By Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Feb 12:
As citizens of Manipur, we have been naturally concerned about what has been happening here during the last nearly a year. Reminds me of what Adam Smith (the Father of Economics) stated in the very first para of his 1759 book on The Theory of Moral Sentiments: “How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.” This is the fourth piece on the current Manipur Crisis following up on the earlier three – First on the absolute disappearance of the provincial government, second on the absence of any policy either by the Provincial or the Union government to address the crisis, and the third on why the Centre cares a hoot for what happens in Manipur.
The present piece too is on the existing social crisis in Manipur. In this I plan to talk of the lack of moral responsibility in the thinking of the political (hence government) leadership, and second on the flooding of the Imphal valley by horticulture products.
The moral responsibility of the political and governmental leadership has no time limits for it applies to all the twenty-fours of a day and 365 days of a year though there could be variations in the depth of requirements. It must be emphasised here that the moral responsibility of the government is absolutely multi-dimensional extending to every aspect of human existence – psychological, social, political, economic and what not. The need for application of this moral responsibility can vary depending upon the nature characterising social functioning and interactions, and more so in a diverse one. When the sabotages and killings increasingly intensified in Manipur in the ongoing crisis, the government should have arisen to the occasion to attend to the responsibility to protect; this protection principle applies to both the attacker and the attacked. Even further, going much beyond the protection efforts, it is the moral responsibility of the governmental leadership to initiate application of mind searching for the causes arousing and then sustaining the fights between the two parties. Till today the government keeps blaming and appealing to both the ethnicities to stop and maintain peace, but the problems continue. Since the fights get sustained, the causes too are still alive
What I am most afraid – as a Social Scientist who has been taking keen interest on Manipur for almost four decades -is that:
1. The traditional modes of interaction and interdependence have undergone a change and some kind of competition and efficiency have arisen across the diverse ethnic groups;
2. If this has happened, the consequence would be that each ethnic group would develop different forms of moral judgements in which case the subjective and the objective dimensions would acquire differences despite certain common legacies; certain subjective elements of the Kukis may not be so for the Meeteis, and certain objective properties of the Meeteis may not be so for the Kukis; and
3. The ultimate result would be that each ethnic group would develop Ethics of their own – what Anthony Cortese calls Ethnic Ethics.
The continuous accusations – even unabashed in some cases –make it look like that such a situation has emerged in Manipur. In such circumstances, the sole moral responsibility of the political leadership is to evolve a strategy for Political Reconciliation founded on moral perspectives. Has any attempt made in Manipur in this regard?
The second issue I wish to take up relates to an economic one. My second daughter is coming from Imphal to my current place. In this connection, my family is flooded with two questions: (a) My daughter asking what vegetables to bring; and (b) all my relatives and friends enquiring what vegetables we want to have. These two queries are coupled by a particular friend informing me that the Imphal valley lanes are flooded with seasonal vegetables at prices unprecedentedly low.
These low prices facilitate the customers at a time when earning opportunities are distressed by the social crises happening while the farmers get their income lowered than usual and expected – there could be even losses for some or many on their investment. These have happened because the usual flows to the mountain markets of Manipur have not taken place negatively affecting the welfare levels on both sides.
I have taken up the above two characteristically different but virtually related issues to highlight one facet of the government in place which is not the one characterising an administration committed to attending to the moral responsibility of governance. The inter-ethnic conflict is an opportunity for a conscientious government to evolve a Robust and Sustainable Inter-Ethnic Policy founded on a moral perspective. The vegetable price crash is also a situation demanding how to protect the interest of the farmers without fully compromising the benefit to the customers. My poor visibility has failed to see any effort in any of these directions by the political leadership in power.