Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cry for Justice for July 23 Victims and December 19 By-election

July 23 and December 19
July 23, 2009 saw the end of two young lives together with a fully matured foetus. December 19, 2009 will elect a new representative to the Manipur Legislative Assembly. July 23 triggered a multiple series of protest movements. July 23 saw the seeds of an indefinite class boycott. And now it is a matter of serious conjecture whether December 19 will consolidate the power of the incumbent Government against whom all the resistance movements are directed or will it throw up a question to its legitimacy. Between July 23 and December 19, the social atmosphere would be undergoing a sea change. We are already witnessing changes in the form of polarisation between student bodies. In between, lakhs of students have lost one precious academic year. July 23, 2009 plunged the State into a deep sea of abyss. Since July 23, many have been maimed, hundreds beaten up and scores imprisoned. Political leaders of all hues and colours from New Delhi and other parts of India have visited the troubled State and gone away. By now, the young son left behind by Rabina might have stopped asking for his mother. Will December 19 bring a new day? July 23 spelled doom for students. Will December 19 bring any hope for redemption? July 23 unmasked the true colours of our political leaders. Will December 19 change the colours of political leaders? But frankly, by-election or not, Yenning can not sense any wind of change. Here, Yenning begs to differ with political pundits. We don’t think the outcome of Yaiskul by-poll will reflect the popularity or legitimacy of the incumbent Government for it constitutes a single constituency out of the total 60 assembly segments of Manipur.
Nevertheless, the by-poll paints an interesting picture for the fact stands that the main rivals of Congress I candidate are independent candidates, though supported by some opposition parties. What is even more interesting is that, so far, the social organisations leading the protest movement vis-à-vis Khwairamband killings have not issued any non-cooperation or boycott call against the by-election. Just as the social organisations have sent out their message loud and clear that they would resist with all their strength all unpopular policies and anti-people activities of the Government, the ruling party is also equally determined to win the by-election to underscore the assumption that their Government is still a chosen one (sic. Popular one). It is here the by-election to Yaiskul AC assumes significance although every one is aware that the outcome of the by-election will have little impact on the existing power configuration.
However, on a more pragmatic sense, Yaiskul by-election stands to be significant in many ways. First, it is a timely reminder, on the part of the incumbent Government to the people that the "existing" Government is a democratic one, elected through adult franchise. The by-poll again provides a perfect opportunity to show that the Secular Progressive Front Government still enjoys mandate of the people at a time when people have started questioning the very autocratic nature of the Government. Third, it serves as an arena to show who is "actually" ruling the State. But to the people, it is a time to once again celebrate one unfailing electoral festival in the name of democracy, hastened by two years by the sad demise of a sitting MLA. The by-poll comes as a saviour of democracy in Manipur where its very essence and principles have been buried since a long time back.
A Government might be autocratic as well as the head of State may be despotic. Yet, the Government would be passed off as democratic if it is elected periodically through adult franchise. This maxim has become a universal truth throughout the world including India, which is the largest democracy in the world. Uncannily, this has become all the more pronounced in the case of Manipur. But the so called adult franchise, generally exercised once in every five years, which is often projected as the procedural foundation of democracy is a misleading one where the ethos of democracy is missing. Yenning would like to emphasise that coercion, misinformation, trading of voting rights, intimidation, poll-rigging, sympathy vote (not based on sound judgment) etc, etc are the hallmarks of the periodic voting in Manipur. The prevalence of these undemocratic incidents compels us to term the very electoral process in Manipur as pseudo-democracy in the strictest sense of the term. To elaborate the point further, or as a consequence of lapse of democracy at the procedural level, although the Government was elected through adult franchise, sheer irresponsibility and unaccountability on their part continues to the destined truth. This phenomenon hardens our conceptualization of the system of regime ruling over Manipur as pseudo-democracy. Any casual observer would share our skepticism and would be an inescapable witness to the irresponsibility, unaccountability and the undemocratic ways of voting in Manipur. Perhaps we would not be wrong to assert that irresponsibility and unaccountability of an elected Government have reached its zenith under the SPF coalition who is least concerned about the career of around three lakh students now deprived of education for more than three months following the indefinite class boycott.
SPF victory vis-a-vis the 2004 Summer mass movement
Shall we call it an enigma or a paradox or hypocrisy or an unpalatable contradiction? The massive civil movement of the summer of 2004 witnessed in Manipur following the brutal rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama was directed against the SPF Government. The movement was not only spirited but a sweeping one that maximum number of civil organisations and student bodies joined together for the first time and gave birth to the Apunba Lup. The epoch-making movement of 2004 climaxed with the nude protest in front of Kangla Fort and ended with the scrapping of the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 from the Imphal Municipal areas. Moreover, Assam Rifles was removed from the sacred historical site as a culmination of the protest movement. However, ironically, the SPF Government hijacked these prized trophies of the historic movement as their greatest political achievement and the same coalition was elected with a thumping majority for its second innings a few years down the line. The Congress party which led the coalition government even succeeded in sending three Congressmen as MPs to the Indian parliament in addition to enjoying majority in the State Assembly.
The political landscape of today paints a similar picture. Once again the SPF Government faces a similar challenge in the form of continued civil protest movement triggered by July 23 murders at BT Road, Khwairanband Bazar. Interestingly, out of the blues, a by-election has surfaced as if to test the resilience of the same incumbent Government. However, it is to be seen if the Government plunges in to seriously fulfil "any" of the chartered demands of the agitating civil organization like they did during 2004. As far as Yenning can sense, we do not foresee any form of "resolution" or "fulfilment" of the demands. On the other hand, we witness hardening stance of the Government as if partaking the age-old wisdom that "Silence is golden"!
Moral Victory!
Yenning has taken keen interest in the Yaiskul by-election on account of the repercussion the election is likely to have upon the political life of the people. Two possibilities stands in front of us. First assumption: In a situation where the Congress candidate is defeated, majority of the electorate would definitely rejoice it as the moral victory of the people. Here, the question of supporting rival political parties does not arise for as stated above, the main rival candidates of the Congress I are independent candidates. Second assumption: The reverse situation in which the Congress candidate emerges victorious. This is a dreaded but the most likely possibility since the party happens to be in the ruling coalition. The resultant outcome would suggest to be the last nail on the coffin as regards the ongoing civil movement. Read different, the political effect of such a situation spells doom for any other public grievances and accompanying resistance movement against the machinery of the State. We said last nail because victory of the Congress candidate would be interpreted as victory of the ruling coalition. By inference, this would mean larger majority of people (of Yaiskul A/C in this case) support the Government and that they don’t see any serious misgovernance on the part of the incumbent, notwithstanding the simmering public outcry for justice.
Or should we take the by-poll and the outcry for justice as two totally unconnected compartments of our socio-political life?
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, December 13, 2009

1 comment:

  1. Dear Yenning,

    Good write up. Keep writing. We need more such article to wake up our own people from the long seista.

    Your articles are like the hot coffee in the chill winter morning.


    Best Regards,
    Chaoba Phuritshabam