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India, Anna, Army and Insurgency

From Manipur, with some love.




What’s the one thing common about corruption and army? 

It’s not the recent multi-crore defence equipment scam or any other Bofor-like swindle issues. I’ll give you no unnecessary headache amidst the clarion calls for laws against stealing and robbery by the people in power these days. These two things have been tied by the bond of, or the answer is simply, the people’s protest again them. The only difference might be a variation of intensity, which exist for some obvious reasons, in the popular resistance against bribery and graft, and the army. However, there’s a catch in this obviousness — and this defines what India is for us. And this is our story of the day.

Before the explanation, here’s a preface to the tale. 
Of late, India is giving its best performance in the drama of corruption, to make a law to fight bribery and such rottenness and in a protest against the government. Bricks and bouquets for the play. Anna Hazare, the septuagenarian, the devout Gandhian, is the hero. Fighting for a protection-of-the-people bill. And street protests, rallies and fasts offer a narrative thread, which people say these have been missed in the post-colonial era. On papers and television, all the citizens are the characters, pitching into play their roles as the script demands. Several acts have been completed in less than a week; and many more are about to follow as the story suggests. Newspapers and television channels are also having a field day, with a lot of breaking news and analysis and exclusives to fill in their space and time, and never having to worry about fillers. So, this is one part of the story: the mass protest against corruption.

The other story is about the other India. 
The story of the neglected. Some people would have been taken aback that there ‘is’ a popular resistance against the army. And that there are so many of them who are ignorant of this fact, is the epic of this millennium. We often live inside the building of indifference, while we build a statue of liberalism at the gate. Ignorance and arrogance further make the situation grave. Precisely, this is a story of a centre and a periphery: the corruption issues with lots of optimism and mixed feelings at the centre taking the limelight, and the unknown army issues with lots of death and injuries at the periphery.

Life and money.
Nobody would say money is more important. But it is our impression that many people are thinking otherwise. For several decades, so many people have been killed, many innocent folks maimed, many women raped, and there is always an air of uncertainty. But the only voice of protest we have heard is silence. The solidarity has gone under the cloak of spells that blind an Indian mind. Irom Sharmila has been fasting for more than a decade. The majority of the people is against the horrible army laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA]. However, despite recommendations from several quarters to scrap the act, we are still living under this colonial legacy. The majority is protesting and they are also not protesting. This is seemingly a contradiction, but it is not. As mentioned earlier, India is made up of different groups of people. Scholars study this phenomenon as regionalism in the Indian polity. The ground reality, though, is much more than a library and field works. Life is more important. That’s the thing. And military junta and neocolonialism have found another room for discourse in the big Indian democratic space. But democracy is simply not rhetoric. It is also the power to say that mainland India is more pathetic than a spoiled chapati when we are starving. Starving for no food or more money, but to live in a just society.

There is also an open secret. 
Our state government is spineless, living on grants and funds from the central government. The insurgents have often been losing their guerrilla plots miserably. And we have leading a hopeless collective life amidst state terrorism, non-state terrorism, all kinds of terrorism while we are misled by decadence. A tragedy, it is with no ending. On the other hand, the alienation from the mainland culture, the inability of most Indians to accept and recognise what India is, plus the thousand of other reasons make the ideal recipe for a chaotic condition. So when there is a mass movement in the mainland, especially of protests against the establishment, what we see is only a close relationship between the army and corruption. Others are just sideshows.

Postscript

There is a highway economic blockade at the moment. More than 20 days old. People are paying nearly 40 bucks for a kilo of potatoes. There is a severe shortage of fuel supply. Last time when there was a blockade, there was an SOS signal after hospitals ran out of oxygen supply; and a gas cylinder was priced at 1,500 bucks and even if you were fortunate enough to shell out the amount, the hardship and intolerance was beyond expression.

All our government have been able to do is to count their booty inside their fortified mansions. The irony is we are still in awe of their ‘achievements’. And we are waiting to re-elect them. The general election is scheduled early 2012. The army, quite unintentionally, has nothing to do in this case.

Further reading

Fuzzy Development Logic
by Pradip Phanjoubam, The Imphal Free Press (Editorial), Aug 19

What is also noticeable in recent times is that the military suddenly seems to have become flushed with developmental money. It is now thinking in terms of undertaking small and mid level developmental projects as part of its civic action programmes... How then is it that in backwater states like Manipur, governance seems to tend towards conditions that resemble that of a military junta.

Another India, Another Protest
by Kalpana Sharma, The Hindu, Aug 20

While the farcical drama around Anna Hazare's protest and arrest has hogged the limelight, Irom Sharmila's indefinite fast since 2000 to get the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) repealed continues to be ignored by the nation and the media…


Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? 
by Arundhati Roy, The South Reports, Aug 21

Deep inside the forest in a tribal village, when 500 policemen surround and burn your village and there is no TV camera, you can't go on a hunger-strike. You can only fight back. In any case, can the hungry go on a hunger-strike?



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