Editorial – Old Dead New Unborn


Now that so many people talk of peace and are understandably concerned about where to make a beginning in the pursuit of this elusive state of being, one thought rings loud. The beginning to this new chapter of the state`™s beleaguered history is not as simple to discover as it sounds. The all important question is, apart from the periodic appeals made by chief ministers and governors of the state, and sometimes by Union home ministers and even Prime Ministers as well, how else is this process of to be kick-started? Too many people have been naively suggesting that it has to begin from the people, but never actually spelling out who they mean by the people. Anybody serious enough to ponder further would be left bewildered and painfully reminded of the kindergarten book story of the conference of mice deciding that the solution to the problem they have of a belligerent house cat is bell it so that every mouse is warned whenever the cat is awake. It is only when the reality dawned that somebody has to bell the cat that all the hopes once again melted away and the looks of bewilderment returned to the faces of all in the mice conference.

So who must begin the process of pushing the issue of peace and reconciliation in the state? Who is it that can not only reach the message but also initiate a meaningful discourse on the matter with those actually fighting the protracted war in the land? At least amongst the majority community, the Meiteis, these questions draw a blank. The answer perhaps is in the fact that while all traditional public institutions that once commanded respect amongst them have disappeared, the modern ones continue to lack moral legitimacy. Those familiar with the social networking site facebook.com (and we can almost say a good majority of computer literate people already are) will be surprised by the number of Meiteis with a facebook account who enter their religion as `atheist` or `agnostic` in their personal profile. A good number of them also show their political inclination as `liberal`. While this is indicative of a changing profile of modern Meitei youth, it can also be a sign of an anguished search for a new self in progress. Typical of such transitions is that the stability provided by the anchor of tradition would have begun losing relevance while a new anchors defined by modern ideologies, laws, and institutions have still not set roots. In all likelihood, the `atheist` Meitei youth are first generation atheists too, hence would be still in the twilight zone that demarcates the modern from the traditional, and thereby most likely be exposed to numerous spiritual uncertainties.

Without digressing too deep into the character analysis of the modern Meitei youth, suffices it to say that this moral uncertainty may be what has been eroding the capacity of moderation that traditional institutions always had. Since still nascent in the new moral world, new institutions would still be in their infancy. Unfortunately again, these new modern institutions have been so badly deformed by the corruption and lack of commitment of the modern political class who are supposed to build and nurture them to health depleting further their moral legitimacy. To take some examples, once upon a time elders would have had the authority to moderate or else settle disputes in the society. Religion would have been another indispensable moderating influence on everybody, with safely internalised notions of rights and wrongs to guide and provide them the beacon light during these discourses. Not anymore. Pain was not spared once upon a time to keep women and children untouched by conflicts, and indeed they too would have been moderating influences introducing humanity and compassion to the worst of wars. Today all the esteem reserved for these institutions and more are long dead. The manner in which peace efforts by an elders`™ society was shot down unceremoniously as stuff and nonsense, the increasing incidents of women getting assassinated are some terrifying evidence of this moral erosion. Amongst the Meiteis there is nothing as a `church` or `village elders` anymore whose voices command respect and authority. This is part of the inevitable process of modernisation, but the only trouble is, it would take another generation or two, before modern institutions resting on the foundation of uncompromising respect of rule of law and modern jurisprudence can take roots. The Meiteis are in a situation when few or nobody is awed by the representatives of modern institutions, such as chief ministers and governors, but have also lost faith in the old world institutions. The old are dead; the new are still to be born. Who then can set the peace initiative rolling?


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