By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Jan 29:
Manipur was a South-East Asian Kingdom. After merger with India, quite many Indian socio-politico-economic elements have already been fairly absorbed there. But the fact remains that many robust South-East-Asian socio-cultural elements are still alive. What is happening now is not Manipur at all as we have understood and experienced historically.
In this piece, while recalling briefly what I had argued in my previous one, I shall put forth another federal failure as well. It is now a context that the present social havoc is racing fast to complete a year. If the chaos had been for only about a week or so, we could have thought of it as a purely law and order problem at the local level, but having persisted for months with rising inhuman characteristics and with spill over effects in other provinces of the country as well, it is definitely a national issue. This being so and since India is a Union of States, we can naturally begin to think of analysing from two angles – one from the angle of governance competence of the provincial government and another from the perspective of the sensibility and commitment of the union government. The imperative for attempting to explain the continuance of the crisis from the governance approach is given by the manner, length and scale which have been quite unlike the historical experiences of Manipur – instead of a week or fortnight turmoil, it continues with features of rising cold-heartedness.
Since it is a federal system that India follows, it is fundamental that the provincial government brings the issues to the full knowledge of the federal government. This is a significant factor for framing contextualised and relevant policies to face the crisis; the provincial authorities are naturally supposed to possess more complete knowledge of the geographic, demographic and the institutional characteristics of the place and the people where crisis happens. In the present context, it looks like the present provincial government in Manipur has terribly failed in this regard. It seems it has been more like a non-performing one due to the following qualitative characteristics:
1. Unawareness of the cultural and the historical legacy and their relevance;
2. Inability to apply mind to decide the priority of issues for attention;
3. The government leadership making frequent statements least relevant to the crises being encountered and looking more like attempting to divert the attention of the people;
4. Failure to understand the difference between the routine law and order problem and a social problem;
5. Incapacity to appreciate the social problems in a diverse – both demography and geography – society when they occur; and
6. Completely non-committal to join the contemporary global competition for progress based on social and technological choices.
Given the backgrounds mentioned above, the absence of any Domestic Policy to address the crisis is not surprising. But there is still one critical question which we need to attend to. While the provincial government fails to take proper care of violent crises, should it be that the Union Authorities should remain as silent spectators as it almost looks like one in the present case in Manipur? A serious consideration on this is called for as the ruling political parties – both at the Union and the Province- happens to be the same. The democratic leader of the political authority at the country level has remained absolutely silent for ten months on the issue while he finds time to spend hours in temples- of course, only Hindu Temples.
Interestingly further, the highest court of the country recently gave orders to control indulgence in hatred behaviours well before the religious events were to take place, while the killings without any visible administrative control for months in Manipur could not draw any attention.
Well, let us take all these as just domestic failures. But Manipur is very different from Madhya Pradesh. While there is no necessity to worry about the foreign policy considerations in the case of the latter, this definitely cannot be so in the case of Manipur with International Borders neighbouring Myanmar; please recall Manipur as a South East Asian kingdom till less than a century ago. The Manipur borders with Myanmar are free flow areas. Besides, we are all aware of the definitive foreign policies being pursued by China today. The advances China – after establishing new robust relationships with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka – has made by now in her relationship with Myanmar must be in the knowledge of the Government of India in Delhi. Even if there are no cares taken on domestic front, India just cannot afford to be of no concern on the foreign policy front in a border province – Manipur in the present case.
But now in a very unusual way and in a Federal Democracy some costly things have happened: (a) allowing the different ethnicities to continue killing each other; (b) the commonality of the ruling political party at the Central and the Provincial levels do not necessarily ensure shared attention, coordinated articulation of understanding of issues and policy formulation; (c) both Domestic and Foreign Policies have been non-existent while killings in a federating unit is allowed to continue; and (d) international borders are playfields for anybody despite sharp manoeuvres in the neighbouring country by a fast rising global power.
All these naturally make one ask if India takes Manipur as Disposable. Well I, for one, do not think so. But there appears that the ruling political party, the BJP in this case, finds certain features in the social legacy of Manipur which might ultimately make their agenda for converting everything into the singularity as they perceive fail terribly at the global level. This is an issue needing separate articulation. But already the people of the province have paid the heavy price of absence of political authorities to coordinate decisions in a diverse society.