Site Meter

Friday, June 29, 2007

Clutching the Sliver

The growing tense complexities underlined by movements and assertions in the wake of new consciousness of rights and identity have been attached to the North East region with a negative connotation. The focus on Manipur further brought to light the forces of fuelled antagonism sprayed on unaddressed plights acting as the strength for the multiplying armed actors, who resorted to the extent of expressing with violence in pursuit of their interest. The once colonised region wakes to the puzzle of identifying its own interest with varied assertions in the quest for new accommodation and adjustment. This quest is seen by the growing voices as the unfinished agenda of the history that was not negotiated, consented, or consulted. The inheritance of that, by situating in new geographical context of nation state, under a new constitution has resulted in endless chaos followed by the ceaseless game of adjustment and pacification. The celebrated unity in diversity becomes a mess, which has been eventually whetted by politicians for their power bank. Democracy’s sanctity is dwarfed in the sink of caste, class, language, identity, ethnicity and various other forces that are growing at an alarming rate. While the success of all these active forces was hidden in the guise of democracy, the function and existence of the same has been stabbed to bleed profusely. In the process it reveals the confusion and failure of the top tower where the crux of all decision making process is initiated. The problems seem to be persisting at its undisturbed pace with crucial decisions getting nipped from the distant power corridors of New Delhi, when the fringe corners shivered with disturbing and fluctuating temperatures. That is when the present continuous tense in the region has to be understood not merely through its historical defect, but also through its humane aspirations.

One inevitable question is, is it necessary to blind the challenges and demands of the diverse interest of the region in the pursuit of that ambiguous national interest? That ought to be raised, as the region’s future is sacrificed in the dim of a militarised prospect that would continue to take an immense toll on the peace, welfare, development, education, culture, human resources and generations, if the carved policy and approach continues. The history of violence, unrest, insecurity and bloodshed, then, would be long ingrained if that occurs. Militarisation, armaments, and the employment of the most sophisticated weapons in the North East are evidence of the pursuit for “a technological solution to a political problem.” That is when, instead of putting the national interest first, the need to convert the region’s hope, desire, aspirations and demands and challenges to grow along the larger interest of the nation would be the inevitable quest. This becomes more necessary in the context of the plural realities of the region. If history had failed to act as the filter towards understanding the marginalized people, culture should be the inevitable filter today. That does not mean that the historical defect could be ignored altogether. However still, that would not be an all out solution to the blown out situation, but it would very much act as the panacea than the mere inactivity with the excuse of the existence of a larger diversity outside the region.

The decades of instability accompanied by militarisation and ceaseless counter-insurgency military operations, which has already been stabilised and constitutionalised, has severely stirred the democratic establishment. Not only that, democracy is faced with the danger of losing its charm over relatively unexamined anti-democratic forces in the hands of the State. Despite America’s failure in Iraq, the principle enunciated in the US Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual should also guide the country’s hawkish policymakers who are supposedly acting as North East think tank, when it said: “The primary objective of any counterinsurgent is to foster the development of effective governance by a legitimate government.” The installation of elected representatives in the power structure has already become the problem in itself. Moreover, they are not evidence of the existence of a healthy democracy. Their ability to dominate the political process with amazing survival skill has, otherwise, snared the democratic space where they failed to represent the people’s interest nor understand the national interest or deliver governance. We still haven’t seen our politicians extending their dogged struggle beyond their quest to wrest power for themselves. As the wheels of democracy remain rusted in their power basking game, we are confronted with too many questions. Were Manipur or other states of the North East militarised because of a massive failure by the intelligence agencies, or a leviathan failure by the so-called politicians? In either case it is appalling and it would be the last possible resort to make an excuse and blame the people, which otherwise is the practice. Tomorrow we would blame Myanmar or Bangladesh, if not the ISI or Taliban, though Pakistan is too far not to be ignored too. KPS Gill, in 1984, said, “Terrorism is encouraged most by weakness in political leadership and confusion in the security forces.” While the statement holds enough water to let us look within, the question today is, what are democracy’s chances in the region?

