Killing Justice In the Name of Justice: What`s happening in Manipur?


By Amar Yumnam
Justice is what would be on everybody’s lips and is what everybody desires. Everybody cries foul in Manipur and laments that justice has been buried in every exchange and transaction of relationships in the land. Whereas the people have been sharing views and ideas on it and there have been plenty number of editorials and commentaries on it, the need for further interactions on it have not by any means reduced. In fact, the need for more intensified articulation and voicing is all the more today.

People’s Voice: One need not be John Rawls or Amartya Sen to be concerned about justice – social, political and economic. As Rawls himself expounded so wonderfully, every person has certain sense of goodness and desire for goodness. So a person possesses a sense of justice founded on this sense of goodness, and need not go into the whole articulation of the meaning of justice. It is this sense of justice which the common man feels violated and sacrificed in the daily conduct of relationships between individuals. Now this feeling of violation of primary justice is loud, visible and widespread in cases where the interactional and exchange relationships happen to be between persons of differing power positions, for instance, between the lowly auto-rickshaw driver and the traffic police constable, a commoner and a bureaucrat and the like. We can think of multiples of examples which we encounter in daily life.

The most common experience is the daily handshake between the auto-rickshaw drivers and the traffic police constables. The height of this hand shake and the most absurd form of it is the recent breaking of wind shields of cars parked in the Paona Bazar area by police personnel headed by responsible officers. The other common experience is the kind of exchange relationships between the revenue officials performing quasi-judicial functions and the largely uneducated and non-articulated voiceless commoners. Still other is the daily attack on one’s hearing capacity of the ears and blatant attack on personal space in the form of the irrational honking from the vehicles of our Very Important Persons in areas of heavy traffic congestion in the political –cum- commercial capital of the land. One can keep on multiplying the examples drawing from daily experiences of a commoner’s life.

The Question: Now the question to be asked by all of us is: Why is it that every administrative intervention or mechanism getting transformed into a system for exploitative relationships? How can we explain the indiscriminate use of discretionary power by the personnel of the administration while implementing measures of state policy founded on legitimate power? How do the traffic police constables always find a way out for sustaining their handshakes with the drivers whatever the changes in traffic norms? How do the revenue officials sustain their known behaviour whatever the changes in the ministry or anything? How do our Very Important Persons continue with their irrational behaviour despite the so popular discussions and debates on it? Why is it that the new non-parking norm in the commercial areas of Imphal got transformed into the free and indiscriminate use of discretionary power by the forces meant to enforce the rule of law? Why is it that rule of law rather made a servant of discretionary use of force rather than based on the legitimacy of power? These are all questions we need to find appropriate answers and explanations.

Proximate and Ultimate Explanations: The immediate and quickest answer one may give would be that all these are because of the widespread corruption in the land. It may sound true, but it does not explain anything. We still need to find causes for the emergence of corruption. This is because we are facing a kind of situation where any new administrative intervention, implemented purposively to ameliorate on the existing one, is being subject to the same mechanism for exploitative relationships when the exchange takes place between persons with differing power bases. We have a kind of characteristic in our land where every institution and every mechanism gets mutated into an exploitative relationship. Even organisations founded on high ideals become absolutely anti-people, e.g., the massive indulgence into extortionist activities by some of the organisations in the name of people and liberty.

Well, we understand that the long years of conflict situation and the state responses to it based rather on the use of force have dastardly played havoc with the ethos and relationship spirits of the people. But we still need to go much beyond this. We now necessarily have to examine as to how the various policies, programmes and interventions adopted in the name of the people and development of the land evolved to begin with. It is exactly here that we feel we have faltered absolutely. The policies and the programmes evolved, adopted and implemented in the land do not seem to be based on any of the two fundamental democratic norms. We cannot say the policies and the programmes implemented in Manipur were based on deliberative principles of democracy. Similarly these do not seem to have been based on collaborative principles of democracy either. In other words, the problem lies to be in the fact of absence of contextualisation and contextual evolution of policies in the land. If this continues, which is the most likely case unfortunately, our woes would not come to an end and justice would continue to suffer.

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