A Contemporary Vocabulary of Mutiny

An abstract of a research problem on how new terms and expressions have now become crucial while articulating about people, power and social revolution in Manipur

We have letters to make words to express our ideas to communicate our thoughts, and so on. In a larger context, these have broader purposes. Briefly, vocabulary can help create new societal behaviours for collective benefits—or create such a ground that we can build the foundation of a desirable future in the most effective ways. But why is it so essential?

There are several reasons but one of the most prominent is our condemned life in the hinterland called Manipur. An old Asiatic kingdom, it was annexed to the Union of India in 1949—and incidentally, it is quite essential to note that this issue of annexation or merger is an important area where the new vocabulary is most needed so as to deal with it. In the existing political reality it was annexation per se while the resistance has been described as an internal law and order issue, but which is as everybody knows, highly contested right from the usage of the terms like ‘law and order’ and ‘internal issue’ and so on.  

To begin with, the nuances, narratives, explanations and arguments of our political existence have become stale and we need new forms of interventions and approaches that are pragmatic as well as result-oriented—and all of them, obviously, through redefined ways to explain new possibilities.

Several decades of armed movement for the right to self-determination has painted a pathetic picture of our collective life. For some people, it is called a revolutionary movement that aims to dismantle the existing socioeconomic and political structure though in reality this might have quite a lot of interpretations. Some of them, like ‘revolution’ being equated to ‘extortion’ are even antagonistic to the very idea of resistance. In today’s context, depending on one’s belief or intention for instance, it can be called, for instance, as (i) a reformative movement that generally calls for limited changes in an entire political territory or (ii) an alternative movement that aims solely on those limited changes and is usually group-based. 

If we introspect, what we have today is in direct contrast to the aspirations. The so-called revolutionary movement has become synonymous to extortion business or a refuge-turned-haven for contractors, who would team up with various agents of the powers that be that mainly comprise the gangs of elected representatives, bureaucrats and other government agents who are occupied in organised loot. We can go to the extent of saying the essence of revolution is completely lost but denying the existence of individuals or the ‘real’ issue will amount to rejection of reality; and thus, the requirement of a new system of lexicon.

This change can also throw light on the present vocabulary: for instance, free market is not free in essence and democracy by reducing it to the popular definition of ‘for-of-by the people’ strips of its complex details. These days, in mainland India, there are voices from certain corners to get rid of the terms like ‘secular’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘liberal’ from public discourse with the rise of a right-wing incumbent government. Politically, we are in India but the wind of rightwing nationalism is blowing comparatively weak—and these terms mean very little to us.   

Reading list
On Social Development: Part 1
On Social Development: Part 2

Significantly, the change is essential for relooking at the words and expressions. For example, in general, we can refer to the convoluted expressions in any form of agreement paper in which a missing comma or an extra adjective can change the meaning entirely. Bluntness might be helpful in direct confrontations but it calls for different tactics, and a finer approach, to deal with an opponent who might have different goals and aspirations. To cite an example, in the past, the original social movements were solely based on one’s right to self-determination but today we cannot ignore the issues of ethnicity, the rise of the nation in a free-market world, the emerging trends of globalisation, emancipation of indigenous people and so on.

We don’t need a revolution. What we need is a redemptive movement that changes us completely. So what we lack is a means to reclaim our own ‘self’ as an independent agent with the capacity to bring about holistic change and development. Or politically speaking, we can say roughly that the Merger Agreement had materialised with just pens and papers. Firstly, this controversial agreement is not the genesis of our problem though we believe to be when, in fact, the issue is colonialism (Read   The Brown Substitute for the White Raj). Second, as Einstein would say, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.

To summarise, this whole idea is based on the simple idea that vocabulary enhances communication, understanding and qualitative transformation. In a generalised manner, arming oneself with a good vocabulary helps achieves success. Above all, new terms and expressions will replace the existing arguments and contestations that have become almost stale just as the Manipuri society has been decaying beyond comprehension with its pathetic politics.