On June 26, 2007, Defence Minister AK Anthony reiterated that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act would stay. His tone sounded firm with no immediate intention to repeal the “draconian law.” The Defence Minister’s concern about the human rights condition and the need for a more humane touch to the existing Act, AFSPA, in the North East only reflects the absence of those democratic substance, which otherwise should function as the foundation of any democratic set-up. Many a time we have been accorded with burnt out strategies, call it policy, to negotiate the defected history, culture and aspirations. These policies are residues of suspicion despite the supposed Centre-state relations. The region has sacrificed abundantly with its dwelling in that suspicion. Today there are compelling reasons to talk about the need for more Centre-state cooperation than merely hinging on the old relations. The perception from outside the region that comes in the language of policies, laws and acts, as well as the failed elected democratic limbs has no relation to the demands and challenges of the new people of the region. There is a need to see the region as new by shedding the old powerful spectacles of the old Leviathan that is used to scan the old geography. There is also a need to revive the sick state of education, economy, sports, infrastructure and what not, instead of oiling the politicians with never delivered promises. Otherwise, the images of insecurity, unrest, dissidents, and militants would continue to grow out of suspicion to blur the needful aspirations and visions of the region. If that were allowed, the region would certainly move towards bigger and heavier militarisation that would only lead to the decadent dance of democracy. The people would be left with nothing more than deprivation and the remains of democracy, but also to helplessly clutch the sliver.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wrestling Insecurity

The fire fighting game that followed the recent mayhem in Chandel’s Moreh ought to raise collective concern. Despite the heavy militarisation of the state and the small border town,
the authorities still cry of “security lapses.” The lapses must be like a big black hole. The state of security is faced with inescapable questions once again. But who will answer? Bob Dylan would say that it blows in the wind. While the Assam Rifles were accused of inaction, the irate IRB, on the other hand, came close to revolting as they were severely restrained from resorting to retaliate with available resources to counter the invading militants. The IRB were then compelled to vacate their post even when residents belonging to a particular community were displaced to Myanmar. Did their superior or numb political muscles deliberately create the abject wait for orders? The Assam Rifles would be facing a magisterial inquiry for the alleged inaction. It will have to be proved if there was slack, negligent or biased approach that allowed the situation to grow when it could have been nipped in the bud. Whatever is, we have successfully moved from individual aberrations to a more generalised and dangerous institutional collapse.

The plights of the people who experienced the “lapses” was only saved by, call it the hands of god, which otherwise could have escalated with grimmer gravity. The magisterial inquiry would only, if it works, resulted in checking the loopholes, but what reason would it inculcate to explain or justify the irreparable damage. Despite the vulnerability, the communal fire not spreading outside the border town is evidence of the surge of popular sentiment for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence. It also showed the fatigue that everyone bears in the mad race. That saved us from the spiral of justifying a killing by citing the killing that preceded the last one. The positive development should not be allowed to escape unconsciously. Rather it should be read as Manipur’s collective stand to question the seemingly inevitable forces of illogical sink in communalism or ethnicity. There should be a greater movement towards empowering that compartment. The response succinctly delivered the desire to freeze the usually hot winds of hostility that has gnawed into our peace and security bank. Even though the layers and tracks of diplomacy were not pursued, situations limp back to normalcy, though under tense expectations. The whole development is a telling fact that we, who celebrates the dwell in amazing diversity, are victims of the vulnerable veil of the same plurality. In Manipur’s context the thin thread could be exploited more easily than anywhere else. But it should never be misread because this inevitable diversity is not a threat. It has acted as the bond towards understanding the complex ingredients that accompany the diversity and its differences. That bond remains the instrument for peace building. It is only when the actors, State as well as non-State armed actors, supposedly representing our rights, peace, security, dignity, identity and freedom toys with the complex fabric that we are sacrifice at its bloody altar with all that we have. Otherwise, we are peaceniks and not communal beast compelled by the push and pull factors into unwanted crossroad. Our situation is only deteriorating under the menace of the same actors. With the big global village behind us, we are equal victims of widespread deprivation, drastic economic cleavages, corrupted system, rapacious elites, decreasing human security and misplaced law and order. One of the threats in the midst of this diversity would be to uphold the destructive idea of the winnability for greater power or superior identity in the sea that could show up anytime with its divide and differences. The civil society should also avoid itself from bandwagoning with the various strains outside its own sphere. Otherwise we are not left with much to choose. Either it would be to quest for peace or tread the path of chaos, insecurity and militarisation. Worst, we could descend into the abyss to realise ourselves lesser than our belonging to a community and ethnicity. The civil society in Manipur is, today, faced with a greater challenge to influence public policy by activating new avenues of reason for long-term interdependence. We cannot allow ourselves to fail and blame on the “lapses”, which otherwise we ought to occupy as our obligations and our own space.

