Amidst a crowded field of Non Government Organisations, NGOs of different hues in Manipur, at a crucial juncture like the present, the absence of one class of NGOs is felt painfully. We refer to serious, academic, autonomous researchers on peace and conflict dynamics. If this were not so, when the state is craving for a method to end the madness that has come to grip everybody’s life, and there are opportunities for this opening up either by chance or design everywhere, there are no institutions to look for any credible peace model. It is quite surprising that even the state’s highest institution for learning, the Manipur University, is caught on the wrong foot when the state needs its informed inputs on the matter the most. True there have been numerous so-called public debates and symposiums where MU highbrows along with other “public intellectuals” were called upon to give their views, but it is quite sad that none have been able to go beyond rhetoric or stating the obvious, this too over and over again almost as a matter of routine at every one of these meets. It is now almost entirely predictable what many of the well known speakers would say in these gatherings even before they have spoken a word. It is also equally predictable that there would be no voices of dissent especially when the topic is conflict, lest they end up displeasing the Big Brothers whose ears and eyes are everywhere.
The point is, it is time for the NGO focus to realign once again to the needs of the time. We are of the opinion that it is time for at least one or two serious and sincere NGOs, if not more, which can do in depth and ground breaking researches on conflicts around the world and with such knowledge as foundation, evolve conflict resolution models suited for the situation in the state and the region. As and when a time comes for a democratic settlement of the problems vexing the land, there should be experts who can offer more than mere platitudes and rhetoric. As other academic NGOs elsewhere do, they should be able to come out with quality publications on the subjects of their researches which again can serve as beacons for the government and other institutions responsible for peace building, in their quests for an end to the turmoil afflicting the land. It needs no reminder that there are a number of these autonomous or else independent academic institutions elsewhere, doing yeoman services in researching areas of governance where the government attention has not been adequate, or else limited by administrative and other state responsibilities, or even more likely conditioned and trapped to think of only responding in the usual sterile, statist and militaristic way. It is common knowledge that many of these independent institutions elsewhere can and have acquired reputations that rival the best of universities anywhere in the world.
Even as the NGO world gather courage and resources to embark on such projects, perhaps it the government which should take the lead and set up an autonomous research institute on peace and conflict studies. Such an institute must be mandated to research and bring out publications of worth in furthering the understanding the nature of conflict as well as possibilities of peace through elaborate structures which are region specific. But then, with the prevalent culture of making easy money, and nothing other than those projects with prospects for fund siphoning commanding interest, it is unlikely anybody who matters in the government would care for the suggestion. Moreover, the logic of power is such that those in power do not ever want anything autonomous growing out of the system, even if such institutions are what make democracy meaningful. Today, even institutions which are statutorily envisioned to be independent and autonomous, such as the Manipur Human Rights Commission, MHRC, the Manipur Women’s Commission, MWC, the Manipur Information Commission, MIC, etc, have been systematically reduced to mere caricatures, doing the biddings of the government rather than be its foils and critics. This being the prevailing mindset of the government, it is quite likely that tomorrow if a situation arises that there would be peace settlement with all or some of the insurgent organisations in the state, the government would simply be groping in the dark, running into surprises and hurdles at every corner. As being witnessed with the peace talks already in progress, chances are any new one too will meet the same fate of frustrating stalemates.