The 5TH Naorem Sanajaoba Memorial Lecture was delivered by Prof. Felix Padel, Anthropologist and social activist who is currently the Visiting Professor at the Centre for North East Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on December 30, 2015 at the Court Room, Manipur University. Prof. Felix is also the Great Great Grandson of Charles Darwin. He spoke on the topic entitled, “Human Rights and Self-Determination as Prerequisites for Real Development”. Prof. W. Viswanath, Registrar, Manipur University, Shri Suvojit Bagchi, Chief of Bureau, The Hindu, Kolkota and Prof. N. Rajmuhan, President, Ojha Sanajaoba Memorial Trust, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest, Guest of Honour and President, respectively. As the presidium members were taking the dais, Prof. Felix belted out Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”, which created an ambience of revolutionary fervor in the otherwise lukewarm Court Room of the Manipur University.
The atmosphere of intellectual introspection and self-questioning even before the delivery of the Lecture was further heightened by the inaugural song performed “Tapta”, the prominent voice of protest and an accomplished musician of Manipur who dedicated the song “Khongthang” (The Final Step) to late Ojha Sanajaoba as introduction to the Memorial Lecture.
Prof. Felix Padel delivering the Memorial Lecture, “Human Rights and Self-Determination as Prerequisites for Real Development” submitted that he never had the opportunity of meeting Late Prof. Naorem Sanajaoba but he knows that the Late Professor was an active upholder of human rights, as well as an academician (a most significant combination) who drew frequent comparisons between the situation in Manipur and in other regions in the world where people are struggling for democracy and greater autonomy in the face of harsh repression. He further added that the foundation of knowledge is subjectivity in the sense that it all begins from knowing oneself and the situation in which one is thrown into, which together constitutes consciousness. Prof. Sanajaoba’s academic pursuits as well as his undeniable role as an activist focused on imparting consciousness to the people of Manipur in the contemporary international context.
Prof. Felix stated that fundamental to the challenges facing people in Manipur, and in so many other similar places, is the question of “what is real development”. He stressed that in the name of development, one witnesses promotion of mega dams, extractive industry and infrastructure projects that certainly attract huge sums of money as investment but do not necessarily raise most of the local people’s standard of living. What happens at the end is the ‘Investment-Forced Displacement’ wherein people are displaced and the funding agencies monopolise their natural resources in the name of development.
Prof. Felix observed that Manipur has a long history of abuses by security forces. He cited the recent case at the Supreme Court where the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi opined that ‘Killings are part of the sovereign function discharged by the Union of India through the army’ thereby rejecting the Justice Santosh Hegde report, inquiring into the 1,528 extra-judicial killings during 2000-2012 and its finding that numerous people had been killed in false encounters
Suvojit Bagchi, the Guest of Honour, as an extension to the Lecture, observed that journalists need to be respected, only then they can perform their duties in a democratic manner. Unless one strengthens the press and provide security, there cannot be democracy so to speak of.