Despite the odds, Moreh’s experience is a lesson for the plural constituents as well as for the authorities who are increasingly strengthening the presence of security forces in the State. Moreh’s mayhem has been grafted on to this peace less structural setting, transfiguring it, making it more violent and repressive, and multiplying the suffering of the already suffering people. The State should not fail anymore. It cannot afford to fail in the face of intense and expensive militarisation. If it is already facing a dead end, send the boys home and build school, playground, roads, trade and business centre, hospital and all that is missing. Besides, lay bare the table for dialogue unconditionally, instead of sacrificing our peace, lives, rights, dignity, freedom, future and generations by sticking to stale conditions. In its attempt to stop militancy, the State has also become a repressive militant actor. The only unexplored potential lies with the people of Manipur. Reclaiming that power to carve a space for our peace and welfare is the biggest challenge before us. Stability and durable peace can only be achieved if the security operation includes an economic, educational and cultural dimension including human rights, democratic values and fundamental freedoms. It is true that the dominant militarist, statist and masculinist theory and regime of “national security” or “international security” should be replaced by one that is de-militarised, peace loving, feminist, universal, and people-centred. Otherwise it will be a different survival game for us where the winner would continue to wrestle a vain myth.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Plaintive Echoes

The unwanted tense in Moreh is not only a return to the state of nature. It is also a gullible celebration of the state of nature that we have been nursing fervently. The nurse needs a bad nursing. That is when the bruise got bigger with an insatiable vacuum that thirsts for all that we barely have. Be it the brief visible life. Be it the unseen breathe. Be it the fluctuating pulse. Or the thin and brittle surface of the lurking peace that hide as we continue to seek. Much before we could ask if it would be worth quenching them, it tolls on us. We bled with tears and blood. Bled the little corners and incites them further in the name of blood. And in the name of narrow and dirty bloodlines. The more we bled, the more we become blinded. We plant olive between thick walls. Too thick that we cannot see them grow. Too thick that we never knew it was planted. Too thick for the plant to grow big. Just too thick. Never knowing that when it grows big the shade would be for everyone’s bliss. If the bliss were not what we are seeking for, it would still deliver us salvation. Salvation, not only of some sort, but all sorts. If even salvation were not the quest, then it would be at least for peace.

Communal killings. Shoot -at-sight orders. Curfew. Protest. Charged ex-pression follows. They seem to have been necessary staple in our everyday lives. Unfortunately. Evidence that our peace lies in shallow drying puddles. Looking murkier than ever as blood-hawk multiplies. When will the multiplying small arms be silent for peace? The celebration of the unfortunate discovery drives peace away. The vain celebration. But the dove fly so high that it is hardly visible. Never visible anywhere. In desperation, mortals confessed to be leaders laid tables. Round, square, oval and blunt tables were laid to broker peace. They negotiated and doctored to fit the fragile quest. Communally fuelled and clogged air pollutes the dove’s flight. Peace rains no more. It drained with a toll on precious irreparable lives. Innocents were sacrificed willy-nilly. They die in their blooming youth. Warm tears shed when peace dries up. When will we see the last drop of tears and blood in our stricken vales and hills? The looming sophisticated negative accessories that are exported dwarfed us all in the absence of peace. We become elf-like. Unnecessary make up clothed us with insecurity. Reducing the men and women we are. Reducing the human in us. How shall we rescue our traumatised psyche from the spiral that numbed us? We need peace, not merely to relief the evident vacuum, but to cease our communally ignited mindset. We need peace to revive our society, education, economy, culture, and history. We need peace to revive our progress, hope and aspirations as a people. Peace, which is absent, is suppose to be our biggest resource. Otherwise, if this persists, we will be wavering in bleaker pursuit of more bloody battles. The winner will not occupy the land. Misery will. Poverty will. Unemployment will. War hawks will. Incompensable battles resulting in losers multiply. The winner seems to be an eluding myth. Who will win when there is bloodshed? Who will win when tears overflow? Who would dare say, “I am the winner”, after killing his own brother? Our moral climate is deteriorating. Is this an effect of global-warming, taxing not only on our climate but other resources too? If not, then this is man made too. Our made. Have we patented it to squeeze ourselves dry?

