Through the Looking Glass

iolence rules the roost in Manipur – the state government as well as the militant organisations are responsible for this deplorable condition. The bloodshed continues unabated and the only thing that has persisted is the hope for a better tomorrow.

Like an individual, every community has its distinctive traits and ways of life. At a glance, observers in the state would say violence, corruption, drugs and cheap lifestyle amongst other things, provide the platforms where the farce is set. These are the parasitic elements of any backward region and are, not surprisingly, rampant in our neighbourhood. The resulting frustration is manifested in our daily life, where the elected government is bent on intimidation while non-state actors are defying them at will. The general public are sandwiched between the two, and are disoriented lot between the devil and the deep sea.

A confused identity and a sense of belonging nowhere are the building blocks of this absurd plot in the valley. But there are dreams, and plenty of them, which are sustaining our life and making survival possible. The struggle for achieving them has become all the more difficult as many have lost faith in it while others are embroiled in the chaos and lack of clarity to accomplish the task.

The hope of a peaceful and self-reliant society is all we have got for posterity. We need to change ourselves, get rid of the violent and lazy mentality, and make ourselves visible in the global space.

It has called for ways to find the ways back to our roots.
Asking ourselves where we belong might puzzle us again. Still we know we do belong to a root. Belonging is a feeling – not just a membership. It involves being included or accepted by others in a group. Hopefully, it is not politics this time around, but rather a universal feeling of love that we have for our birthplace. We belong to humanity, and we know it. In deed, this consciousness oil the social reality, however harsh it may be in contemporary times.

But how do we justify the security forces causing mayhem in a crowded place? Is there any authority out there? Or are they so busy fighting the rebels, who are clamouring for freedom from the jungles? Why do we remain a mute spectator to bloody gunfights in our backyards? Is it done just by staging those boring sit-in protests or organising senseless general strikes? How do we say we have an elected government? There are several more questions that we don't have the answers for – the stupidity, of course, makes us a hardcore Manipuri.

One of the insurgent groups even criticised that 'the killer pack of police commandos the chief minister is raising is beyond counting.' We can hardly expect anything from this dimwitted commandos, who were formerly raised as the Quick Striking Force (QSF) in the late Seventies. They are blood-thirsty and barks when their masters order. But, at least, we expect some panacea from the top brass if – yes, if they are aware they are responsible for the security of the man on the street.

In history, we have seen revolution giving birth to nations whose power and autonomy have markedly surpassed their own pre-revolutionary pasts. France became a conquering power, the Russian rose to an industrial and military superpower. Mexico gained political strength and the country is least prone to military coup in Latin America. The culmination of a revolutionary process reunited and transformed a shattered China. Likewise, decolonising and neocolonial countries, such as, Cuba and Vietnam have broken the chains of extreme dependency. We have also seen the lofty ideals of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality firing imaginations in the quest of social and national liberation.

It might be superficial to compare these enhanced national powers to a region like ours.
But the resistance is completing five decades and it is worrying, the label of being a failed state is going to be attached for ever. It is an open secret how these insurgents are operating with mass extortion, and how armed movement has been devalued shamelessly as a business enterprise. What is to become of Manipur?

Ted Gurr elaborated in 'Why Men Rebel' that political violence occurs when many people in society become angry. And people become angry when there occurs a gap between the valued things and opportunities they feel entitled to and the things and opportunities they actually get – a condition known as relative deprivation.

But there are basic counter-arguments, which are convincing and easily specified. No matter how discontented an aggregate of people may become, they cannot engage in political action, including violence, unless they are part of organised groups with access to resources.

Is it only politics that is affecting the Manipuri landscape and the North-East as a whole? Not necessarily, as this aspect is also closely related to a regretful history, a complex geography and an inefficient economics, so as to say, that is spoiling every generation. In our homeland, we have so many beautiful places to die for, and vast natural resources to kill for. However we are caught in a time warp, unable to break free from the chains that tie us to our tribal instincts. We have been exploited... we have been humiliated... we have been cheated... but this is not just done. A gun is not at all enough to bring us salvation – we need thought and discipline and reason and commitment and planning and what not.

In 'Revolutionary Change,' Chalmers Johnson described revolutions on the basis of a value-orientated social system model. A crisis comes into existence, according to Johnson, whenever values and environment become seriously dis-synchronised, due to either internal and external intrusions. Then, people become disoriented, and hence open to conversion to the alternative values proposed by a revolutionary movement. The existing authorities lose their legitimacy and have to rely more and more upon coercion to maintain order. Johnson continued if the authorities are "smart, flexible, and skillful," they will implement reforms to "re-synchronised" values and environment. But if the authorities are stubbornly "intransigent," then revolution will instead accomplish systemic change violently.

But there are doubts about the prevailing armed rebellion, blamed for ideological bankruptcy and focussing more on extortion and government contracts, will be able to re-synchronise the social system's values and environment. Or rather, to create an organised and self-conscious "class-for-itself," as expounded by Marxism.

We rise to every dissension and sink to any depth of social-economical and political tragedy. We are resilient to this experience would mean but to be preoccupied with a defeatist's psychology.

Getting to the basics, the Manipur State Development Report in 2006 surveyed we have a meagre 6.73% of the gross geographical area of the state, which is classified as agricultural land. An inefficient centralised planning, with an acute infrastructural scarcity and lack of resource mobilisation, has been cited as the foundation of the present economic doldrums. No wonder, the successive governments are resorting to overdrafts to pay the employees in various departments.

Throw garbage politics into the dust-bin.
A couple of years ago, in an opinion poll conducted by the All India Radio, nearly 90% of the 750 respondents answered corruption is a bigger issue than HIV/AIDS though the state has the highest number of the HIV-infected people in India in terms of population ratio.

Corruption is unbridled where there are low public-sector salaries, delayed salary payments, weak performance evaluation and disciplinary procedures, extra-budgetary funding mechanisms, and lack of complaint mechanisms leading to disciplinary action. It does not take a rocket scientist to identify the complication. While culpability might be a debatable issue, what causes corruption to spread its tentacles in society is not. It can be minimized only if political leaders are willing to impartially implement effective anti-corruption strategies and augment the probability of detecting and punishing corrupt individuals.

But then this crookedness has eaten up the entrails of our society. It would be wrong to blame the system because all of us are equally responsible for creating a dishonest and corrupted society.

We are caught in a web of decadence and, unfortunately, everything is inter-related in the establishment – we cannot expect any positive upshot out of this mess. Do you see any probability of curtailing the drug menace in the state? Is there any chance to resolve the crises bogging down the region in the near future? Not at all, and the answer is simple as that.

The diagnoses do not mean to doctrinaire the multi-faceted disorder, like once the mainland politicians and policy-makers had done for the sake of expanding the region. These are rather the quest for a development paradigm that is conditional on improving the people's subjective well-being in an environment of peace. An air of pessimism is lingering, and is making us more frustrated. No redemption song can free our mind. This pen is all that I have and I doubt, it can write further.

The dream of a peaceful and just society has remained as elusive as ever. We are a violent society, trying to seek recourse to violence to address the issues. Still, we believe a day will come when man will be equal to man and blood is shed no more. We want to leave behind a vision that would survive this turmoil. And nothing else.

© Kapil Arambam's Private Investigations – Through the looking glass with a packet of Gold Flake



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