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A Nihilist’s Nightmare: The Personal Is Professional


Thoughts on being too professional to be political




The battle cry of The Personal is Political was conceived during the heydays of student movements and feminism in the hippy-istic Sixties in the West. Far away from that epicentre, in the hinterland of Manipur, the inventive Meiteis have not only appropriated the term but also rephrased it: the personal is professional. Belonging to another epicentre of armed conflict, ironically, the people in this region are war-weary from the ceaseless armed movements for the right to self-determination and hence the transformation of the political into the professional. I wish this reason was logical. Everything’s got a reason but not every reason is logical.

I talked to a friend in the morning. We were talking about a recent ‘cultural bomb’ that an acclaimed filmmaker, Aribam Syam, had literally dropped at the Government House in the Imphal valley, after a representative-resident of the union, nationally called the governor, teased a few art and culture experts a few days back. Briefly, like the governor said indirectly he is a monkey with a coconut and the others are just monkeys with nothing. So the filmmaker had written a polite open letter and that was the reason that the governor is going to be replaced by another saviour from the centre. That was the breaking news without any views but again it proved to be false.

An idea about the representatives of a slave society came immediately—like, if we ever have a group of master-slaves (not slave masters): Chief Minister Okram Ibobi will held the post of politics, finance and domestic affairs; Aribam Syam will handle arts and culture; MLAs whoever deceived the people in the best ways and won the latter’s hearts will hold the various national posts; while the leaders of existing armed groups will take up the defence posts. 

Later in the day, official reports show the cultured governor V Shanmuganathan is not the only governor who is going to be removed and replaced. On a single day, the government has announced four new colonial political agents aka governors and Shanmuganathan turned out to be just a part-time sub living like a moron in Imphal. By the way, a former union minister and BJP disciple, Najma Heptulla, will be the new resident of the Government House.

Albeit there are more reasons to doubt—not only of the present but way back in our past as well—because that’s always has been the monkey business of India in Manipur.

Remember when India successfully annexed Manipur on 15 October 1949, with no delay, a military office by the name of Rawal Amar Singh took over as the chief commissioner of the newly ‘merged’ kingdom turned a Part C state. As always like a true Indian, Mr RA Singh the Haughty Man offended the then king, and the latter complained to the newly found master. The chief commissioner was removed promptly because then it was just the birth of a prospective neo-colonial power—while reminding us of the transfer of these aforementioned governors by the present Hindu right-wing organisation, which is the incumbent ruling party at the Centre. 

Apolitical ‘Resistors’

So one moment, we have almost selected Aribam Syam as the head of arts and culture and in the next we were back to square one. But this was not unexpected. In a region where political consciousness is only as high as marijuana and poppy plants, we have been fortunately spared from the shock.

Suppose that Aribam Syam wants to take a political stance and provided he does have the power, never has this old-timer spoken on the countless public issues in the conflict-ridden territory. No wonder some observers came down heavily, after he wrote the ‘love’ letter, that the filmmaker has been too professional to see the politics. Perhaps he is the real artist and his responsibility is to make films so why bother about conflict resolution, armed rebellions, ethnic hostilities, deep-rooted institutionalisation of crime and corruption, ILP issues and what not. Aribam Syam, meanwhile, becomes the epitome of a professional. Hail art for fart’s sake!

It is even more ordinary if we talk about his line of art. Filmmakers—call them cameramen or apolitical resistors—in this hinterland would make films about the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and then take awards from any president of India, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. Expect this kind of political hollowness only from a ‘people’ who lead a slave society. We will not disappoint you!

Wanted Alive—Nope, Unsure

Then I had a chat with one of my uncles in the evening. He repeated a very promising line, though in a different expression, which my friend had uttered about the story of the Indian political agent in the morning.

One, Aribam Syam is very professional to speak about anything still it is good that he did speak out—that was my friend speaking. Two, my uncle told me that we are going nowhere, our future is bleak, we have no conception of our past or the future—but—but it is worthy that a leader’s name of a civil society organisation has been deleted from the ‘wanted tag’ put up by the state police. His contention is that it is a victory for the people. Victory…people…? I wish I possess the optimism like that of my friends and families!

It is ridiculous to even make a start here. From a single Facebook post, the Manipur Police announced that this leader, Khomdram Ratan had connection with the proscribed United National Liberation Front, declared him an absconder and even announced a cash reward to anyone who can tell about his whereabouts. Farcically, the Facebook post was a morphed photo and posted by a cadre of another armed organisation! With no delay, lawyers and legal experts had called the police department ‘an organisation of uneducated people’ for flouting all the rules in the book to nab an alleged absconder. The High Court, for whatever it is powerful, had also sought clarification from the provincial government on the issue.

Incidentally, it is only under the four corners of a house that people would talk about how the government can always ‘tame’ the JACs, curfew-sponsors, student organisations and CSOs with a little bit of incentives. Alternatively, money talks everywhere but in our hometown it screams.    

Bottom Line

We have deeply rooted students’ movements and women’s fight [rather than feminists’ issues] like elsewhere but we are so far from getting political emancipation. This is regardless of the fact that one of the most active student organisations, the All Manipur Students’ Union was formed in 1965, three years before the popular outbreak in France.

It is, again, no surprise that the political is professional now. To take another example, look at some of the concerns of the activists who claim to be self-styled leaders but who can never get rid of their victimisation syndrome. To put it in another way, in religion, emotion can play a primary role but in politics, it is only asking for free cocks and pussies and remaining loyal to the power that be, as long as one is getting access to these free stuffs. You know, activists are also professional.

In a ‘cultured’ world, ‘cultured’ people say we need to be diplomatic but everyone neither wants to fake orgasm nor everybody is a fan of realpolitik. Anyway, the universe is so relative and we can be anything we want and even truer so, in a land of a thousand career activists and politicians. Seemingly, in a ‘cultured’ world, what count is the ‘cultural’ articulation of a master slave like Aribam Syam but the ‘political’ is too risky to take up as a ‘political’ endeavour.

The personal is political when we are aware of politics that governs our life. But obviously this is too hard to digest and thus our ‘personal’ is our ‘professional’ now—and to hell with the ‘political’. Even if you do not work for the government, people care about it because at the end of the day, life depends on how the masters see us. This is a nightmare of this new millennium when ‘everything is nothing’.



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