Rage Against the Establishment

Endorsing anti-establishment ideals is not an end but a means to confront contemporary realities 

Manipur never stops giving us nightmares. It’s not a surprise anymore to listen to the daily encounter with death, atrocious corruption scams, ceaseless protests on the streets, countless grievances of the people and all sorts of factors that build a proper failed state.

Things that would have been outrageous elsewhere are just the ordinary; alternatively, the abnormal is the new normal. It’s like we have gotten used to any possible kind of human tragedy. In this dragging emergency, there have been also moments quite unique, in the sense that a deep conviction used to exist on some issues on a personal level but, sadly, that is also gone forever and what now remains is an ideological position.


The Prologue to a Tragedy

Recently I have found that most of the Manipuris have turned out to be pro-establishment consciously or unconsciously. I would care less about the necessity of anti-establishmentarianism but in our current condition, such a ‘pro’ attitude gives several implications. In the same breath, I would like to add that anti-establishmentarianism is the means to confront all these shitstorms that we will see later in this write-up. 

[i] a way of thinking that a nation’s or society’s power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitative or unjust;
[ii] a way of life that advocates opposition to the conventional social, political and economic principles of ‘that’ society

Pro-establishment, or drifting where the wind of the existing system blows, is not an antonym to the above definition. It is just a form of yielding to any power structure in the belief that:

(a)    we are a logical animal
(b)    we are a civilised people
(c)    we should articulate an argument from a polite and civilised background while working out a civilised solution.

Logical, polite and civilised—what a cruel joke for the Manipuris! —and sometimes lamely refuse orders if the situation becomes intolerable. Pro-establishment only reeks of conformism and lack of confidence in declaring our own ‘self’. It is truer so, considering our collective life in this condemned hinterland.

We know our power structure from top to bottom is ‘corrupt, repressive, exploitative and unjust’, yet we are too modest to tell it in the face of the authority, except for squeaking everywhere but in the place that matters. See the armed movement, for instance, which currently has no possible solution or even discussion for solutions. Guns do make a loud statement but it is uncertain how loud it must get to offer us a viable solution.

Now and then the grievance does appear in front of us when individuals suffer because of the system—but the argument inside and from that system is only as good as our unjust lives.

For certain we know that the issues are episodic and it will not go away at once. Take racism for an example, but we are too occupied with our lives that all we have is our knee-jerk reaction to each damned issue. We can as well see more significance if we change our point of observation and view it from three broad perspectives.


One: From Motherland to Elections

Let me begin with an inspiring story. In the last general election of 2012, the umbrella organisation of CorCom banned the national Congress party from taking part in the election. It’s another story how the Congress won the election and it is still the ruling party. It has started laying its electoral foundation with the next election due in February 2017 too. The matter is about the CorCom that comprises several proscribed armed organisations. 

It was formed in 2011 as a collaboration of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak –Progressive faction (PREPAK-Pro), Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the United Peoples Party of Kangleipak (UPPK). The UPPK was kicked out almost immediately when its leader made a revolutionary plan to join the legal mainstream politics.

If we go by its press releases in newspaper reports: ‘The heart of revolutionary movement in Manipur is CorCom’ (Imphal Free Press) and ‘CorCom promises new face of revolution’ (The Sangai Express). Pity the newspapers’ editorial teams that have to publish any kind of press releases or else face the brunt of grenades ‘hanging by the gate of the editor’s residence’ or being ‘called to the mountains’.

But there is one thing so clear. Before heading to New Delhi, or more appropriately, Burma, it is a promise that revolution would be victorious if the germs aka gunmen, who are in cahoots with the career politicians, are asked to go one way: either the Indian way or the Manipuri. The least said the better for the contractors and smugglers.  

To cut the long story short, how can an insurgent group be a party to the governance and administration processes of its natural antagonists? CorCom’s story is just an example.

This is the gist of the story. Even the armed organisations are turning to the very system it is waging war against. And so obvious are the conditions among the ‘mortal’ people, who are, by the way, no less an angel. What’s more, the confidence of people in the armed organisations is at their all-time low today. There is the least expectation from their proposed call for freedom too.

Seen in this background, the proliferation of extortionist groups and the rise of ‘system-friendly’ armed individuals and groups only add insult to the injury. When even the rebels are becoming rule-followers, those who believe in anti-establishmentarianism are the worst outcasts in a society. Is this the reason why pro-establishment has become the only source of motivation for our long marches to peace and prosperity?

To summarise, we cannot paint all the armed groups with the same brush. That would beat the purpose of this observation on anti-establishment. Nonetheless we are talking here about the majority and the proximity. 

Two: A View from Atop the Assembly Building 

Now if we hop into the system we can see one more case: The former three-time chief minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio (2003–08, 2008–13 and 2013–14) started his political career as a Congress (I) candidate. [‘I’ for Indira (Gandhi), not Isaak!]

When another three-time CM and the incumbent governor of Odisha, SC Jamir, allegedly interfered in the Naga peace talk with the Union of India in 2002, Rio resigned from the party, the state home ministership and joined the Naga People’s Front (NPF).

Obviously as a part of mainstream politics, and which is an essential part of a talking-shop politics called democracy, Rio and his party are waist-deep involved in forming alliances and hobnobbing with the powers that be in New Delhi. But Rio and his band of merry men have the guts. Once in a public meeting he declared that he is ready to give up the post of chief minister if it is required, implying if the NSCN IM achieved its political goal of forming Greater Nagalim.

