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Free For All: Long years of non-governance in Manipur

By Amar Yumnam

Free for all is very different from freedom from all. While freedom for all is a social objective around the globe for it ensures opportunities for advancement and existence of a justice system to remedy violations of the rules of societal existence with dignity for all. But free for all is altogether a different game. Free for all implies absolute absence of rule of law. It also implies absence of governance. Consequent upon these conditions, there would prevail ungoverned crime, uncontrolled murders and thriving of the criminals. The only competition existing in such a context would be among the criminals and their groups for greater capability to commit crimes. Killing would be a very common method and easily resorted to for it would be a means for enforcing ready compliance by the common folk with the dictums of the criminals.    

During our childhood, we were told stories by our elders about the social attitude in the early twentieth century while cholera was still the most dreaded disease; the bacteria causing the disease were enjoying a free run at that period of history of Manipur. The social attitude ran a time-line like this: God save the village  >     God save the locality   >     God save the family  >     God save me. The tragedy of Manipur today is that such a condition has now struck the society. The killing of the JCB Driver is not a stand-alone event. It is to be seen as a reflection of the social disease afflicting Manipur. Such events had happened in the past, have been happening and would not end with the death of the JCB Driver.

The core cause of such events recurring is to be found at the doors of governance over the land. The rarest thing in Manipur right from 1949 has been the governance. It has failed at every level. It has failed at the Union level and so also at the Provincial level.

First, let us ponder over the Union level governance failures. India has never adopted any policy alive to the realities and needs of Manipur. The primary concern of the government of India has been the side-lining of the core issues and suppression of the articulation on these in every sense possible. This the government calls as security approach to the issues of Manipur, but the meaning and content of the term has never been defined. Since it has never been defined, it has never come to the public domain for articulation and debate. So articulation and debate on policies have been all along absent from the social life and polity of Manipur. So democracy has never taken roots in Manipur. This absence of articulation however has been in a context where the army, since it is security, has been given a free run. The ultimate testimony of this approach of freeness for the army in the name of security has been the violence inflicted on Manorama’s coveted personal possession by the penises of the male army personnel and then blasting it with gun shots. This absence of governance and democratic approach to the issues of Manipur and from the side of the Union still continues.

Second, this failure from the Union level is coupled by the cumulative failures from the governance at the Provincial level. Governance has failed geographically and socially. It has failed geographically for the presence of a semblance of existence of a government is to be felt, to be felt only at a limited level, only at the centre of the province while the rest are left to the winds. This presence even in the limited areas is also without any surety about the observance of the rule of law. In fact, this leniency has only led to the emergence of a norm of mob delivery of justice particularly from about the mid-1980s, and under the patronage of a highly decorated and flamboyant police officer at that time. While there have been efforts at the reversal of this mob approach to justice in the recent past under the leadership of a sensible police head, the results are going to take time. This is because the damaging trend continued for almost two decades. Rather we are afraid if this reversal of mob justice would be reversed, and the same old environment comes back.

Whatever the case, one thing is true. Manipur does not have time in her favour for the conditions to improve. All the governance corrections are to be put in place now with a sense of urgency and a missionary zeal. Indian governance must evolve policies for development intervention in the border areas and with an appreciation of the realities and needs of these areas. All these must be overt policies. On the side of the Provincial governance, the imperative onus is to take government to all the corners. Here we must realise that taking government to all the corners and reaching governance to all the people are very different from establishing post for the security forces. The province cannot wait any longer from the evolution of a development policy alive to the social and geographic realities of Manipur. The free for all atmosphere must now be replaced by a freedom for all atmosphere. Time is of the essence here.



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