The present impasse in Manipur is reflective of a prolonged tension in the political identity of people in the state. Everyday experiences remain a testimony to the amount of insecurity, fear, poverty, violence, people’s outcry, organised political movements that have seepaged into. The seeming permanence of these predicaments in the socio-economic and political spectrum brings home several unresolved questions inherent in the synchrony of India and Manipur. The present state of halt in Manipur essentialises a rethinking whether the problems can be resolved within the limited parameters of the said synchrony that was forged in 1949. The devolution of Manipur’s political status marked by imposition of the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, delayed statehood, nurturing of a parasitic economy, armed opposition movements waged by the armed insurgents and endless conflict situation belittles the prospect of a rethinking within the said synchrony, particularly from the India’s perspective. It would not be naive to say that the core problem lies here. To officials, shrinkage in basic rights, causing injuries, deaths in crossfire, abduction, sexual exploitation, and etc are conditionally normal and minor. This official version is so abundant that there is nothing called fake encounters, for there can be only encounters. A recent NDTV debate on police excesses across the country did not even find a mentioning place for the present imbroglio in Manipur that erupted spontaneously after the killing of Ch Sanjit was exposed by Tehelka as a clear case of fake encounter. Since the twin killings of Sanjit and Rabina, like many other previous instances of people’s resistance against impunity exercised by security establishments, the state has been brought down to a totally crippled situation with blatant round the clock official curfews and simultaneous call for general strikes and other forms of protests. The huge participation of people from all across all sections in the funerals and subsequent protests signifies the intensity of the predicaments in the state. The irony is the absence of any attempt to engage the civil outcry.In other words, the state has earned notoriety by its indiscriminate crackdown on all kinds of detainees and civil organizations characterised by blatant slapping of National Security Act, popularly known as NSA. Un-provocative slapping of such a brutal Act against the ordinary detainees is reminiscent of a colonial exercise of authority. The brutality of the state can be possibly understood from the following aspects–– the initial arrest of Apunba Lup activists and detention under NSA was to sabotage the movement, corner the activists and create a situation where the Lup was to be forced to talk more about the release of the activist, which in turn would divert the focus of the movement. The above anticipation of the state does not seem to work well as the protest has been recently joined by the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) and the Manipur Students’ Federation (MSF) with a call to boycott classes in schools, colleges and university education as well as organised tutorial centres. The boycott call is a reverse of the recently most heard campaign of making education a FREE ZONE. In a way the roping in or rather joining of students in the protest journey in Manipur was an ordinary occurrence as most of the civil and students’ movements were dependent on the mobilization of the school and college students till about mid 90’s. One of the most frequented rhetoric of classroom mobilization earlier was Yum Mei Chaklabadi, Lairik Pabagi Mahuta Mei Adu Hanna Muthatpa Tai. This slogan was a classic foundation of students’ mobilization as it equally found emphatic takers among the masses and students. The long drawn language movement of early 90’s, protest against the killing of Netaji, a class XI student of Johnstone school, in 1996 and involuntary disappearance of Sanamacha can be mentioned. The latest boycott of the classes is a hint to the seriousness of the present protest against the killing of Sanjit and Rabina. The absurdity of the situation is that some higher ranking police officials are claiming to have provided necessary garrisonment in and around the educational institutions in order to ensure an amicable learning environment. This commitment to fortification is complemented well with a further threat calls to terminate recognition of the offending private institutions. It is predictable that the ongoing boycott of educational activities in the state is going to breed lingering serious concerns and impacts unless there is a reasonable democratic engagement with the dissenting voices. The nature of slogans, consistent demand for delivering justice and questioning of the very foundations of India’s democracy has made the movement mass-based. In this way, the movement has become capable of critically talking about issues beyond what is apparent which was sufficiently shown in the case of historic women’s protest at Kangla gate in 2004. The protest did not simply raise the case of a women killed in an extra-judicial manner, but invoked deeper problems of militarization, regime of impunity and meaninglessness of Indian federal commitments. For the security forces can shoot and kill a person on mere grounds of suspicion and, in addition, the state government cannot initiate legal proceedings against the accused security personnel unless the central government permits. There is no point in talking about the existence of a thinking state government, speaking incumbent political class and determinate political party, to some extent excepting the present opposition. The shrink in the ideology has been not an exception as well. The case of Communist Party (Marxists) in Manipur holding onto the alliance with SPF government despite people’s questioning to snap ties with the coalition alliance and show up socialist credentials, if any, has apparently turned out to be a nightmare for the so called communists. Therefore, every other day Yenning hears ‘down with half-baked banya Marxists’! ‘Shut down the shops of all the pseudo-communist’! On the other hand, the recent report of ISTV (09/09/09) in which Mr. Gaikhangam, the president of Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, had reportedly expressed his inability to deal with the issue of changing Chief Minister O. Ibobi on the ground that it was in the hands of the lords in capital Delhi. It audaciously revealed the banality of basic democratic ethics. In the face of such an existing lord and serf format of political hierarchy, federalism is a farce and, thus, anchoring the state incumbent is not always advisable. It is needless to re-iterate that democracy is about being accountable to whom the representatives are entrusted to represent. In other words, it suggests that a durable solution to the lingering predicaments would only come when the Central Government is compelled to respond with due political maturity, for simply changing of the present guard in the state cannot guarantee protection of lives and property of the masses in the days to come. The basic problem lies in the historically surviving political questions in the state of Manipur. The present conflict situation needs to be addressed beyond the hitherto available options. It would be helpful to be attentive to the movements, armed or non-armed, with an evident commitment to resolve the problem with perspective to dwell on the historicity of the present problems. The point is to bring in democratic dialogues and political rights at the centre while dealing with the dissents. But so far, New Delhi has been only inviting public scorn by maintaining a conspicuous silence over the whole issue of extra-judicial killings. For the neglected North East region in general and Manipur in particular, New Delhi seems to be as much unaccountable as their subordinates here. Analysing the responses of New Delhi to different situations and issues that erupted in different parts of the country over the past many decades, New Delhi has obviously categorised Indian democracy into different shades. This was glaringly visible when the Government of India made extra efforts to hire lawyers for Ajmal Amir Kasab, the prime accused in Mumbai attack of November 2008, even after he admitted his crime whereas in Manipur where the most inferior shade of Indian democracy is followed, all suspects were killed in encounters or fake encounters without putting any single one of them to trial. The government of India should not linger on the present turmoil because it can be capable of throwing up more intense political debate world wide, questions on human rights violation, issues of international code of conduct, which would ultimately unfold the grey areas of India’s democracy. The reported publication of the present situation in a newspaper in Britain, at various international platforms and protest rallies in Delhi speaks out the widening volume of the outcry. Put simply, it is the time to decide on the part of India whether saving the existing guard is advisable or whether facing a stiffer chaos and civil outrage is affordable in an already troubled state like Manipur. Let’s be politically substantive; what is there to gain by giving birth to ‘million mutinies’.
Posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, September 20, 2009