Compare Rio with his compatriots in Manipur, where the elected representatives are more of a contractor than a politician. As far as resistance is concerned, it is nil. Besides, this group of career politicians is only glad, benefitting from the never-ending issue of armed movements. In fact, they have only succeeded in roping more enterprising ‘revolutionaries’ to manage the wealth they have looted together from the public exchequer.

Officially, such crimes are hidden effortlessly amongst other law-and-order problems, in which the white-kurta-pyjama-wearing looters are so helpless that all they can do is to beg for more funds and if possible, more gunmen (read army and paramilitary forces) from the Union to combat the issues.

In Manipur, it is an open secret how the nexus of politician–contractors, militant–contractors and bureaucrats have made the state the largest brothel in the universe.

For these professionals, the more they slave away to New Delhi, the better it is for them and mutually for the Union that only sees a geostrategic importance in this forbidden corner of the globe. Again, for the elected leaders, there is no question of any opposition—leave alone question how in the eye of the Union, all of us are seen as suspects and external forces that it needs to subjugate by hook or by crook.

As a reminder for the Union, this is 2016, not 1949.  

Three: Pyre to the People

If ever democracy helps create the power-to-the-people slogan, our collective life only demands for pyre to ritualise the death of our voice, the death of our vision, the death of our sanity, the death of our aspiration. Democracy is just about selecting the bloodiest rogues in our shanty town that is euphemistically known as electoral politics. No wonder we neither see the future nor the past nor anything but just get lost in the ceaseless shitstorms of each moment.    

When those in the authority—with consent or without, as evident from one and two—is too judicious to walk beyond the line that divides the supposedly good from the allegedly bad, the three, by virtue of their being, is just a follower and obviously an obedient animal to the establishment. By the by, sometimes it is human nature that obedience can be faked for ulterior motives. It so fits our slave mentality.

A level above the individuals are the frontal organisations disguised as civil society organisations (CSOs) or as the face of the people. They have been calling the shots in the town and beyond, so much so that in times of disputes, belligerent groups would request for their intervention instead of going to the police albeit for the right reasons. Nobody believes the legally existing authority will be partial if not outrageously incompetent to solve certain problems.

However, on the other side, when these CSOs that are known for their anti-state stance, starts parroting the language of the law or the ‘superimposed’ Constitution, all hell breaks loose. Importantly, it is not in their favour; it never was and it will never be. One, when we vote, only the government wins. Two, when the government wins, its main role as a threat to life is legitimised. In this condition, it is such a pity that some people would wail that we need to be in the system to survive.   

Apart from the wailers, there is also a rationale for this two-face collective response. Realpolitik or it is believed so. But here’s a caveat. The principles of realpolitik are based on practical stuffs. For the sake of argument we can that those are reasonable and even commendable in our diurnal lives. However, when we pass off everything that we clumsily do as the most practical thing—ranging from the issue of the Inner Line Permit System to the demand for inclusion in a constitutionally privileged group—others will surely start questioning our intentions. That’s not realpolitik. That’s just the knee-jerk response of a slave.


Epilogue: Rage in this Age

Seen in the aforementioned contexts, it is ridiculous when the people, especially concerned Manipuris, who articulate their opinions from a conformist position. Recently, many people have become hopeful after the Supreme Court of India said that ‘the army and paramilitary forces cannot use “excessive and retaliatory force” in Manipur and such instances must be probed.’

But what happened to those judicial commissions headed by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy (2005) and N Santosh Hedge (2013)? Both of these unanimously passed the judgment that an act like AFSPA is draconian and needs to be repealed; however, there is always a condition.

Here’s one of the lines from the Jeevan Reddy Commission: ‘It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal the Act altogether, without, of course, losing sight of the overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the (Northeast) region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go).’

Anti-establishment thought is about the complete riddance of military monkey business in Manipur. Incidentally, the best that those commissions have given us are more ironies to our life of tragicomedy. This is what civilised people would refer to as working within a system for social change. But those supporters have overlooked that inside a system, every Manipuri is drowning in a sea of openly defecated wastes. It does not give a positive vibe that we can be saved and cleaned if we appropriate that very sea.

Briefly, AFSPA is no more a mere draconian law that corrupts the Indian military institution. It is a blot on the Indian democracy—the world’s largest democracy. (No wonder North Korea officially call itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.) AFSPA will go down in history as one of the most pathetic tools used by India in its nation-building process. It is also a perfect illustration that shows what is all wrong with the establishment.

Like the CorCom from the non-state establishment, AFSPA, from the state’s, is just a piece of a tale that tells of our tragedy.


Certain people in any society often defy the establishment. They choose their path as informed by their world views, political beliefs and individual inclinations. Many a time it is more counterproductive for the obvious reasons. One of our local expressions reflects that stand: If you walk, or want to walk the path of honesty, get ready for the approaching starvation. Anti-establishmentarianism, by the term itself, connotes certain negativity.

Even so, it is a belief that beyond the conventional social, political and economic principles filled with scum, there lies a dawn of hope.

To conclude, the existing multiple authorities and even the people have left no stone unturned to breed anti-establishment thoughts. However, it is not criticism that matters more, but rather an aspiration to defy the impediments that have been stopping us from living a life of dignity.

Rage in recess



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