Post-Truth in the Neighbourhood
At one time we had truth and lies. Now we have truth, lies, and statements that may not be true but we consider too benign to call false.
—Ralph Keyes, The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life
So a few politically motivated Nagas want everybody in Manipur to turn their ire against the state government instead of simply resisting against the economic blockade without even asking why it is there in the first place. It sounds convincing these days when purportedly post-truth—the triumph of sentiments over senses, with its origin attributed to the global financial crisis of 2008—is the ‘in’ thing amidst the invention of unique histories, gross manipulation of facts and half-hearted claims for fraternity.
But in this age, when even rumours on social media can triumph over facts and figures there can be such a disaster as NSCN IM passing the buck to state force for killing civilians and failing miserably. Disinformation, a filthy chunk that makes up post-truth, can be counterproductive.
Besides the senselessness, the economic blockade is tantamount to declaring a war against the people. Seemingly in this stage of great political mobilisation, some of the Naga leaders have failed to see the reality. With hindsight, this kind of naïveté might explain why the Nagas have not been able to realise their aspiration for sovereignty despite being one of the oldest groups to fight for the right to self-determination in neocolonial India.
The mealy-mouthed remark on people joining the Naga resistance is of course apparent for anybody who is aware of the ethnic matrix in the region. A section of the Meiteis have not only been struggling for sovereignty but also standing in resolute against any policy of territorial disintegration. Public memory is short but the 2001 incident is still fresh, when the State Assembly building was set on fire in protest against the Government of India’s role playing as the proverbial monkey, which divided the bread between two cats.
Truth be told, the Government of India has no role in the current stalemate—and all it does is to fine-tune the policy of divide and rule that it had learnt from its former colonial master. In fact, it is still one of the parties to the conflict and can never be a mediator unlike what it has been trying to or has been made, of late, on the sole virtue of being the supreme sovereign power. But unfortunately, as cats we are, and with so many so-called local power brokers, who survive on grants and funds from India, reality tells a different tale. The recent assertion by ethnic-based groups in the guise of civil society organisations—that India always neglects us, that Kashmir is considered more important—has only added insult to the wounds of over-dependence on New Delhi for survival.
The reluctance of Naga CSOs, or frankly of the NSCN IM and UNC for dialogue, is more infantile than political. By failing to accept the existence of a legal government it is committing a blunder. This is a bold statement from an anarchist. If you don’t believe it, destroy it instead of spreading hatred randomly in an impotent way. Holding the people to ransom does not sound political at all. All the economic blockades in the past are a witness to this statement.
Delhi Passes No Buck; It Simply Handovers to You
One of the latest talks had gone ahead with the representatives of Manipur-based seventeen civil organisations meeting Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 20 January. No wonder then that the animosity especially between the Nagas and other groups is accelerating while simultaneously we are also hearing that the people of all the communities should protest against the government when it is blatant that the resistance is the part of a very contemporary process of building Naga nationalism—an aspiration that is again one of the reasons behind overlapping demands for homelands or administrative autonomy in the region and which is a privilege for New Delhi to pass the buck for any crisis.
Giving the benefit of doubt to the Nagas for starting the fire, there ought to be a middle way between them and whoever they are standing up against. Albeit, terms like ‘negotiation’ and ‘compromise’ are not present in the ethnic dictionary of the region. It will be foolhardy to leave the issue to fate which seems to be the case now. The demand for sovereignty or statehood should be an end in itself but that does mean being pig-headed will solve the problem.
For all it’s worth, the Naga issue is just one of the bricks in the wall of despair. If we take stock of each issue that had happened or has been still going strong in the last decade or so then there is little to add to the political disaster called Manipur. It had ‘lost’ all its life when it was annexed to the union of India. It is ironical but we can describe the condition as life just going on inherently. However, the reflection on our collective life—with the normalisation of all sorts of beastly acts, blatant dehumanisation and sheer unacceptable comings and goings—does not present a good picture of our future.
Again, those at the helm of Naga political affairs might want to argue that they had signed papers and MoUs several times so now they have resorted to the blockade but that does not make a difference. By declaring a war against the people, it is impossible to bargain for peace at any cost. If these are hard to understand, let it be reiterated that our ‘collective’, existing government is a spineless agent of a neocolonial power.
The representatives that form the government are merely rich slaves, who work (read ‘abuse the power’) for a gang called the state government, which is also the champion of post-truth with their hollow promises and noble lies while gaining mastery over electoral politics. They have also made us wonder if we are living in a world of post-truth or merely eternal lies. Life would have spiralled out of control, the government fallen and there could have been a ‘national’ news if there were two consecutive general strikes in as many days in other parts of the world; yet in our context, we can see for ourselves where we stand in such a political podium.
The growing anti-Naga sentiment also stems from the fact that the NSCN IM is currently under an agreement with the Government of India, the master of deception. The silence of the Centre, except in election-related campaigns and all sorts of blame game particularly in the run-up to the March 2017 Assembly Election, is deafening to say the least. Sad but true, we are not a people but just collaterals in a territory in the frontier region of an emerging superpower.
The Last Breath
When fallacy and propaganda take control of a people’s movement the result will be a calamity. We need not look far; it is right in front of us today. The concept of post-truth can be fancy considering the relativity of our existence. Nonetheless, in such an age when we can have our own ‘truths’ it is extremely difficult to have a common starting point. But then the solution lies in politics: not in street politics, but in the realisation that we are political and rational animals with the power of imagination and innovation. Is it too hard to accept this as well?
PS: Perhaps it is all about nothing but a manifestation of our collective insanity, our stupidity and a concept like that of post-truth is just a fancy term.
Across the Web
Watch HyperNormalisation (https://youtu.be/-fny99f8amM)
A 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. The film was released in October 2016
‘(E)veryone knew the system was failing, but as no one could imagine any alternative to the status quo, politicians and citizens were resigned to maintaining a pretence of a functioning society’
Read ‘Post-truth’ named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries by Alison Flood
The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/15/post-truth-named-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries
‘US election and EU referendum drive popularity of adjective describing situation “in which objective facts are less influential than appeals to emotion”’