Question of Legitimacy


The more the violence in the state gets mindless, as the murder yesterday of a caretaker of a private mobile tower in Wangkhei was, the more the erosion of the already greatly diminished legitimacy of the insurrection would become. Nobody knows what the reason behind the Wangkhei killing was, but it is anybody’s guess that it had to some way or the other do with monetary demands. If so, the victim was nothing more than a scapegoat. It is unlikely he would be facing any monetary demands from anybody, except perhaps for petty sums from the local grocery, but nothing that would earn him such a brutal death at the hands of cold blooded armed assassins, and that too right inside his bedroom and on his own bed. In all probability, he was sacrificed to “send a message” to his bosses. Can inhumanity be any worse than this? Crimes which would have been once unthinkable, have now become commonplace, and whatever the justification of the half a decade old insurrection in the land, it must bear the responsibility for raising the threshold of public concern at the way the society is turning violent to this unimaginable extent. It is also yet another reason to begin thinking in terms of looking for an honourable reconciliation in a spirit of give and take, in which nobody ends up the loser. This is not impossible.
The writings on the walls are clear. Everybody is eager for a return of peace and stability. This is writ large in every nook and corner of the state. It needs to be considered that this is also a form of plebiscite in the spirit of what French Philosopher Ernest Renan described a nation as a daily plebiscite, in his famous essay “What is a Nation?” But once and for all, let there be a decisive verdict of the people on where they want to be. The chief minister, Okram Ibobi’s statement on the floor of the Assembly declaring even the question of a plebiscite to decide the future of the state’s political status is worth consideration, is extremely relevant in this regard. The matter should be pursued in earnest in the interest of settling the matter conclusively and definitively. What is missing is, an all round enthusiasm of the people at the proposal. Either they have given up hope of this ever happening, or else they have lost faith in it. More likely, they are simply overwhelmed by the increasing harshness of daily living and the mindless violence and terror they are constantly subjected to.
Although it is unimaginable how this plebiscite can ever be meaningful considering even the matter of deciding on who would or should be the electorate would become extremely contested, it is nonetheless worth a try. If the proposal fails to take off on account of this uncertain and complex profile of the electorate, at least this would have established before everybody concerned that the issue is not so simple as to be determined by a straight voting on a one-point agenda of sovereignty for Manipur. One thing should have become obvious to everybody by now. Manipur today is a much more complex society than it was half a century ago when violent insurrection first raised its head. Because of this complexity of interests, all legitimate in their own ways, its issues are hardly likely to be settled in any black and white terms. The different ethnic communities, the different economic classes, the different professions, all now have different demands and expectations from the state. None of their aspirations too would have remained stagnant in the half century which has passed by. Many indeed would see the present political predicament as the best possible option open to them. For in the ultimate analysis, the issue is not sovereignty in its abstract sense, but what system would guarantee the best possible dignified living for the ordinary citizenry. In other words, freedom in the end has to be about empowerment of the masses, and not a passionate slogan which has not been able to grow out of its old mould and accommodate present reality. Freedom then would have to be defined as the space which guarantees material and spiritual hope to all citizens. It must guarantee a sense of security that identity and culture, and indeed the “national character” of the place, which would have to be the aggregate of all aspirations of the different peoples in the state, is not threatened. Above all, it must be able to give the vision of prosperity and freedom from the indignity of abject poverty. Let these matters be factored into any consideration of the final settlement by all concerned.


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