By Praem Hidam
Now that a young student has been murdered and there is an acute sense of grief and resentment among the protesters. While this brutality on the part of the government’s response has only stiffened its callousness and regulations, the protestors are simply roiling. In this conjuncture, the only way to become vocal and audible enough is to use a language of rioting, though it is not what we always intend to do. In it we find a flow of messages and the government knows what we do. This precisely has remained to be the only way of communicating with this government. We believe that not everything in the world especially things like the one we are handling cannot always be subsumed to operate under the law and institutions. The point is, our upsurge is democratic and we are democratic by any count.
To begin with, let us first agree to this fact that we cannot afford to lose the speed and mobility of what has happened in the last few weeks. But this may not mislead us to losing sight of where we are heading to with the same speed and mobility, at this rate. Any agitation including this one if it is to grow in a direction that can truly offer promises for a better scheme of things, cannot miss but to engage with the contradictions of its strengths. How we choose to engage with our own contradictions is prefigurative in the sense that it will shape the future course of the movement and its wider outcomes. That will come slowly but surely will it come.
This short discussion is about these concerns.
What we need to do, and which is what we are trying to do here, is rather to try and give some insights in order for us to be able to carry out a vision and make sure that the popular mandate that we have on this issue can do wonders in an entirely different political conjecture which is far removed from the institutional working of electoral democracy.
It is true that we see some ideals in the scheme of things that may happen in post ILP scenario. And here are a couple of questions that we need to address if we believe in the ideals of this current agitation. How are we going to make sure that the present agitation is transformed into a ceaseless prodding for a more progressive society; into a movement that is connected as a part of wider currents of other political movements? Have we ever thought of this? Or shall we expand our objectives as we have grown into this stage of movement that truly has become one of the most popular upsurges in the recent years?
As we know, and this is true especially in the case of Manipur, that different conjectures of politics have often mounted up simultaneously that even as we are trying to keep pace with rapid turns of events we have already missed steps and very often fall back on common sense which often are uncritical, over generalized and blinded. Keeping in view the sequences of all the happenings of this agitation, we may however say this with commitment that the only strategy, perhaps the most important of all is to mobilize on common sense.
A cautious and critical relationship with common sense will enable us to see some contents of popular sensibilities which are more positive and politically reliable, that have traces of better vision of change and resistance. We also believe that these contents will be a big help to re-strengthen the organizational crafts when it comes to transforming this demand into a wider and lasting movement, connecting it to other movements of our times.
In order for it to be more meaningful we can rebuild this agitation on the spontaneous philosophy of the ordinary people, on the battlefield that is street and other places like this. The question is not of entirely relying on the leadership and the organizations leading this agitation but of renovating and making critical an already existing activity, of helping the people’s consciousness to perfection. We do not intend to see a movement that is merely popular which may happen to be a tilted, singular, and majoritarian expression; but a movement that is truly founded on the common wisdom that could withstand elitist and anti- democratic stances. We also intend to see a movement with a broad coalition consisting of communities and groups. Many of the misgivings about this agitation can be avoided if the leadership has the patience to listen attentively to the people’s common sense, across communities and try to develop strategies towards greater coherence. To move along as a movement we need to hone a collective agency and this could possibly be achieved if we can identify what contents of popular sensibilities are potential of undermining and of being critical of the regressive intensities and tendencies, the contradictory wisdoms and common senses.
Having said this, we are now proceeding to an aspect of this agitation which is particularly crucial to the circulation of the demands that goes far and wide. It is true that we demand with a desire to envisage a future, and in fact we do hope so, where we are secure and live on our own terms. This penchant for being ourselves along with the vision that seeks to protect it and the self that is being projected are not however given. They all are constituted within specific historical configuration that is nothing but our own doings, lives and experiences. The demand for ILP is no exception and it is in this sense a product of our times.
Deriving from our encounters with debris and the propellants, we might also consider that our agitation is not going to be a question of law alone. In actual fact, it will never be one. There is one aspect of this issue and it relates to a war like situation where two economies are in conflict. One works with its power to distribute, divide and occupy while the other operates with intensities of anger, disaffection, fear and retaliation. The former advances with Capital (usually money, goods and networks) the latter being about one that is left unused, untapped and replaced usually resist the other economy in the form of what is going on today, riots. Since war and economies figure as essential tropes in the overall picture, the current agitation can even grow much further into becoming a movement for just distribution of opportunities and free and equal chance to capabilities and aspirations. These are even at this moment what our demands are for. This war is thus not only about outsiders or insiders. Its potential power lies in its ability to raise the basic questions that have got on our nerves for quite a long time. From ILP we can further move against all kinds of exploitation, for a society where the common have a good part in the running of their affairs, including what they do to earn and live. If we want to go deeper and come up with alternative modes of life and governance which can be comparatively much better than the one we are living with, what else can it be other than this form of upsurge?
The outside will be transformed into a symbolic form and it can be anything, be it institutions, agencies, the bourgeois political order, or the system of power or something else. Anything or anybody that coerces us, disables us to become and prevents us from desiring to be what we are and what we can do constitutes the symbolic form in the figure of the outsider. Either inside or outside, with outsiders or insiders all that remains for us is to move and grow, to question and critique as a movement and perennially in motion.
If it is what we can do and we are so potential in our ability to grow, why are then we so obsessed with a law which was used by the colonial authorities to rule us, to exploit our resources in secret, by not allowing others to know what was actually going on behind the veil of inner line which was nothing but keeping us inside, forcing us to be covered not to see what was being done on us, on our land? Very simple. Being behind the line is a serious business and wanting to cross it is even more so!
(Dr Praem Hidam holds a Phd from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He lives in Delhi and can be contacte at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The article was originally published in The Sangai Express on 21 July 2015.