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Friday, April 27, 2007

Thingchom: The small in global fever

One night I hello Thingchom. A small village defined by beauty. She has a river running besides her. Sometimes rushing away like excited children. She wakes up everyday to still dew. Faithful nature would still be there to greet her. Hills and mountain tower by her side. They slumber in their decades of undisturbed sleep. So peaceful their sleep was that one never knows when they would wake. One place where cow grass in peace as they were milked. Passion fruits, mangoes, papaya and sugarcane grow in plenty. She has the best jaggery in Churachandpur. But she was not in peace when I last called. She couldn’t speak. I was told that she was shot from across the river, Tuithra, the other night. I was told she was heavily guarded because the expectation was not good. That means it was bad. I thought to myself the heavier the security, the insecure she must be. Today security comes with guns and armaments. Not without. I tried imagining her in fear and unrest. She was ugly. The conceived image was dark and heavy. Big white gothic-like eyes. If the white did not show it was all black. And the colours were disturbingly unknown. If sin have a colour, that would be hers. Not her sin. Call it an inheritance again. The sin of the apple. It was difficult to imagine what ex-pression she would bear in such situations. Would she still be the one I knew? Would she still be the one I love?

Imagine love lost in the guess of imagination. Imagine holding a brush and a rich palette without being able to strike even a single stroke. The colours spilled and overflow with the desire to express. But nothing comes out. Not even a thin line. The blank canvas would only house imagination. If that were a warrior, he would be the least celebrated one. Armed to the teeth without meeting any enemies. A warrior unto the grave without a fight. Without any battle. Without a sight. Worst, without a cause. But a celebrated martyr. What do you call that? Fortunate son? Unfortunate son? Magical son?

That question reminds me of one of our pastors who retired from the service of the pulpit few years back. On his retirement the institution that employed him presented him with more than one, but two big silver pots and a traditional shawl, Thangsuo Puon that ended with a prayer. Nothing more than that. No pension. No savings. No investment other than what is hopeful in heaven. The sombre ceremony was no place to tell him to go and live peacefully. That was another cradle of his worries. All I could say was, God be with us. Throughout his service he struggled with a frugal life, if not broke. When he was not on fast, his diet was never balanced. After more than thirty years of faithful service he was not seen as a martyr. He left for Mizoram to become a cultivator to save his life from hunger and all insecurities that gripped him.

Thingchom was also a victim in that she happens to be the battlefield for people who were not supposed to fight. Or fighters even. That’s a trap where we all are entangled. Everyone is on the wrong side as we seek for the triumphant glory with small arms gnawing all our resources. Be it the little money that we earn. They gnaw and bite. Be it lives and youth. They rotted. Hope and peace too. Trust and values are ragged. All wane and went. They left without a trace. But fear grows in abundance. How can we export this for a good price? Are there buyers and market for those excesses? Or is this just a beginning for the perdition? Sometimes we are compelled to see the doomsayer’s dream. The nightmare is not far from what we live with everyday. The worst could be ours anytime. What about the best then? That doesn’t seem to be close anywhere yet.

We breed generation of fear. Generation of unrest. Generation of struggle. Generation of victims. Generation of reactors and protesters. That’s not all. Those generations represent the future. They represent us and them if there would be tomorrow. Imagine them shivering into new time and place. What would they tell their children if they were to situate their pride and bravery? Where would they be if they have to situate themselves somewhere? Will that puzzle the emerging sons and daughters? Will they blame us for not teaching them what it is?

Thingchom, the village that still house traditional knowledge and tools to seek their livelihood, boom with sophisticated guns. The catching up with things “outside” or “global” is miserably disturbing. I was told it even resulted in displacing and migrating the villagers at one point of time. The small barrel is not a mite. It is a might. The discovery was genius. But it serves everything that is unwanted. Blood peace. Blood trust. Blood understanding. Blood death. Blood martyrs. Everything is just bloody. People who believed might is right trampled the good-hearted villagers. If the incoming technology could only turn their soil, protect their cattle from all sorts of viruses, clean their water, deliver them latest news, and all that are still missing, the village is ever ready for green revolution, white revolution, and all that sort. The productive villagers that used to overflow with energy need no push to activate those revolutions. They just need a touch. That is enough to spark them for catching up. I could only ask from a distance, what have they done to my love as my small corner is caught in global fever.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mizoram:Peace in Peril

The manna-like bonus for being the most peaceful state has not made Mizoram any peaceful, nor “self sufficient”. The tag, otherwise, peacefully remains. And so does that tag mints money for the state. Even if Mizoram find enough reasons to celebrate that, it should rethink what the state is doing or going through. For many times the Congress who are at the opposition bench have been accusing the MNF led government of harbouring and sheltering all sorts of armed groups in the state. The local medias have also been raising the same issue every now and then. Those are not new, nor sudden. But the inherited image of being peaceful, which is bigger than the reality, overshadowed the peace that is actually in pieces. While the state basked in the fading tag, the pieces gnaw the thin blanket that heaped the peace bonus. The shade is lost as it reveals telling truth that put Zoramthanga and his government on the defensive. But the situation has already reached a point where it cannot just be saved by safer explanation. That would not anywhere change the gravity of the situation that may burst anytime. Once that happens, the state is certain to grope amidst the shambles to adjust, pacify, and accommodate the Frankenstein monsters it raised for itself. What is conceived today is more than the tip of the dormant undercurrent, which have spilled out of the closet that veiled the supposed peace.

