NGOs have funds that can employ local people who might otherwise be activists in resistance movements, but now can feel they are doing some immediate, creative good (and earning a living while they’re at it). Real political resistance offers no such short cuts. The NGO-isation of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary.
(Text courtesy: Massalijn http://massalijn.nl)
— Arundhati Roy in The NGO-ization of Resistance. The queen of Indian resistance has been also saying that NGOs are a link between the Empire and its subject.
In this part of the world, the term ‘NGO-isation’ instantly conjures up myriad images of the Indian post-liberalisation economy, the dark sides of neo-liberalism, the Samaritan’s nature of aid agencies, human rights violation, and India’s concept of national interest, among many other things. Then in one corner of this so-called country, or in the state of Manipur to be precise, this phenomenon has produced some subtly different yet clear pictures of gross decadence of its conflict-ridden society.
No doubt this issue is the product of a neo-liberal economic system but we would miss the wood for the trees if we end it here with mere statistics. Three of the worst consequences of NGO-isation in Manipur are listed below:
1. Depoliticisation of issues arising from political armed conflicts and clandestine wars waged by both the state and non-state actors
2. Legitimisation of unpopular action of these two power-players in the name of helping the downtrodden people while unconsciously, in the most pathetic ways, playing a victim’s card and never seeing the bigger picture
3. Elsewhere in India, the ‘resistance’ against NGO arises from the perspective of security or development as in foreign NGOs interfering into the national goals in these areas, and in the words of Indian nationalists, the onslaught of Christianity, yet in Manipur it is deeply political
However, there might be some exceptions in this case. The Netherlands-based Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid) made news in 2014 when an official intelligence report mentioned that this NGO had been instigating the natives in places like Manipur with awareness programmes about how the government is in hand in gloves with MNCs to extract resources from the region.
And when we thought these regional NGO activists might contribute, today we know the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has granted license to the Netherlands-based Jubiliant Energy and its top officials are all Indians (Rakesh Jain is the chief executive officer and executive director; Nikhil Pandey is the chief financial officer and company secretary; and Ramesh Bhatia is the chief operating officer.)
Cordaid might have given enough clues but it seems the local NGOs, like Manipuri filmmakers, are busier in preparing for awards for their works in issues as that of AFSPA rather than taking a political stand or for that matter get involved in their holier-than-thou direct action. This will only take us back to square one or in worse case the NGOs will be affecting us badly more than the issues do. Then their ‘immediate, creative good’ only becomes an object of ridicule from us as well as of insult to us.
In Manipur, the matter gets even more complex if we take into account of the presence of civil society organisations because:
1. first, these are civil for namesake because most of them are created on ethnic lines
2. second, there are just too many of them and too little ideas
3. third, there might be ontological differences between the NGOs and CSOs but these exist on the same tectonic plates of a polity that is highly fragmented and consumed with self-destructive forces.
On television and the street, we would say the hills and valley are one but that is like none of us ‘saying’ in favour of corruption while we know it is deeply institutionalised in the region. Arundhati Roy, again, would scream about the Public Power in the Age of Empire but where are we standing? Our apolitical nature is worse than the servile nature of these NGOs.
Then this brings us to the main stakeholder: the people. When there are so many benevolent people around, to ‘help’ us during emergencies and conflicts, we are overwhelmed. But we are unsure if we need help or we need to yelp; we are bombarded with immaculate reports of how many people like us are suffering and how many people are suffering like us across the globe.
In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire used a fitting term ‘oppressive cultural action’ to denote the activities of these Samaritans to divide and rule. The remedy to this sickness is the improvement of collective consciousness and it would do no good to explain everything here from an individual viewpoint.
Where do we want to go now?