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The ‘Active Activities’ of the Activists


Once upon a time, there was a group of people in Manipur, who would go to international conventions, with Geneva as the main destination. Now it looks they have gone the dinosaurs’ way and their demise is based on two grounds. First, the political activists’ credibility has waned with their comrades nowadays becoming more popular for their extortion than revolution. Second, they have been completely taken over by another group of people who swear by the name of career activists.

The first world tours of the political activists coincided with some campaigns initiated by the People Liberation’s Army of Manipur that was formed in 1978. Along with its political wing the Revolutionary People’s Front that was founded in 1989, the PLA was busy building up a formidable base throughout the Eighties—and in 1991 they started observing October 15, the day when Manipur was officially merged into India in 1949, as the Black Day.

The PLA had as well unilaterally had signed the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions around the mid-Nineties. Specifically, this article deals with the rules of war in armed conflict zones that are located within a particular country. The representatives had as well submitted a memorandum to the Committee of 24 of the Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations. [Read the memorandum from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights]

It was in those days that the masses realised there’s a thing called Geneva Conventions. That was also several years before they realised the terror the state— with the help of the Indian military establishment—had been, and has been till today, spreading across the hills and valley effortlessly by imposing draconian martial laws in the name of enforcing law and order. Then encounter specialists and motherland-lover haters like Ahanthem Romenkumar and Nongthombam Lokhon arrived on the scene.

When I was around 11–12, I remember one of my pious aunts telling us that A Romenkumar was always successful in his tasks and he always got out of trouble like ambushes and life attempts—as a consequence of his ‘love affair’ with the PLA—because he was deeply religious and lead a divine life. And we believed her. Children are too innocent to know about the adults’ world but nowadays, with the mess becoming tragedies and the tragedies a reality, Manipur is set to give birth to a thousand of mentally disturbed babies.

Juxtapose the political commitment of both the state and non-state actors in the past and the present. Even if we don’t endorse any of the parties, we cannot help but appreciate them for their guts and of course, their informed political motivations. Unfortunately, as evident from the existing condition, nothing could withstand or block the turbulence that was lurking in the horizon of those days. Thenth arriveth the globetrotting career activists, armed with thoroughly researched documents and attested records, special bank accounts, and immaculate professional expertise.

One of the recurring themes of today’s Manipuri life is direct action, which is taking up a cause on the street. It’s unconvincing, however, when the activists swear in the name of activities. Ironically, protests and demonstrations have become a part of our culture and there is still no solution in sight and doubly so, because all that we want is a tangible solution while any kind of deliberation is ivory-tower-ish or bookish or whatever name we can give.  

As things stand today, the first group of travellers had failed obviously. Now can we count on the second? Manipur is a small place and everybody knows each other. Without naming names we can easily see the ongoing trends as far as these travellers are concerned. This milieu is as transparent as the hollowness of ideology shared by today’s activists. The only politics they seem to have mastered is the articulation that they are ‘active’, while the very reason for their annoyance is their activities from that apolitical ‘being-active’ perspective.

Some of them will cry and some others will whine on popular television shows. That’s how you earn the sympathy of other people and are going to get the sins out of this world. If they know politics it is only that of sycophancy or building networks. So, now the riddle is: If the fund flows constantly in a forest and no one is around to see it, does it make a difference? Nevertheless, personal aggrandisement might be remarkable for the individuals but it is hardly going to change the politics, and by politics, it is the pathetic living condition of our contemporary world. I’d say to hell with the ‘active activities’ of the activists—what you and I need are a consciousness of where we belong to.



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