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Manipur: The Disconnects and the Tragedy

Amar Yumnam *



As we have been seeing and saying repeatedly, Manipur is now marked by disconnects galore.

We see disconnects in administration, in inter- as well as intra- community relationships, between public issues and electoral politics, between individual choice and collective expressions, and above all between the generations. The time is now for all of us to seriously exercise our collective and individual mind on the nature and why of these disconnects.

The Disconnects: One fresh administrative disconnect relates to the handling of the recent Moreh crisis. The head of the police administration was present in situ in real time for appropriate handling of the situation, but the political head and administrative leader was flourishing outside the State. We must be grateful to God that the acumen of the head of police has saved the day wonderfully.

But as we have said in an earlier input in this column, the emergence of a thinking police force should now be complemented by an equally thinking civil administration for an effective response to any situation and evolution of a lasting solution.

The disconnects in community relationships, electoral politics and individual-public dichotomy share a common characteristic. What we observe in these disconnects is the alternative predominance of rational (instrumental) forces and expressive forces.

The rational are the thinking instrumental forces in the society while the expressive forces are the ones we regularly come across in our daily happenings raising and supposedly articulating various forms of issues.

In any society, the instrumental forces endeavour to evolve a strategy of social advancement whereby somebody or any group can achieve something without hurting the interests of any other.

The expressive forces, on the other hand, are generally violent and organize their strategies mainly with a view to compromise the interests of others in favour of their own. The more fundamental and violent the group or its leader in its behavior, the more its transitory group cohesion and acceptability within the group.

They recognize that in a more peaceful environment, their sway will not hold. They cannot enjoy a long-term hold on the society, and so they sweat on lengthening their short-term hold.

The divide between generations is the impact of the digital technology on the development process. The disconnect here is largely institutional in character.

The Tragedy: What we should worry is the increasing hold the expressive elements are gaining by the day on various issues of the State.

In both intra- and inter-community relationships, the expressive elements are almost strangling the instrumental forces despite the large majority of the latter. In electoral politics, the individual is almost swayed by the expressive element rather than the progressive content in him.

This is being seen despite large public articulation of common issues. The elected representatives exploit this disconnect to the hilt by mastering the art of disconnecting articulate something and act otherwise. This is why we see a disconnect between the various organs of the government as well.

This tragedy of dominance by the expressive forces has now crept most of the social and community organizations in the State. The result is for all to see. Almost all the more or less functioning organizations indulge in diktats over others.

Above all, general strikes and bandhs have become almost a regular feature in the affairs of the State. This implies the suppression of any other articulation by the instrumental forces, and continuous efforts by groups to extract benefits at the cost of others. It is ok as long as it benefits me/us, and we do not care a hoot the injury it causes to others.

This is why we are experiencing the decline of almost all the formal educational institutions while at the same time tuition shops are flourishing; while a formal institution benefits all uniformly, tuitions benefit only the select few opting for tuitions. This is why we see even the university rapidly losing whatever little institutional character it had rather it acquiring additional characters.

A general strike immediately enhances the relevance of the violent and expressive articulators, though it does imposes costs on others.

The Issue: Having mentioned the various disconnects and their consequences, we may now ask what is the way out of this impasse. We must work for bringing the instrumental forces to the fore and slowly sideline the expressive forces. Well, in other words, we have to maneuver a way for restoring peace through controlling the violent expressive forces.

This takes us to the next question of the nature of peace is it just peace or constitutional peace that we want? The answer to this question is not simple, and necessarily involves lots of issues of constitutional political economy, and goes beyond the Indian Constitution as such.

We need to look afresh at the capability of the Indian Constitution to address the issues and aspirations of the people. The issues involved go beyond legality or illegality.

This is a topic for another day and many more days, and of course for many more people.


* Amar Yumnam writes regularly for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on June 18th 2007.


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