Beneath the chaotic exterior of Manipur quite obvious to everybody, deep down in the society’s core, there is still a stream of innate social discipline running. The idea seems a little overstretched and fantastic to those of us in Manipur, forced by circumstance to live in the chaos and violence all around. The bandh and blockade culture; the depressing official corruption; the daily dose of homicidal mayhem; the routine but avoidable traffic snarls on the Imphal roads on account of unruly, selfish motorists, squeezing into every conceivable gap or making U-turns where they should not be, unmindful of the inconvenience and even danger they cause to others; the piling filth at public places that have long benumbed all sense of dignity of the society – the list of attributes that point to how Manipur and the Manipur society is at odds with itself is endless. Amidst all this the claim of an innate social discipline would sound ludicrous.
The claim is there nonetheless. It comes from many non-resident observers of the state. This is a bit of a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. It revives the belief that amidst all the turmoil, the ember of hope for a better future for the place has still not burned out altogether. The observation is based on what they witnessed during the recent long months of economic blockade, and the queues for petrol that grew longer by the day. The queues incidentally are still long enough to frustrate and depress those who cannot avoid them in trudging along with the daily routines of their lives. We see it and live it, so do not notice it, but others did. These queues never go out of control. Not only this, the discipline is such that the queues leave spaces at road crossings and whenever they cut across residential gates, acknowledging the rights of those not in the queue to pass by without hindrance. Nobody in the queues also try and use these gaps as excuse to jump the queues, which the observers say came to them as a surprise, as this is an unlikely scenario in so many other states of the country. They were also surprise that the people in general, for all the violence and mayhem they have come to be used to, still are so generously capable of taking the most adverse situation that confront them periodically in their own strides, without allowing them to sink the place into total madness. As for instance, the hill-valley divide which had on so many occasions reached dangerous flashpoints, never resulted in any communal violence, in the hills or in the valley.
There is hope that not all is lost yet. There are still some things left for Manipur to build a new future on and this is the challenge before all who have a stake in the welfare of the place. But this fact however does not automatically mean all will be well ultimately. Whatever good there is to be had from the situation, each bit will have to be won. Every inch of the comeback would have to be fought for with sweat and often with tears. While this is a challenge before everybody, there can be no gainsaying those at the driver’s seat of the state’s affair will have to take the lead. For the hidden inner discipline to be shown the way to come to the fore, the outer chaos will have to be first subdued, and order restored. There is no better place to begin than by reaffirming the belief in rule of law.
Before we are mistaken, let it be clarified that by rule of law we do not necessarily imply the breakdown of law and order on account of the complex insurrections in the state. On the other hand, we would like to stress that the rule of law is undermined equally by those who are precisely meant to be the guardians of the law. When was the last time uniformed men broke the one-way traffic norm? Recall the latest sensational CBI verdict on custodial killing. It did not say anything about respect of rule of law. Open and brazen official corruption, which today nobody even takes the trouble to hide or consider as a matter to be ashamed of, above all is an emphatic statement of this same disregard of rule of law. If the correction begins from the top, the establishment will have the legitimacy to reprimand or crack down on the rest of the citizenry for any flouting of the law. When we have flagged vehicles zipping through crowded streets, overturning every possible norms of traffic, it is inconceivable how others who are hauled up for traffic violence can feel any sense of justice. It will take the effort of all in unison for the innate discipline within our society that outsider onlookers notice, to take over and bring order to the collective life of our society.
Let everybody, rulers and subjects, give such a resurrection of our society a chance.