Wednesday, June 17, 2009

‘Too’ many and Devoid of Convergence

Ten years ago we were hoping purposefully and five years back, we were hoping wistfully. But today, we are hoping against hope. Which hope? A humble hope for a redeemable Manipur, if not a better Manipur. To many, we may sound like pessimist. But the existential reality (socio-politico-economic) of the present day Manipur inclines toward a darker chapter, which we fear has the lethal potential to bury the entity called Manipur and all its associated elements beneath the sands of time. If we’re given the liberty to authenticate collective wisdom, then, allow us to add, the situation is critically grave, to the proverbial neck-deep level. Perhaps, the clarion calls made by the ever multiplying civil society organizations and political bodies on the streets and mass media are indications of ‘being’ aware of the frightening situation.
Media reports on contemporary Manipur presents two distinct but contrasting pictures. One spells doomsday, while the other represents a ‘hope’ to salvage this critically wounded state. But these contrasting pictures emanate from the same self, though in different avatars, which again is a manifestation of the paradox inherent in present day Manipuri society. For example, the political class, elite rulers and their cohorts, and the bureaucrats with ‘fair’ contributions from splintered nondescript armed groups are the ones who spell doomsday for this tiny hilly state. However, it is these agents together with countless civil society organisations which are emitting out a ray of hope to salvage Manipur in their different capacities and individual levels.
Rampant corruption, treachery, fraudulence, irresponsibility and unethical practices of political leaders, elite rulers and bureaucrats are largely responsible for the sinking ship called Manipur. There is no denying the fact that they have failed to uphold rights and well being of the hoi polloi with the exception of a few fortunate who could lay their hands on some share of booty. They failed for they have failed to deliver – goods, services and justice. And any thinking person cannot simply surrender to a failed regime.
Unfortunately, when one thinks of alternatives, then the picture of the insurgents emerges like the fabled Holy Grail for justice and a better future is what they promised. But the sheer numbers of the fractured quantum have failed to win people’s collective faith. There are simply too many even if one wants to overlook their not-so-acceptable activities and foolish bravado of adventurism. Whatever support or sympathy they get from the people is divided among themselves. Implication is that fragmentation occurs among the insurgents and division eats up the general mass.
Establishment of new outfits or emergence of factions in each passing year is a stark reality in contemporary history of ‘liberation’ movement in Manipur. A familiar verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which reads, ‘Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink’, encapsulates the corporeal multiplicity of insurgents in Manipur. Our society is flooded with ‘outfits’ and in a situation of flood, it is indeed difficult to get drinking water. And this is the tragedy of Manipur. In such a gloomy scenario, people have failed to envision any viable / reliable alternatives. Literally, people are sliding down an abyss of hopelessness. The dialectics of hopelessness and one for herself / himself is fast gaining ground in our society.
Yenning would also affirm that civil organisations (inclusive of all organisations of different levels and colour) are among those agents responsible for the socio-political decadence in Manipur as much as they represent the only hope of redemption. Popular understanding is that these organisations have little to do with the social ills and political corruption. They are alleviated as the watch-dog of the society, vanguard of all socio-political issues and the crucial cushion for people in the tussle between state and non-state actors. Interplay between these opposing forces transmits through the civil society. Then, one may ask, what is their fault?
Our answer is: their fault lies in multiplicity of number and lack of cohesion.
Once a friend, a South Indian, then composing an article on indigenous political system of the tribes of North East India, said, ‘You have too many vigilant civil organisations, Meira Paibis, politically conscious student bodies and numerous NGOs working for the common people whose population is not larger than 25 lakhs. You should have a healthy and progressive society’.
This comment from an outsider triggered multiple questions and made us ponder why our society, which is rich in civil orgnisations, NGOs and student bodies, all concerned with welfare of the people, cannot redo the wrongs and embarks upon a progressive path. Over a period of time, his comment took the form of a riddle, as usual a riddle encrypted with a clue. The clue, overheard and realised later, was the word ‘too’ he pre-positioned before the words ‘many civil organizations, NGOs, Meira Paibis, student bodies’. We would subscribe to his observation of ‘too many’ with the addition of ‘lack of cohesion’, which is the answer to the riddle.
In our childhood we learnt that a system is a set of interacting or interdependent entities, real or abstract, forming an integrated whole. In our context, in a simpler language, many units can operate as an integrated whole provided there is cohesion and discipline amongst themselves. Similarly, organisations can also function individually as well as an integrated one and simultaneously press for convergent and compatible goals.
Divergent goals and objectives do not necessarily prevent organisations from working together. As such, this is not the case in our society. To any casual observer, it appears that there is very little variation in the overall aims and objectives of the prevalent organisations in Manipur as almost all of them target towards welfare of the people. Then, the only logical inference behind the crux of the problem is the lack of cohesion despite the fact that most of their interests are common and identify with one another. From the way and manner they function and engage in activities which are more or less similar in character and often overlapping, one may infer that pride, prejudice and egoism are negating any chance of effective coordination and cohesion. This is a subtle manifestation of groupism that is operating in our society. Subjective treatment of issues and problems rather than promoting objectivism also serves as a factor that reinforces the inherent incohesiveness.
Yes, as vanguards these organisations are leading the common mass but in different directions. The end result is that our society is not moving in any particular direction but simply drifting like a rudderless ship. At the end, one may surmise that presence of ‘too’ many of them and absence of convergence in their socio-political engagements has marred the zeal and productivity of our civil organisations. This is the tragedy afflicting the common mass.
(Posted on The Sangai Express, Imphal, Tuesday, May 26, 2009)

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