The Leviathan has mastered to distance itself. Today it is concerned with making its shoe size bigger than before. No matter even if its head and feet did not fit into. The thirst fits everywhere. Their game is limited to the belief that size does matter. That is our government? Our problems have blown out to become untouchable for them. Law is never in order. The order never reaches anywhere. We are compelled to choose with nothing much, but to adjust ourselves to the blown-out cases, which has become ours. Meanwhile, like small-uncelebrated gods, politicians continue to scuffle for power. The thirst for portfolios is bigger than that of peace. Power has become a means and an end in itself for the holders. When will it reflect in work, responsibilities, obligations, truth, justice, fairness, welfare, progress, development and all that is miserably missing? A begging government dependent on people’s vote but independent in all it’s functioning. What about its role and responsibility? What about its obligation? Does it have any credibility and integrity as a government? Does it ever realise that it is directly as well as indirectly responsible for the present tense in Chandel’s Moreh as well as all the other stale mess that we are compelled to live with.

We have been accommodating failures and blunders. We have mastered the art and craft of it too. Accommodating them to the extent of surrendering our suffrage for no good at all. Accommodating them with our silence. Accommodating them with our bruised reason. Accommodating with our ignorance. Worse, never questioning the corrigible. It would be good to be reminded that the power to change lie within us. Otherwise, does this democracy, if there is, have any space left for us to make decisions. Old bottles with the spirit of new wine have left us with a clogged space. Degeneration speeds up under the nose of grey corrupted hair. Their supposed power is a mite. Their supposed might is a myth. And their promise limps with all the bruises that would, if we still allow, gnaw into our own generations to ruin. Shall we continue to allow?

The State has resembled a labour room that fails to deliver. It rang with frantic ex-pressions. Of pain and desperation. Of anger and restlessness. Of shock. Of the misery of sin. They have become a normal routine though. The vices are masked in a hood. They hold the sinful power and the gory glory. What we beget is in the hole. The barrel. Justice in the barrel. Peace in the barrel. Power in the barrel. Freedom in the barrel. Democracy in the barrel. ex-pressions and suffrage in the barrel. The past and present numbed in the barrel. The only question is, will the future remain in the barrel? Our might bowled and bowed in the barrel. Our strength freezes in the barrel. Generations infested in the barrel. Generations invested in the barrel. All actors resorted to the barrel. State actors as well as non-state actors too. The barrel State. When empowerment is through the barrel, it draws bloody lines. It draws communal lines. Ethnic lines. What not? It draws all unwanted lines by erasing peace and the desire for it. The residue is a plaintive note that echoes over the hills and vale.

Friday, June 8, 2007

On Long Quest

The pillar to post efforts made by the Hmar Women Association (HWA) in the interest of Tipaimukh raped and molested victims remain a ceaseless endeavour. This is a telling tale of Manipur’s extraordinary women who are standing upright for the cause of truth and justice. Irom Sharmila Chanu’s name similarly stands out to represent the same. While the issues they represent differ, the quest is for that undelivered justice that still eludes them. However, what is interesting is their dogged belief in the midst of a system that could only loom large with all its ambiguous characters. What more could the Leviathan mean to them? Like Sharmila, who humbly told the Court in Delhi: “Fasting is my only instrument. I have no other means”, HWA also said the same of the seemingly ceaseless relay race they are made to run. In the process, they were made to confront, if not a post that is bigger than a pillar, then, a pillar that is bigger than any post.

