We are used to a very familiar voice. The voice of silence. Its stories could have been a great plot for fiction but the fact is that it is a fact, rather the fate of a group of people in India, whose presence much like their voices are felt only once in a blue moon outside their suffocating compartment.

In this deadening reality of speakinglessness and muteness lies the never-ending tales of utter neglect, abjection and conflicts. Northeast India, it is a generic name for the people and silence covers their main plot in the great narrative called India. However in this tiny outline, for the sake of cutting the story short, we should be introducing only the exposition of a strife-torn Manipur.

Has the body politic rendered in its citizen a decision to have a bleak view of everything and hence a sense of futility in articulation? Are there psychological reasons why we are used to this kind of silent existence? Are there cultural factors that we could have bank on this reserved nature but have been robbed of our morality by the existing milieu? What is it that makes a harmful cocktail of violence and silence that we are so drunk with? Or are we plain afraid to speak out and we are plain cowards?

The stories would have been different altogether, if not for the lies that we are living in a democracy. In all aspects, Manipur is very much a part of the largest democratic country in the world; howsoever its system is under scrutiny. People vote and elect their representatives; and there is a written law and all sorts of things but in an illusionary situation that Houdini would even find it hard to escape from. Democracy has become a tragicomedy in our backyard and a meaningless pursuit in the front, or at least, this has been the case for the last several decades in the state.

c a u s e   a n d   e f f e c t

When there is an effect, we always look for its cause and this brings us to some historical chatter. In fact, this is where yours truly would like to start the deliberations on why we are so sickeningly silent. First, let us be clear that we are not interested in yesterday for its sake, but as a medium of our today, in short, the past as a path to the present and the future. What we are now living as citizens of a country, we can continue in the same breath, was because of a historic agreement between India and the then Manipuri king. So what’s the big deal?

No one can deny that the impotent, fat king was forced to sign the controversial Merger Agreement in 1949. He had declared later, though, that he had no power to sign it, but the people to decide the fate of the erstwhile country because an illegalised election had been already held. This accord is also the root of insurgency, which has given rise to the present bloody conflict situation and which, we will see later, is also one of the reasons for our speakinglessness.

A year before the Merger Agreement, in an indelible political record, Manipur had conducted its first election in a modern democratic sense and had its own constitution, which India rejected blatantly. We can abruptly add that these two major weapons: election and constitution, then became null and void, thereby our great nation of today overrode and subdued the voice of the silent people, leave alone that of the literally powerless king. In 1951, Manipur has a population of little more than half a million. (It is around 2.7 million by the 2011 census). This is the tragedy of a land of small ethnic groups.

t h e   b r u n t   o f   t h e   g o v e r n m e n t

Even in the contemporary electoral system, there is not much room for improvement either. Only two representatives from the state sit in the Indian parliament. Talk politics, and democracy is all about the numbers. The recent economic blockade, which ends after four months in last week of November, best illustrates this case. Last month, when New Delhi raised petrol price by Rs 2 citing rising crude oil price, many people spoke out and a Bengali minister threatened to withdraw her party support from the ruling government. The result: The government gave in after a few days’ hike; and oil price was back to normal. On the other side of India, for more than 120 days in the hinterland, people had paid because of the never-ending blockade, not an extra Rs 2 or 3 but triple the normal price — which is a curse for the grossly underdeveloped state — and the union government as well as the state can afford to turn a blind eye to the bloody protest and the plight of the people. We have no voice.

While the union government can sweep the necessaries under the carpet, people can see the uncluttered room in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that accentuates the cleanliness in the big house of Indian democracy. How much can we express when there is an act that authorises the army to murder, to shoot, to frisk, to do whatever they want on mere suspicion? This is too grave an issue, no doubt, but the issue should have had same seriousness in the public affairs as they have for the security compulsions and internal-affairs coercion. On two self-explanatory counts, we can see that the imposition of this act and several other martial laws have shown the Janus-face of the authority.

The state government is no lesser god. With a nauseating feudal mindset, they are a parasite on the opiated minds of the people. Their world does not end after eating up the funds from New Delhi but extends to a diabolical threesome act with contractors and we-exist-only-for-Manipur gang members — and further continue its hold of the public life by indulging in state terrorism. Their harm tremendously outweighs their goodness. Can anyone deny this fact? But how should we expect that the people, in our political and moral nakedness, will speak against their god, the government? This is the problem.

But we have to take the burden when it is about the government’s nonchalance. It might sound a universal weakness of the people in politics, though the case is slightly different here. Take, for instance, commemorating the 100th day of the blockade, when the chief minister said there is a limit to tolerance as if he had been hibernating, for the previous 99 days, in a compromising position with the contractors and the gangs. It is absurd we have elected the government. There is no intention of overstating or anything like that, but a statement of our predicament. We are like a bunch of junkies at Awang BOC, content to live a life as long as we are getting a couple of shots a day, no matter where we have got the money from, no matter where we will get the money for the next shot will come from, no matter what we are wearing or not wearing for that matter, no matter an overdose would kill us, no matter what.

r e b e l   w i t h o u t   t h e    p a w s

Any strong structure depends on a good foundation. That’s common sense. But the pathway of the insurgency is completely nonsense, despite the popular notion that it was an instinctual course of social movement and that the campaign started with a firm groundwork. This sympathy is why New Delhi sees in us being disloyal — which is simply ridiculous for the simple fact the attachment is only natural and also, for more than a thousand of years, we never had any closeness between us and them, though these are obviously not the only reasons. 

A possible state emblem?
Ideally, we should have no government and no authority. As mentioned above, there is a breed of enterprising militants who have found their El Dorado in the state. It is their disgustful combination of greed and violence that shuts out the voice of the people. We have already been tamed lions (‘Manipur lion’ is a popular saying), and we are oblivious of anything brave inside our caged compartment. So when people are killing people on the slightest pretext, it has become a norm to keep mum, to never say anything more than necessary, hoping these are better than to get a meesee in the feigan (get shot at.) We do hope the government understand this matter, even if they are not concerned, that these elements are illegal already and that they have more responsibilities than recruiting more youth in the police force.

t h i s   i s   t h e   e n d

“If one believes in nothing, if nothing makes sense, if we can assert no value whatsoever, everything is permissible and nothing is important,” Albert Camus would not have Manipur on his mind when he wrote it, but this is unfortunately the most fitting obituary for the dead Manipur — which exists legally and on the ‘minds’ of some people only. Otherwise it is a fragmented place of decadence with multiple problems related to each issue; it is a no man’s land where we see nothing beyond ourselves, our family and keiroi-leikai; it is an illusion in which nationalists and pseudo-fundamentalists would bray for others’ blood for their livelihood. All in all in haunting silence and marked by gross violence.

A gradual synthesis of the politics offers some hope. Now what matters is the road ahead which we can clear of its obstacles only when we know the purposes; else we have to lead this life of the primitive, this life of the jungle. The purpose of our very existence will have to be shed light on, and without our beliefs, without speaking up, it is impossible to continue the journey.



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