If Rene Descartes belonged to Manipur of today, the statement he made illustrating succinctly the idealistic position of the primacy of mind over matter, and arguably the most profound attempt at establishing the centrality of man in the universal scheme of things, might have probably run something like: “I Think Therefore I am Depressed”. For the uninitiated, of which we are certain there are only very few if at all, the original statement goes: “I Think Therefore I Am”. But jesting juggling of the great philosopher’s words apart, the reality in Manipur is indeed grim. Everything positive there is about the state, of which there undoubtedly is a profusion, has become eclipsed under dark, divisive and destructive forces. The more you think about the prospect of the next few generations and even beyond, the overwhelming sense you are left with is closer to despair than hope. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is still too remote to be seen, or even imagine. Look any direction and the stories of gloom overshadow those of sunshine. Consider the most immediate case chief minister two the neighbouring states of Nagaland and Mizoram, invited by the organisers of the Lui-Ngai-Ni festival in Ukhrul, actually speaking against the state’s integrity. They are obviously allowed to, this is a free country and Manipur has imbibed this spirit of democracy much more than the states of the two chief ministers in question. It is difficult to imagine what would have happened if a chief minister from another state were to speak against the integrity of the states the two are at the helm. Of course, this was part of a certain brand of political game pursued by a section of Manipur’s own population, and this too is okay, although we must add, irresponsible. It is relatively safe for the somewhat ethnic exclusive hill districts to pursue such politics, but the irresponsibility is when they forget the bad blood this kind of provocation would create in the valley where all communities live together. This is something like the objection Maulana Azad had against the campaign for Pakistan at the time of Indian independence. His objection was not so much against the idea of Pakistan per se, but the bad blood this would leave behind for Muslims in India. And as we know, there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan, and Azad’s worst fears are now evident in the suspicion of anything Muslim, and consequently the ghettoization of the Muslim mind in India.
Look at also the other pictures of the state’s future. Violence, underdevelopment, corruption, unemployment, widening ethnic divides, sinking public morale, etc, are becoming endemic and there seems no way out. Even the system cleansing mechanism of democracy – elections – are no longer a solution. None of the known and publicly acknowledged banes of the society, corruption to name just one, have ever been the clinching issue of elections in the state, and many with doubtful origins of their personal wealth, continue to buy their way to the seats of power. In fact, there have hardly ever been any election where the voters came out to give their verdict for a change. Instead elections have been more of a programmed behaviour, little connected or determined by any of the deepest concerns of the society. Franchise right has long ceased to be exercised with any faith in the establishment, or conviction in its ability to affect changes for the better. For this cynicism at least, we cannot help blame the farcical, gutless brand of politics that have dominated the state’s legislative history.
Consider also the fact that the real issues on the streets are seldom reflected in our elections – a fact enough to confound any social scientist. The apparent lack of faith in the established order so well articulated in so many violent protests and uprisings, and the faith seemingly expressed in the same established order by huge electorate turnout at every election for instance is a story not easy to collate into the same script meaningfully. Manipur today is a state which can in an explosion of spontaneous passion burn down the Legislative Assembly or else homes of MLAs and ministers, but it is also a state in which no boycotts of Legislative Assembly elections have worked. So between those who would have the world believe there is a fundamental dislike for the Indian establishment and those who believe the state and its people are wedded body and soul to it, where possibly can be the truth? Or is the story about a social schizophrenia, induced by contrary and coercive pulls of loyalty, and one which our political and intellectual leaders have not been either brave or resourceful enough to face and resolve? Indeed, anybody who cares to think deep enough on the affairs of the state and its possible future would most likely end up depressed. This is no advocacy for people to abandon thinking on these issues though, but to be brave and honest in their thinking.