The mathematic calculation would read their efforts to be a zero sum game. But the cause that these dauntless women stood for, represents a win- win battle. They don’t have too many words to say. But they have the undying flame to burn out obstacles that are critically imposed on their paths. They have exercised all possible language to assert their voices. Be it fasting, rally, sit-in protest, petitioning and other old as well as new social movement languages. Languages that they have mastered to realise justice. Consequently, law takes its course, if not to investigate, examine and cross-examined the gravity of truth, then to charge them with an attempt to commit suicide. One never knows how the ambiguity of law would be interpreted and translated to strike them back in the course of their movement. However behind that, the unshakeable truth looms to enhance and enthuse them in their journey, however long it would still be.

Reality showed its grim face when it seems to say that sufferings and truth are not enough. That is when the might and strength for social movements become important than the sufferings or the truth of that. That is when a sophisticated stage like drama becomes a necessity. Like it was said in the Book, “Man does not live by bread alone”, the issue is not going to be addressed as long as it feeds only on the staple truth of sufferings. Shakespeare who, before saying that all men and women are actors, said that the world is a stage. However, the access to that stage becomes not only an expensive affair, but also a bigger problem for the victims and any affected people who are confronting situations in the fringe periphery. That is when issues from those locations, if not negated, remain not merely under-reported but unreported despite all their deservedness. Many serious issues that spilled out of Manipur’s periphery not only failed to get the necessary attention, but also will continue to remain so merely due to our own reality of the centre and periphery divide. Many in Manipur called that as hill and valley divide. The hill districts remain to be the smaller canvas of political battle and social movements. If this continues, Manipur will very soon see more fragmented and compartmentalised issues on the streets that would pitch in more diverse actors, even the impoverished against the privileged. Otherwise, even today several issues have been divided on similar lines. Even if with time, the already excluded are finding a voice beyond the periphery neglect, the strength that it garnered to represent that collectivity remains. Similarly, on the part of the privileged actors from the centre or valley, who are championing languages and other urban advantages, the question of representing the collective need to be answered with the reminding remainder who fits easily into the “exclusion” compartment. Championing an issue for one compartment fails to represent any collectivity even though it is attempted desperately. The unfortunate reality remains to be that little of this is discussed in the deaf and slumber of not only the periphery, but also even the excluded in several sections of the centre.

A week ago, the delegates of HWA who met the President, along with the rape issue, also raised their concern over the unabated plights of the tribals in the hill districts of Manipur. The issue is still alive with the displaced Kukis who are still taking refuge in Manipur’s Moreh. What about the landmines victims? What about artificial limbs for them? These issues remain unaddressed. Do we care if these people were never repatriated? Do we care if their lives are not secured?
A team of the National Commission for Women (NCW) who visited the Moreh displaced people settlement on May 21, 2007 reported that there are 27 pregnant women in the camp, 227 minor girls, 136 children of the age group 0-6 years, and 150 lactating mothers and 306 men. NCW took serious note of the running out of and absence of food, medicine and safe drinking water in the displaced people camp. The humanitarian lifeline for the displaced Kukis is more fragile than one could imagine. How can we develop humanitarian operation when needs are growing while our ability to help is severely curtailed? If one imagines these unwanted realities to affect the population in the centre or the valley, the outcome and the response that it would have sparked would be predictably different. It would be a big relief to the issue as well as the victims to have a backing force in such dire situations that is turning to become grotesque. It is alarming to witness our ability to reach people in need shrinks dangerously low. It would be a grave situation for the State if we could silently sustain this climate.

Today the need is for prioritising the gravity of the issues and not the geography, people or community. On the part of the State, the need is to do away its heavy foot-dragging exercise that it has been successful and popular for. The government is showing little interest in saving lives. On the part of the civil society, individuals as well as groups, the need is for admitting and upholding the universality of human rights. The need is for deconstructing fragmented compartments defined by dialects, language, and potentialities. The need is for looking to one another and conferring to one another. The need is for interdependence. We need to do away with efforts that sapped morale and limits freedom. That would draw the collective reality on demanding issues that remain debated, questioned, ignored, neglected and excluded. Otherwise, be it the pillar to post running, or the sophisticated symbols and languages, our quest will remain longest.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Marx opium overflows

