On Static Movements

If we observe what we get when sociopolitical movements and stagnation are combined—seemingly a contradiction in real-world example, but politically more sensible—we further get so many lessons for our own good particularly in a place like Manipur

Relativity from an Einsteinian scientific world can turn into an irony in the context of political science. For instance, an underdeveloped State that needs an economic overhaul the most would be the least likely place to attain it, while well-off States continue to make progress with their growth rate carefully marked on graphs.

It is as if the pot never boils in the lesser or least-developed regions because the people are waiting, as always. The case is no different in our backyards in Manipur, where issues are manifold; the political system is as complex as calculus; and different ethnicities have overlapping political demands while the people are ever ready to take to the street for the simplest demands as asking the police authority to catch a criminal or telling a ruling government to carry out its basic administrative task like paying its employees their monthly salary on time. 

Despite the perception of the optimists and the negation of the pessimists, a place like Manipur seems to have no sense of losing its power to recreate its ceaseless protests and movements in varying shapes and sizes, year in and year out. As in the Einsteinian relativity, the least it needs is the existing sociopolitical and economical system, however, irony seems to be written all over the place. Significantly, that’s not even an issue—the problem is the sheer ineptitude from each movement to maximise on the proverbial people’s power.

Public memory is short but that is too lame an excuse. That is like Okram Ibobi reprimanding Nongthombam Biren for the state of affairs that Manipur is in today. The problem, which is too obvious to see, is the power structure. In this part of the world, the concern is with a trigger-happy army officer but never with the military establishment; the concern is with an uneducated teacher like AP Pandey but never with the existing educational system; the concern is with inept legislators and never with the political structure; the concern is with recurring ineptitude of the local government and never ever with the political system of the day. 

In The Subject and Power, Michel Foucault* writes that: ‘[P]eople criticise instances of power which are the closest to them, those which exercise their action on individuals. They do not look for the “chief enemy” but for the immediate enemy. Nor do they expect to find a solution to their problem at a future date.’

He further adds that: ‘Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free ... Where the determining factors saturate the whole, there is no relationship of power; slavery is not a power relationship when man is in chains.  (In this case it is a question of a physical relationship of constraint.)’

When the concepts of freedom and independence are highly problematic, it is no surprise that there is an utter lack of agency of the free subjects in the context of Manipur. Meanwhile, the rise of human-rights superstars obsessed with the judiciary system and acceptance from Mainland India is not then a unique phenomenon in the existing political structure, where a state and the Union share a master-slave relationship, in which as well the existence of the former depends on the instructions of the latter.   

At the end of the day, the objective is the key. When everything is messed up it is no surprise that the post-modernist views would come up with lame justifications on social change as in either you ‘change’ to be the change or get into the system. Yet, again, what is the objective?

This is where everybody is losing the narrative. We are at a loss for words for the struggle. Is it a Manipur-India problem? Is it an MLA-here-did-this-another-did-not-there problem? Is it a problem between the haves and the have-nots? A clash between the urban and the rural?

We have even more arguments that are no less than begging for attention as in being a victim of state terrorism or government apathy, which are obvious from the roles taken up by rights activists and random pressure groups.

So what is the narrative?

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
— The Communist Manifesto**

Multiple theoretical approaches on social movements advocate on the idea of real social change coming from people’s movements and these very movements having a direction and leaders. For reasons that are harder to find than philosophical truths, the exact opposites have always been the case in the instance of Manipur. Besides in the light of these contradictions is the misfortune of living in a connected world, which ironically we have never been a part of.

The question on our collective inability will always come up, no matter what. There will not be a question on why they have but why we have not. And we cannot even blame it on the power structure; for example, once we have powerful kings and now we still have the same king but who would ask for free booze.  

It is true that we as a people, in these parts of the world, need to come up with our own creative solutions. Einstein would always come in with his smart-ass relativity theory, quite absurdly extending beyond the scientific world. Nevertheless, with science or without, with government or without, we should have a chance to live together as social and political animals.  


* The Subject and Power by Michel Foucault
Critical Inquiry, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Summer, 1982), pp. 777–795
Published by: The University of Chicago Press

** The Communist Manifesto Originally Manifesto of the Communist Party), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848, Marxists Internet Archive:

Army of Altruists (On the Alienated Right to Do Good)
David Graeber
From the open-access book Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art, and Imagination ( which is a collection of essays by David Graeber released in 2011 by Minor Compositions



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