Sunday, October 11, 2009

Life and death between thin Red Lines

The crisis that Manipur is going through is becoming more complex and vexing day by day. It has taken toll on every Manipuri who are genuinely concerned for the future existential question of the people as well as the State. Both at the realms of existence and values, there is threat that is magnifying beyond a redeemable limit. Above all, there is no sight of sincere and persistent efforts from the government and intellectual domain. No one is concerned to address the hanging political issue from its true historical perspective taking into account historicity of the problem. What we witness today is heaps of lies and propaganda formulated and articulated at the respective camps to defend and justify one’s position and action.
What is missing in this blame-game is the sincerity to bring an amicable and acceptable solution to the existing political issue. Such trend reflects a myopic vision and corrupt mindset on the part of so called political leaders who hold the rein of state administration and enjoy extraordinary power and privileges on behalf of the people. It is no exaggeration to comment that within the polity of Manipur, people have the least power, voice, respect and regard although every act of omission and commission is executed in the name of people. Suffice it to say that under the present context of Manipur people are abstract entity, having no identity of collectivity and historical force. Status of ‘people’ in Manipur is more akin to Marxist notion of class in itself, having no consciousness of their power and material conditions rather than class for itself. The crucial point of the statement is that we, the people of Manipur, are yet to know our power and position; in short, we are yet to realise the consciousness of the material conditions of our existence.
Beggars know no responsibility
What is more shocking is the decadence of Manipur from a failed state to a fallen state. The pride of being a Manipuri has been thrown down the gutter by our ruling elites. Most disdainfully, the elites have cultured and accustomed themselves to a life of servile beggar, always seeking blessings of New Delhi. In the last 50 or 60 years, they have forgotten their origin, that they are the progeny of a proud, sovereign nation having their own polity and culture.
Having cultivated a subservient attitude over the years, our so-called leaders have surrendered all their responsibility to New Delhi. Since New Delhi took over the political rein of the state, our local leaders have conveniently shrunk their outlook, interests and concerns to themselves or the so-called league of elites excluding the vast majority of mass. The root cause of the downfall of Manipur and the multiple intra-conflicts bleeding the society can be traced to this historic change of guard, vis-a-vis the political status of Manipur.
Looking at the political landscape of Manipur, one cannot help but say that Pareto, Mosca, Mitchell and James Mill’s theory of ruling elite, iron law of oligarchy, which is inherent in every organization whether in democratic or authoritarian countries, is not only visible in our State but also practised quite blatantly. There is no gain in hiding the fact that from all perspectives and angle, Manipur is a failed State or should we say a fallen state; in spite of government singing the tune of development, it is lacking everywhere, corruption is exceptionally high in the State, job opportunities are very rare and scarce and the already burgeoning number of unemployed youth is multiplying every year. As a result, every job has its corresponding prices. It is a bitter truth that in Manipur jobs are mostly bought rather than earned through merit. Such state of affairs has given upper hand to ruling elites to accumulate wealth and sustain their dominance. Sociologically speaking ‘corruption’ performs significant function of wealth accumulation and elite domination over the common mass. However, the more serious problem that has dangerous dimension is the ‘export of violence’ into civil space or one may call it ‘privatization of violence’. The recruitment of volunteers for Village Defence Force (VDF) is a clear indication of government exporting violence to certain segments of civilian space. It is assumed that ‘exclusive right to violence’ is one characteristic that differentiates between the State and other organizations. That is why every State has its own standing army, police, para-military forces and large scale destructive weapons but one ought to know the difference between State and government. Government is simply an instrument of the State; it is a means not an end itself. Although government exercises power on behalf of the State, ultimate sovereignty belongs to State, hence monopoly over violence. That is why export of violence into the civil space becomes a highly questionable action of the government.
Apart from the legal or political correctness of the issue, what is at stake is the possibility of making irregular armed volunteers into private militia of the ruling elite. The potential danger of using them for personal agenda or for political mileage by the ruling elites can not be completely ruled out given the chaotic political scenario of the time. Our failure to engage the issue constructively can ruin the State in near future. Our fear and our deliberate act of ignoring the issue will only prolong the crisis, and consequently pile upon ourselves more sorrow and misery. Our humble opinion is that intellectuals of Manipur, who have so far remained in a state of doldrums, should proactively and with responsibility address the problem afflicting our society. In fact they are the ones who must come forward to save the state from this cancer like crisis. Unless intellectuals assert their place, knowledge and views within the broad contours of Manipur’s polity and society, Manipur will continue to remain as it is. Perhaps, it is time intellectuals take up the role of vanguards to bring about a peaceful social transformation in Manipur.
Amidst all these crisis, problems and uncertainties, Manipur is struggling for survival in a very frightening situation. However, it will not be wrong to assert that our existence itself is a great lie. The great lie that masks our existence as living is the deliberate ignorance, indeed blissfully, of long-hanging problems and hoping someone else to solve our own problems. Can there be a greater degree of lie than this seemingly stupid mode of existence? We are unmindful of how the generations to come would judge our existence. In fact, none of us bothers to even think about it; call it cowardice or escapist. We’re too happy ‘simply to ignore’ just as we are ignoring the oddities and insensibilities of our own time. This brings us to another embarrassing question: will the future generation salute the bravery of our tolerance of the problems or curse at our silence on the problems? Another compounding lie is that since present issue seems too complex to be solved we usually take asylum to glories of our past. Frequent invocation of the glory and strength of the past has become solace for the ills of present.
Rampant violence and killings in Manipur have cost many a precious lives. Unnatural death has become so frequent and rampant that it has become part of our every day life experience. Since it has become part of our everyday life experience, killing is no longer considered as exceptional incident that ought to be condemned but a normal happening. It is unfortunate that people very often say it is a part of life in Manipur. Such psychological disposition is manifestation of the fact that large number of individuals have internalized and reconciled to the act of killing as accepted instrument of governance. Ultimately our very sense of humanity and justice has suffered fatal casualty. Mortuary at Regional Institute of Medical Sciences stands as the living testimony to the deaths, which our negotiated psyche has accepted as a normal part of everyday life. The mortuary has become a place of mourning to the death of someone’s near and dear ones. Male and female clad in mourning white dresses that gathered at the mortuary on daily basis to identify and pick up dead bodies symbolizes pain and agony of Manipuri society. The mortuary – medical centre for storing death – absorbs the wails of mourning but can never be a sacred place for the death and the mourned.
What it represents is the imagery of a thin red line between life and death that profoundly encapsulates the inescapable fate of every human being in Manipur living in a cocoon of lies.
Posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, October 11, 2009

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