The 3:00 pm affair on the seventh day has tolled our 24X7. Sacrificing everything at the altar of signs, symbols and memories that has become popular. It tolls the best of our time as well as the last penny from the empty state treasury that was supposed to aid our education after it trickled down to our parents. We sacrificed. Beyond belief. Beyond our needy need. Are we doing it in the name of the Word? Pilate would wash his hands here if he were still around. Nonetheless, it has become our washbasin. But the question is, is there cleansing here? Can there be? Will there ever be? It has only become an effective tool for carving social acceptance. Fake disguise hatched the congregation. The liturgy too. Lifeless, despite the uphill attempt to revive the unseen to be made seen. Clogged minds act as narrow projectors. Rusted leverage demanding reverence squeaks like old horses. Hungry for the obscure. Hungry for the vain. And for that mite. If not then, they vetoed to pick and choose mortals who would fit into their sink of coterie. What will we inherit, than the bags of shame and degeneration? With no stand in credibility and integrity, halleluiah, saying this is the time. The chosen time. And there it is, the celebration. There it is, the devotion. There it is, the defining line. The corner of embracing the surrogate sons or daughters of that supposed holiness. It reminds me of the struggle for power before the light and darkness was cycled. The vain grope. The elephant seems to be a big pillar if not a big thick leaf. Shakespeare was right, for all men and women are mere actors. The act that made Pharisee see vanities. Sweet words flow. High sugar but less spirit. The overdose sugar milked the diabetic spirits. It is not good for the soul. It did not even reach the soul for which the Word was sown. And for which the Word still is. Man’s failure would be to reap time and emotions without touching the soul. But the whole design was to become soul winners. Not emotions.

Generation of sinner’s celebrates in unquestioned delight. In the name of the Word that light the darkness. But the ceaseless celebration resembles Stephen Hawking’s black hole where even the biggest white glaring beam is gulped into total darkness. Never asking the dwell in the light or dark. High sugar turns diabetes blind. We forgot to reach for the bread. We took the snake. Maybe the venom has blinded us. Checking reality demands that we choose the bread. Otherwise, where our bloodlines flow, the toil and expectation is not to be the snake charmer. But breadwinner. In the Book it was the act of multiplying the bread and fish for the hungry bowels. Preaching follows. There is not much recorded what was preached. But the act is the biggest recorded message in that mount. We still failed to see.

Meanwhile, we are helplessly observing sub-culture growing out of it. We rejoice in the mute of the alarm bell. Justifying oneself and forgiving oneself cost lesser than the thirty silver coins. Sin is not the apple-eating act alone in the forbidden garden. Losing the light, which Home’s hearts hope to see, is no lesser than any sin. Dimming hope and expectation in the sink of the overflowing brevity is no lesser too. Maybe life is too short to realize its brevity. The last penny was while away. While weary brows and salty sweat bend and gray in the dusk. But there is no worship holier than work. The spiritual wild-goose chase is not the route to the Kingdom. Have we lost the shared glow for the glory? Have we dimmed them all? If this persists, degeneration would one day weaken the soul. The soul will also need bread. If not a victim of the thirty silver coins, it would be of the kiss of the flesh. That Judas kiss. It was never said: Blessed are the needy, they will see the Kingdom or live happily ever after. The threatening culture or subculture has the good strength to digress vision, aspiration and interest. It will then digress and substract focus, will and determination. The grace period of the Holy Spirit is not that merciful. We could leave without a trace before the Kingdom comes.

It is not a doom saying. But not that it shouldn’t be read with that flavour. Exported mortals feeding on fractured economy wasting time and youth to fancy whims. And that in the name of religion. It would not please our earthly gods who nursed us from the foetus. Let us not forget their toil. When the world outside our village booms with reason, knowledge and wisdom, we drowned beautifully in ancient belief that still requires translation to our context. Tasting the buds of superstructure culture where some sort of spirit dwells, the sight dims. Drunken reasons murdered with the supposed unquestionable sanctity. What if we represent the generation that inherits the loss? Will you be responsible for starting the fire? But the power and glory is not housed in those empty structures with decorated wooden pulpit and upgraded music softwares. They are like empty accessorized tombs. The temple is there in you. The frontier seems borderless. But it is there right within us. Within you and me. The Kingdom will come there and nowhere else.