The opposition parties strongly came out against the MNF led government in the recently concluded rally under the banner, “Chhanchhuahna Kawngzawh” (March for Salavation) that was held on April 3,2007 at Aizawl. The CM of Mizoram, Zoramthanga was called “not normal” by the Zoram Nationalist Party chief, Lalduhoma. Lalduhoma also accused the MNF led government for failing to make Mizoram a “self sufficient state.” The MNF led government was blamed for its “policy less government” by the Congress leader and ex -Chief Minister Lalthanhawla. Brig. T Sailo, former Chief Minister and MPCC president, also said that the MNF led government in Mizoram should be “ashamed” with the repeated “revelations of underground nexus and resign on moral grounds.”

It would be a severe downplay of the grim situation if the rally was to be interpreted merely as a political exercise. With many identity and sub identity movements and assertions swarming the state, the accusation rather hold tight water on the ongoing development within the state. Recently, 6 cadres belonging to the Hmar National Army (HNA) were killed at Tinghmun, Mizoram, which was immediately followed by the Congress legislator, Lalzirliana accusing the MNF led government, particularly the Home department of Mizoram, of having gifted 12 AK 47 assault rifles to an insurgent group during January 2007. The legislator goes to the extent of mentioning the registration number of the vehicle that was used for transporting the arms. The elected representative came under serious warning by the HNA, which was more seriously taken by the Congress party. Moreover, Chief Minister Zoramthanga’s power potent was brought into light with the revelation of his alleged support he received from an armed group during the 2003 general assembly elections. To assume these developments as ambiguous would not serve to erase the negative connotations that have already been drawn by the people of Mizoram.

Mizoram seems to have suddenly woken to the lesson of learning to live with the brokered peace as it has already found itself threatened. Is the state peaceful because several of the armed groups that the MNF government is alleged to be harbouring are under good control? What would the state be if any succeeding government did not maintain that thread? Is Zoramthanga architecting a win-win situation for himself by banking on armed groups for securing political fights, while he also secure their stay in the “most peaceful state?” Newslinks, the leading English daily from Mizoram, in one of its editorial said that the MNF party, through Zoramthanga, had close contacts with insurgents from the North East as well as those from Myanmar, which it said, “is a known fact.” The MNF party has also not denied this, but saving itself with the excuse of “facilitating dialogue” with the attempt to bring the underground to overground. How seriously it is doing is for the government to answer. But when the government could not establish itself a “self sufficient” economy, its selfless efforts to facilitate dialogue by booming the state with armed actors is too big a task for itself at the moment. In the absence of a sound economy, further threatened by Mautam’s (Bamboo flowering) famine, the attempt is seen as an indulged in unneccessary accessories. It is more so when many of the “dialogueing” groups it is harbouring did not belong to Mizoram. However, the efforts, if it is true, is worth appreciating for obligating the challenge of making peace. But if Zoramthanga is taking the rein unto himself for “facilitating dialogue” with the various armed groups that it is hosting without the knowledge of the government at the Centre, it would serve no one’s interest. If it is facilitating dialogue as it claimed to be, has he bridged any of the armed groups or their interest to the concerned authorities at the Centre? For any of the armed groups in the North East, it would be their last choice to have Zoramthanga or any of the MNF leaders to act as their mediator. Therefore, it is doing more harm than better if Zoramthanga is using them to establish his political playground.Even if the state happens to be peaceful, that does not make the state or Zoramthanga any better actor in peacemaking. The attempt to champion peace merely because its neighbours are declared “disturbed” is not a reason valid for the mission. MNF, once a seperatist group demanding for sovereignty, and today feeding on some bonus scheme from the Government of India, is rather a telling example of power hungry, if not money hungry actor. That alone is good enough for any of the armed groups to see the colour of the MNF led government in upholding their interest. This also becomes the point when the Mizoram public conscience fails to understand Zoramthanga’s extra mile attempt to be the peacemaker. Unfortunately , it has breed too many armed actors within itself. Finding a safe valve for these actors would be Mizoram’s burden anytime in the future. On the other hand, if the historical performance of Mizoram in peacemaking efforts has to exhume and examine, the peace still remains half baked. The accords that it has signed with various armed groups are still awaiting solutions. Assam, Manipur and Nagaland fares better in that respect despite the numerous movements, conflict and unrest they confront. If this is how peace is to be moulded, Zoramthanga is not the potter.Everyone knows the peace brokered is in peril.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Seized Conscience

The culture of doubt and contest has invaded our reasoning space quite recently in the background of inhumane sufferings. Call that the Thomas game. That has actually numbed us from exercising any proactive efforts in a very demanding time. Our sympathy and apathy seems to be too hard earned and reserved as our inclinations to our own community and unquestioned interests become more sacred. When militarization in Manipur is followed with gross human rights violations that also multiplies insecure constituencies, the unwanted culture that is overtaking our reasoning faculties act as an instrument of insecurity, rather than security as it is supposed to be. This has eventually resulted in defining who we are. This culture reflects the evidence of fragmented integration that we are living with.

