Monday, November 9, 2009

23/7 Killings and New Delhi’s Politics of Silence

The present stalemate between the Apunba Lup and the three students’ bodies on one side and the government on the other following the 23/7 Khwairamband bazaar incident has affected normal lives of common people to a great extent. Following the July 23 episode, we have seen/experienced various forms of movement to put an end to fake encounters, punishment of guilty police personnel and resignation of the incumbent Chief Minister of Manipur and we have also experienced the massive counter move of the incumbent government under Secular Progressive Front, a coalition of Congress (I) and CPI. The counter move of the government had exposed some of the brutal tactics, unfortunately characteristic of an oppressive regime. Suffice it to say that the government’s response towards civil societies’ movement against a specific circumstance of injustice had only exposed true colour of an oppressive regime. Frequent imposition of curfew, invocation of National Security Act at the slightest evident dissent towards the government, the manner in which state police, under the protective shield of the government, confronted the public protest in the name of controlling the ‘situation’ are testimonies to the fact that early part of 21st century Manipur polity remained under oppressive regime. Well history remains an undisputed leader to pass judgment on the actors (both government and civil organizations) involved in the present movement, but our present existential experiences remain under siege or afflicted with such mentality .
Under nation-state system, state occupies a pivotal position superior to the rest of the organizations within the territorial boundary of a particular nation-state, hence it holds authority—power plus legitimacy—to govern people and territory through maintenance of law and order, recognition and protection of rights, promotion of economic activities for balance development, provision for education to take the society towards higher stage of civilization and culture etc but all these activities are instrumental, they are not end in themselves but an effective means to sustain happy, prosperous and higher form of life. A long time back, Harold Laski opined that "a state is known by the rights it maintained" and TH Green says that "will not force is the basis" of the state. Karl Marx maintained that violent is inherent in the state and it is exploitative. True liberation or emancipation is possible only under condition of stateless and classless society. Feasibility or impossibility of Marx’s ideal is not the point here. The point here is the gap between our understandings of State, idea of politics and reality of politics and State in the practical domain. While visualizing for an alternative polity, one should bear in mind State in the realm of knowledge and that it is controlled by a few dominant elites in practical realm. Unless we dare to dream for an alternative polity, that recognized supremacy of people and effective mechanism to curtail the oligarchic tendency inherent in political parties, India or Manipur will be haunted by the spectre of violence and oppression, as witnessed today in different parts of India and more glaringly in Manipur. Yenning believes that we, the people, fail to learn important lessons from history at our own peril. Any form of power bereft of responsibility is dangerous. Here it can be beneficial to refresh our conscience with the immortal words of Lord Acton "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Constant vigilance of the people is the only guarantee to curb excessive power. Following the July 23 episode, lives in Manipur have been virtually put to a standstill position, it has been nearly three months since most of the educational institutions have been shut down across the valley districts. More tragic part is, there has not been any commendable effort to bring an amicable solution to the present stalemate either from the government of India or Manipur government. There is immediate need for a fruitful dialogue between the government and civil organizations and students’ bodies by initiating back door diplomacy. Both sides should attempt to find out an honorable exit from the present impasse. While doing so, it can be suggestive that government should not try to create fragmentation within the civil societies and students’ organizations. At the same time New Delhi should come out from its policy of deliberate ignorance of the issue. Central leadership of the Congress as a visionary leader should own responsibility for the present state of affairs in Manipur as result of 23/7 incident. Though New Delhi failed to intervene in time, it should take the onus of resolving the crisis for the ultimate political power lies with it and New Delhi is accountable just as much as the state government to the people of Manipur. New Delhi should not remain an irresponsible spectator while Manipur is slipping towards a quagmire of darkness and violence. It is time that Indian leaders do a critical retrospective analysis of policies and tactics that was being followed to solve the above issues. The responsible persons at the power corridor of New Delhi need serious rethinking of their policies towards Manipur in particular and Northeast in general.
Any policy that can bear fruit for immediate requirement but can be counter productive in the near future ought to be rejected without any hesitation. But so far as Manipur and the Northeast are concerned, New Delhi had followed a ‘second rate policy’. It is a widely acknowledged fact that because of short-sighted and high-handed policies of New Delhi, Northeast’s economy is backward and peoples of Northeast continue to suffer both politically and economically. If one perceptively looks at the manner in which New Delhi manage to handle the issues affecting the peoples of Northeast, certain facts become quite clear. First of all, readings of New Delhi’s policy towards the region, particularly at the initial stage, reveal complete lack of cultural and political knowledge of the region on the part of policy makers at New Delhi. Secondly military were allowed to play dominant role to solve political problems in the region. It was a clear case of wrong treatment and diagnosis of a disease. Thirdly it also manifests a degenerated form of Indian democracy and polity.
Today Indian democracy works on the basis of delicate power relations, the trend became more visible in the post 1989 period when coalition government became a normal characteristic of Indian polity rather an exception. It is because of these delicate power relations that Union Government always took issues affecting bigger states seriously. It was not surprising that issues and happenings in those states that can have a say in the (un)making of ‘king’ because of their larger number of representatives in the parliament, are always taken more seriously than the one affecting smaller states having negligible voice in the (un)making of king. Important questions that are lingering in the mind of most Manipuri, excepting those unpatriotic leaders and selfish petty-bourgeoisie, following July 23 incident are, what will be the response of New Delhi, had the incident happened in states like UP, Bihar, Gujarat, MP. etc? Will New Delhi afford to remain in complete silence, had a similar incident occurred in the above states as in Manipur? Will New Delhi allow peoples of the bigger states suffer as people of Manipur are suffering if similar case happened in the said states? We know the answer. New Delhi will promptly intervene to end the stalemate if the July 23 incident happened within the states of mainland India. The wide media coverage of recent Gujarat and Shimla fake encounter cases and Batla house ( Jamia Nagar, New Delhi) and hue and cry of Human Rights Organization of mainland India are testimony to the above fact. New Delhi has severely damaged its own legitimacy here by letting democracy die in Manipur, and also for maintaining stoic silence over the very serious issue which otherwise require prompt intervention to resolve the impasse following 23/7 episode. New Delhi’s silence over the state atrocities and persisting issue of fake encounter and their failure to own responsibility for resolving the present impasse not only indicate that New Delhi is giving free hand to the incumbent government to suppress the movement by using repressive means but it will also contribute to further alienation of people of Manipur from India.
Reading New Delhi’s response towards July 23 incident, one is tempted to ask "Is Manipur’s problem/issue India’s external problem?" It is time political leaders of India stop pursuing politics of hypocrisy and double standard while dealing with the sensitive issue involving the question of life and death. One should not forget the fact that heavy reliance on violence to govern a people is nothing but sign of declining legitimacy.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, November 8, 2009

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