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Through the looking-glass

by K A P I L A R A M B A M

Like an individual, every community has its distinctive traits and ways of life. At a glance,
observers would say violence, corruption, drugs and cheap lifestyle amongst other things,
provide the platforms where the farce is set in the state. These are the parasitic elements of
any backward region and are, not surprisingly, rampant in our neighbourhood.

A confused identity and a sense of belonging nowhere are the building blocks of this absurd plot
in the valley. But there are dreams, and plenty of them, which are sustaining our life and making
survival possible. The struggle for achieving them has become all the more difficult as many have
lost faith in it while others are bogged down by the confusion and lack of clarity to accomplish
the task.

Unfortunately, the vision of a peaceful and self-reliant society is all we have got for posterity.
We need to change ourselves, get rid of the violent and lazy mentality, and make ourselves
visible in the global space.

It has called for becoming conscious of our roots. Asking ourselves where we belong would
puzzle us again. Still we know we do belong to a root. Belonging is a feeling – not just a
membership. It involves being included or accepted by others in a group. Hopefully, it is not
politics this time around – rather a universal feeling of love that we have for our birthplace. We
belong to humanity, and we know it. In deed, this consciousness oil the social reality, however
harsh it may be in contemporary times.

But how do we justify the security establishment causing mayhem in a crowded place? Is there
any authority out there? Or are they so busy fighting the rebels, who are clamouring for
freedom from the jungles? Why do we remain a mute spectator to bloody gunfights in our
backyards? Is it done just by staging those boring sit-in protests? One of the insurgent groups
even criticised that 'the killer pack of police commandos the chief minister is raising is beyond
counting'. How do we say we have an elected government? There are several more questions
that we don't have the answers for – the stupidity, of course, makes us a hardcore Manipuri.

We can hardly expect anything from the dimwitted commandos, who were formerly raised as
the Quick Striking Force (QSF) in the late Seventies. They are blood-thirsty and barks when
their masters order. But, at least, we expect some panacea from the top brass if – yes, if they
are aware they have a responsibility towards the man on the street.

In history, we have seen revolution giving birth to nations whose power and autonomy
markedly surpassing their own pre-revolutionary pasts. France became a conquering power,
the Russian rose to an industrial and military superpower. Mexico gained political strength and
the country is least prone to military coup in Latin America. The culmination of a revolutionary
process reunited and transformed a shattered China. Likewise, decolonising and neocolonial
countries, such as, Cuba and Vietnam have broken the chains of extreme dependency. We
have also seen the lofty ideals of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality firing imaginations in the quest
of social and national liberation.

It might be superficial to compare these enhanced national powers to a region like ours. The
resistance is completing five decades and it is worrying, the label of being a failed state is going
to be attached for ever. What is to become of Manipur?

Ted Gurr elaborated in 'Why Men Rebel' that political violence occurs when many people in
society become angry. And people become angry when there occurs a gap between the valued
things and opportunities they feel entitled to and the things and opportunities they actually get –
a condition known as relative deprivation.

But there are basic counter-arguments, which are convincing and easily specified. No matter
how discontented an aggregate of people may become, they cannot engage in political action,
including violence, unless they are part of organised groups with access to resources.

Is it only politics that is affecting the Imphal landscape and the North-East as a whole? Not
necessarily, as this aspect is also closely related to a regretful history, a complex geography and
an inefficient economics, so as to say, that is spoiling every generation. In our homeland, we
have so many beautiful places to die for, and vast natural resources to kill for. However we are
caught in a time warp, unable to break free from the chains that tie us to our tribal instincts.
We have been exploited... we have been humiliated... we have been cheated... but this is not just
done. A gun is not at all enough to bring us salvation – we need thought and discipline and
reason and commitment and planning and what not.

We rise to every dissension and sink to any depth of social-economical and political tragedy.
We are resilient to this experience would mean but to be preoccupied with a defeatist's
psychology.

Getting to the basics, the Manipur State Development Report in 2006 surveyed we have a
meagre 6.73% of the gross geographical area of the state, which is classified as agricultural land.
An inefficient centralised planning, with an acute infrastructural deficiency and lack of resource
mobilisation, has been cited as the foundation of the present economic doldrums. No wonder,
the successive governments are resorting to overdrafts to pay the employees in various
departments.

Throw garbage politics into the dust-bin. Because there are also smart and intelligent people in
our lot. But do we need to glorify this group of wise men? We are overawed by them and we
wish we could be like them. There is no prize for guessing the identity of this good sort. No
doubt, we are talking about our greedy fellow-beings, who deals in fraud, bribery and sleaze,
and have helped the state to earn the label of being a second Bihar.

So we have an unscrupulous means of getting a big break and plundering wealth. How
embarrassing is that once a senior teacher viewed folks from the region are simple and honest?

Corruption is unbridled where there are low public-sector salaries, delayed salary payments,
weak performance evaluation and disciplinary procedures, extra-budgetary funding mechanisms,
and lack of complaint mechanisms leading to disciplinary action. It does not take a rocket
scientist to identify the complication. While culpability might be a debatable issue, what causes
corruption to spread its tentacles in society is not. It can be minimized only if political leaders
are willing to impartially implement effective anti-corruption strategies and augment the
probability of detecting and punishing corrupt individuals.

But then this crookedness has eaten up the entrails of our society. It would be wrong to blame
the system as it concerns each one of us.

Ultimately, we are caught in a web of decadence and unfortunately, everything is inter-related in


the establishment – we cannot expect any positive upshot out of this mess. Do you see any
probability of solving the problem of drug menace in the state at this juncture? Is there slight
chance of resolving the crises bogging down the region in the near future? Not at all – and the
answer is simple as that.

The diagnoses do not mean to doctrinaire the multi-fasted disorder, like once the mainland
politicians and policy makers had done for the sake of expanding the region. These are rather
the quest for a development paradigm that is conditional on improving people's subjective well-
being in an environment of peace. An air of pessimism is lingering, and is making us more
frustrated. No redemption song can free our mind. This pen is all that I have and I doubt, it can
write further.

The dream of a peaceful and just society has remained as elusive as ever. We are a violent
society, trying to seek recourse to violence to address these issues. Still, we believe a day will
come when man will be equal to man and blood is shed no more. We want to leave behind a
vision that would survive the turmoil. And nothing more.

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