Maze to the Skies
Making some sense out of the senselessness in my hometown
Picture that there has been market failure, which has taken a toll on the general public. It is obvious that there should be causes, to cite an example, from overprovision of demerit goods to positive and negative externalities or perhaps others; and significantly, howsoever severe is the condition there should be solutions to resolve the problems. Leave the scores of recommendations to rectify market failure, the point here is to state that there might be crises and accidents and all sorts of crashes and collapses but there ought to be ways to diagnose the causes and cure them.
We are not necessarily confined to economics but are talking about a society in general. Already I’m not even sure where to begin with. This is the story of a hinterland called Manipur and its chronic illnesses. Lenin had remarked that the 20th century was that of wars and revolutions and we have kept his legacy alive in this new millennium with certain precision.
Two years ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) came up with a long list of countries that are ranked from 0 (low) to 4 (very high), in terms of their vulnerability to social unrest. India is grouped under the medium-risk countries.
There are two things we can make out from the ranking by the EIU. First, only six countries out of the 150 make it into the very-low-risk list, which includes Austria, Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland. So we know where we should be heading to if we are planning to move countries! Second, India’s inclusion in the group comprising the maximum number of countries under medium risk is debatable.
The EIU mentions the ranking is on the basis of forward-looking assessments, whatever it means but the subjectivity has been highlighted by the continuous negligence of the conflict zones of India, namely, the Northeast India, Kashmir, and the Red Corridor in the central and eastern part of the country. This takes us back to Manipur again, a frontier state that never seems to part its way from unrest, violence and protests.
Sense and Senselessness
So long as governments set the example of killing their enemies, private citizens will occasionally kill theirs. — Elbert Hubbard
When the Manipur government feebly teamed up with other parties to form the all-political-party delegation in the wake of this year’s ILP protests and decided to leave for New Delhi on May 16 last, there was not an iota of honesty or commitment. No wonder the trip was cancelled citing ridiculous reasons like getting no appointment or whatsoever. And what else explain their stoic silence for all these months? Police brutality had reached a new high in 2015 and one can only wish the agitation and the reasons to agitate never develop again. Never say never!
Picture one more case that shows the maze of our reality. Less than two weeks ago, volunteers of the Kangleipak Students’ Association, during one of their raids, had pulled up two non-locals in connection with a food adulteration case. The government do have an agency: the Department of Consumer Affair, Food and Public Distribution but those in the office are busy in everything but in tackling issues of public interest. Let’s forget about this awfully incompetent government department for a while; ignore even the health hazards.
The tragedy has been made a farce by the police who have arrested, nope, not the individuals caught red-handed for food adulteration, but the five KSA executives, who were involved in the raid. The police should be praised to the skies for their obedience and duty, as they help us build our maze all the way up to the skies. Over the days they have been also busy locking girls’ schools and attacking unarmed female ‘School’ students with tear gas bullets and water cannons.
Even without the police we have been playing our role very well. Recently, there was a sit-in protest in a corner of the valley. Indeed there were two, at the same location but with different agenda. When media people asked them about their goals, a catfight ensued apparently because they had different goals and was unaware before the newspeople came, while offering a solid material for black comedy.
Shits apart, we are living in a strange time and we will believe it right away if we are told that these adulterators have the support of our hopeless ministers or elected representatives. To add more depth to the confusion, these two adulterators are also outsiders, whose onslaught is the very reason Manipur has been spiralling out of control over the Inner Line Permit System off and on for the last many years.
In the conflict we have been condemned to a life of nothingness where everything is possible independent of legitimacy or ethics. Alternatively, we can do what we want and it is not a matter of conscience but a condition, again that could be ‘anything’ and ‘everything’, rendered to by the existing milieu. There is not a sense of discipline; and even if it does, it is no more a virtue. There is not a sense of mutual respect; and even if it does, it makes no difference at all too.
In addition to belonging to a part of the globe where there is the least public attention, all along we have been told that the armed movement for the right to self-determination is the mother of all the problems but if you ask anyone on the street, there is no doubt the present ILPS campaign is the worst problem. Spiritual masters and philosophers have been preaching on the importance of ‘now’; while in our case, we are too much consumed with the present and the ‘now’ in the most un-spiritual and un-philosophical ways. The issue has been further complicated by multiple, incoherent and often opposing voices on the demand; leave alone the endless list of issues and problems that make our life one long timeline of disasters.
All our senses have been obliterated by the nothingness so much so that there is no defining line between dreams and nightmares, between what we want and what we get, between police and murderers, between judges and executioners; or even between you and I in our shared identity, or the lack of it, which has been a major reason behind the recent spate of protests and counter-protests. The state has lost its monopoly on legitimate violence but if we check the establishment, we can clearly see those Members of Legislative Assembly and other elected representatives are pretty much there; in fact, they are enjoying their benefits and privileges. Absurdity, thy second name is Manipur.
The fact that the British could conquer Manipur only as late as 1891 and the presence of large ‘ungoverned’ areas are testimonies to narratives that have been blissfully ignored for the sake of contemporary nation-building process. However, the neglect cannot simply be wished away and we are a witness to the consequences for the negligence. One could have bear it if this was unintentional but we know it is indeed intentional—read for the benefit of the geopolitics of India—and what’s more, successive governments at the centre and the state are spreading blatant lies as if the condemned people have no agency or whatsoever to speak out the truth.
In such a condition it is somehow no surprise that nobody is listening to anybody and it is very difficult to say what is to become of us. In this confusion, however, we can see that most of the time we are occupied with trampling upon each other. Darwin professed about the survival of the fittest. We have memorised it but we have learned neither how to survive nor how to be fit except internalising the fact that the strong thrives and the weak hardly survives. A plenty of examples exist to support this statement.
Let’s consider the case of ILP again. One of the advantages we enjoy is that we are never short of real-life cases to talk about our condemned lives. So, the ILP is a public issue and the sole responsibility is for the government, whether the bills become an act or not. Of course, if it is controversial or problematic, there is a civil society that it can count on. And if the state government is too hopeless to work on it, then maybe, the people should turn to the union government; after all we live by their rules so why not take their suggestions during crises. But none of these is the case we are experiencing.
For voices that we need to raise to the authority, we are conveniently turning them into noises and creating hurdles for ourselves. Just see the people, so many of us, who have suddenly realised that general strike is creating problems only for us. Those MLAs, who should be murdered, will never be affected by a public curfew; those bureaucrats and the so-called policy makers, who are painfully silent, will never lose a single ‘peisa’ during these strikes and curfews. But never mind it—we seem to have formed a consensus that we have each other to be a pain in each other’s ass and that while we are at it, let’s as well play the who-is-the-stronger game.
Developing frameworks and models, and hypothesising the problem-solution theories will be taking too much time in our lives today. We have seen much violence, psychological harms, loss of property and all sorts of effects on the negative coordinate but we have never been learning from history. When half of the town was busy protesting on the street, the other half was busy running around for the municipality election.
This reminds us of Napoleon Bonaparte’s idea: ‘You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.’
In our context it is the government. People have been up in arms against the government for as simple issue as a domestic violence case—and our government, everything that they lack, intentionally or not, in carrying out their responsibilities has been covered up by completely by their greed and ability to manipulate the people because we have taught them all our art of war.
In fact, our specialty, the art of ‘bandh’ has even become a bone of contention amongst the masses. It is the government failure; the government should make up for it. By nature, we are all followers. It is about time to take an initiative: to take the government agencies to task and get rid of them if needed; else we will all end up killing each other.