We have been witnessing the strong movements to assimilate and “integrate” the Naga districts of Manipur into Nagaland. On the other hand there are growing assertions that also poke and bank on the baggage of identity and geography. That enhanced the insecure constituencies and multiplies them with non-state armed actors equally occupying the militarized zones. That actually makes militarization complete, with constituencies getting partitioned to become “liberated zones.” That is when people from mainland India, on their visit to the state, actually find the “end of India” when they stepped into these zones. It is no surprise when the end of India, they said, begins in Manipur. This is when I found militarisation delivering two meaning. One it shows the presence of India through the armed forces. However, the presence of the armed forces again delivers the question of “force” and “occupation.” Secondly, militarization also explains the absence of India too. But only if it is “forcefully occupied.” If then, the beginning of India is also seen in the military bases and outpost manned by the security forces. The unfortunate thing is that this geographical compartmentalization did not end in itself. Instead it takes to toll on seizing the collective conscience and further processed it to limiting them on those constituencies defined by community, ethnicity and what not. The individual as well as the collective, then, grow, cultivate and tuned their reason to serve their respective interest. If our ex-pressions were to be counted as mutinies, our “disturbed” compartments would be called the land of million mutinies.

Lately, the serious issues of landmines, forced displacement of the Kuki people from their land, and their alleged abduction have gained national and international concern. They also rap and ragged our reason and conscience. There was a strong denial on the part of the actors who were blamed for the acts. On the other hand several Kuki organisations went extra mile to prove that their unfortunate sufferings are true and real. When the context, Khengjoi block and New Samtal range in Chandel district, Manipur, situates in a fringe corner, situating them in one’s imagination so as to relate the grim reality becomes a difficult task. That becomes a point where the game of questioning, doubting and contesting becomes an inevitable affair. Do we need to make that an inevitable affair? Or are we doing this because the truth is too inconvenient for us at the moment? Or is it because this will better serve the interest of Manipur? We see three types of know-it-all species here. One who knew and speak out. The other, who knew but choose to be silent. Thirdly, who knew but choose to play that Thomas game. The videos of the Kukis displaced people and their testimonies, which were prepared by the Fact Finding Team comprising of Kuki Movement for Human Rights, Kuki Students’ Organisation, and Kuki Chiefs’ Association (Chandel) is packed with volumes. The videos have travelled far and wide, which is also doing the round in Delhi. They weighed with hard evidences that put a big question on the blame game. In a culture overwhelmed by the volume of promiscuous representation, there must be some practice by which the real and the truth is given a place of special attention, a demarcation that insists that it be seen and heard just exactly as the affected people are going through. We have cultivated a culture where it is impotent, though important, to satisfy human needs for an account of our dignity as creatures, less able to treat the human experiences of violence and suffering with the respect it deserves. One cannot help, but say that the truth is trapped as conscience is seized. This situation reveals how naive we are as a people. That old adage – the first casualty of war is truth – applies here. Doing this, we are corrupting Manipur’s historic capabilities of negotiating with inevitable differences. We are corrupting Manipur’s integrity and rationality. Corrupting Manipur’s conscience.

However, this actually comes as no surprise, when the state has been reeling under tense and compartmentalised situations that are costly. Costly on our peace. Costly on all our values and systems. Costly on our hopes and expectations. Costly on the suffering generations. Costly on our plural existence. Costly on our reason and rationality. We tend to pick and choose the others to be blamed, but that is not. No one is playing the win-win game here. But what if the seized conscience happens to be our heights of desperation where it blurred us from seeing the truth? What if this are signs of our helplessness? What if they reveal our adopted irresponsibility? What if they happen to be what will be cultivated and inherited for tomorrow’s Manipur? What if this is how we all accommodate the changing time that we all are negotiating with? How long shall we allow our embedded characters to continue?

It is stunning how we could quickly recast them and accept them as something about us. Is this evidence of abandonment of our treasured character? Call it the “collective responsibility.” We have with us a strong military presence that is, I don’t know, assigned with “peace keeping”, “war- fighting”, “flushing operations”, or “containment.” Neither of them really shows. But ever since those missions, they have gnawed into our lives. And we have not only aped, but has been victimized, marginalized, neglected and discriminated. Worst, our consciences are seized. This threatens our values, which we have collective chipped in to characterise Manipur. I just wonder who will be willing partners in remaking Manipur with the seized conscience. But it still has to be you and me. That should immediately grow to represent the collective space to cease the seized conscience.