In or Out?

A consideration on the dilemma of living literally on the edge, which can be located around the outside limits of both the ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ 

 The contention of fighting from inside or outside a system, to achieve social change, could be as old as the modern human society itself. Social reformers throughout the history have been able to contribute in getting rid of ills that affect their milieus as much as revolutionaries have equally brought about radical change.

Today, I’m referring reformers to the kind of pro-system individuals and the rebels to those who would barge in from outside the system. Their equal strength has made it complicated to determine which way, whether the in or the out should be the ideal approach. Nonetheless it is also true that the ideology of an individual dictates the approach and the benefit of the doubt should be given to the relativity of our existence.

However, we cannot simply put it away by hiding under the ugly cover of this relativism. Before we go further, let’s see what a system is.

A system is an interdependent network of individuals and elements but which exist as a whole. It includes all the governments right from the Parliament to the Panchayat. It covers the State banks and private corporations. It is an amalgamation of various institutions, police, news media, pop music, civil society, radio, television and all sorts of leikai-and-leirak groups.  Practically a system includes everything around us and this might be the reason why everything is so nauseous in my hometown.


One of my friends, D—— while in college, he was an idealistic person who believed our hometown is going through the same crisis that faraway France had experienced before the 1789 revolution. He was convincing when he put forward an informal comparative analysis: that France was this and France was that, all comparing to Manipur.

In his tour de France, D—— said a small group of elites, like our present-day ruling class, were governing as much as they were plundering this country of Eiffel Tower. On the other side of the street, the lesser mortals were suffering from a chronic social ailment that never knew a solution for recovery. There was no work prospect, just like in Manipur where we have nearly 800,000 graduates (out of a total population of 2.7 millions) who have registered their names in the public employment exchange. 

The French of those days would prefer rural life to the urban like we would favour mainland India to the Northeast. Atrocious inequality, diseases, lack of rights, oppression—you name it and to a theist, it would appear it was like a grand divine plan to wake up the masses. Nevertheless, in the last 227 years after the revolution, France has been toiling and growing, scaling new heights of prosperity each decade and century. 

If we consider our case we are a horrible nightmare. See, what we have found to compare for our collective condemned life is a historical turning point that occurred more than two centuries ago —two centuries!—in a place 8,000 kilometres away.

So, D—— believed we can have a French kind of epiphany if we hop into the system and make changes from within. As a man of intellect, he has managed to hop into the ‘envious’ world of bureaucracy (or more popularly civil service) but today, he only reminds me of Kafka’s observation that: ‘Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy’—and even more unfortunately, our slime has spread before an actual revolution.

Such is the power of the system. It can suck you in and easier too, if we are a loveable flow-with-the-tide kind of people while it will never let you see anything beyond your nose. People will say that this is an understatement if they know the tragicomedy called Manipur where nothing and everything are possible paradoxically.

It is hard to believe that we can change anything from within the existing system. To conclude, D—— may not be the ideal reformer but he offers us a peak into the minds of people, who are too disciplined and obedient to say/do anything against the system.


More critical than discipline and obedience, we have been facing a major crisis of our time. It can be traced back to the Merger Agreement between the Union of India and Manipur through coercion. This issue is also one of the major reasons behind our struggle with the two limited options of fighting inside or outside the system in the first place.

The merger was illegal as much as it was blatant disregard for other’s Constitution and life. But to put it very bluntly, it was all carried out just through pens and signatures, so why should we pick up a gun? We can make the alteration, whichever is essential—to remain in the union, to enjoy political autonomy or to regain the lost sovereignty—through that very pen and signatures and finish this issue for good. But how; that’s the only question.

One of the advantages of living on the edge has been the ability to see bouquets and brickbats of those who are in and out of the present establishment. Yet that’s hardly a consolation, particularly when we are observing every day how a group of people, fronted by those in mainstream political parties called the Manipur government, are destroying our sanity.

At hindsight it is not for the sake of rebellion that the outside-the-system approach is preferable to that of from-the-inside. For instance, in a nearly defunct town like ours, the decadence is overwhelmingly spread over sideways, from top to bottom and from the extreme left to the farthest right.

There’s no light; maybe there’s lightning, maybe there’s mere outer space at the end of the tunnel when democracy is equated not only with military rule but also autocracy. The Union has imposed emergency laws, which by the book, the people of Manipur are external enemies of India, all in the name of counter-insurgency tactics. On the other hand, successive Manipuri governments have demonstrated the autocratic nature by teaming up with the contractors, sycophants, shysters and hangers-on and calling themselves as the rulers while turning a blind eye to the public issues.

The other day, a retired police officer was speaking in a talk show on Impact TV. He says, not exactly but something on the line like the people would protest against the government but once they go home individually, they would as well go to the ministers to pay bribes for whatever favours they want. True to an extent but that was a typical view of the Manipuri salaried class, whose main enemy is the group of extortionists who claim themselves that they are the sons of the soil fighting for the people but whose vision are no longer than that of contractors’ that merely stretch from Babupura to the Assembly building.

Inside Out

When a majority of people are looking for tangible solutions, a consideration of a dilemma over fighting from within or without would be as good as a Utopia. But as they say, desperate diseases must have desperate remedies. As merely inadequacies prevail right now, there is nothing wrong losing some moments in considering the alternatives.

A gradual process is preferable to radical change, in particular because of our people’s slavish and scared mindset, which is also caught in a time warp. However, the perspective changes quite often on a personal level because it is too hard to tolerate the monkey business all around, too hard to ignore the ins and outs of the authority, too hard to get used to the existing norms and too hard to call this life a life. This screams radical change, come what may, is the only solution.

The raison d'être is about changing ideas into reality independent of any medium. Yet we are stuck in the doorway of a medium that does not even count in the end. In another word, we should be talking about freedom, peace and justice and all those good things, imagining about them and realising them. But we are left with option but to be occupied with creating the conditions to make ways for imagining and realising our aspirations.

This is like someone just wants to drink tea, but instead of making or buying a glass of chä-ngäng, s/he goes insane and starts growing tea plants aimlessly.

The Last Line

At the end of the day it’s a personal choice. The government and security establishment have been vilified but it does not imply people are getting rid of them. Armed organisations are banned but it has not deterred people from joining these organisations no matter how much the government tries to stop it (on many occasions because it does not want to). To conclude, one thing is certain: any approach should be independent of the existing state and non-state.



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