Demand Letter
EPL-IPL Watching, Beer-Loving Cosmopolitans
Funds & Grants
Hand Grenade / Free Cartridges
New Delhi
Sycophant Inc of Reformers, Scholars and Social Workers, The
Ten Percent

PS: Again. I have missed loafer, the kinda person like me, but I will not add it. My list, my choice!

A similar artwork

Mid-week Life, Graceless: In Letters and Words

1    Learn English the Manipuri Style: Alphabets and the new vocabulary for the kids
2    Unclichéing the clichés: A random collection of one liners distilled into minimal images

Type Freedom

Freedom typed in Adobe Garamond, CassandraTwo and Myriad Pro!

Just realise the Independence Day is only a couple of days away. Yet what does it mean but merely a day in the bleakest parts of our history. Even if the political system claims to be free, soveriegn and independent, these terms are shrouded in relativity while we grope in the darkness for some light on our ironically modern life. The following graphics are on freedom per se

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