By Amar Yumnam
Crises are characteristic features of any society at any moment of time. But the nature and characteristics of these differ depending upon the direction to which and speed with which the society is moving. On the positive side, a society may be moving up the developmental ladder, and thus many of traditional and existing institutions would be under pressure to live up to the demands of the changing circumstances. The beauty of such crises is that the institutions and agents themselves have acquired and developed a feature of evolutionary dynamics over time – this is what development is about – and as such would emerge stronger from the crises. In fact, the newly strengthened institutions and agents become a source of further upward evolutionary dynamics, leading to further round of crises. Such are the crises every society would love to encounter. But unfortunately for humankind, or rather to teach lessons to those unruly groups, there are crises of the other kind, the negative kind. The social dynamics are such that every aspect of the social system displays signs of decay. The prevailing traditional and existing established institutions become instruments for the unscrupulous agents to compromise with the very system and the social objectives. This forecloses the ability of the institutions to address any of the unfolding negative dynamics. The atmosphere becomes one where a few powerful, politically and materially, increasingly dictate the social direction and social behaviour. Crises in such an atmosphere are really painful and the general populace become victims of extreme violations of the rule of law.
Cost of Democracy: With the general elections getting nearer, the land of our birth is now experiencing a proliferation of “social workers”. With the state having been made to fail to deliver on the front of even basic developmental responsibilities, the arena for cleaning the drains, maintaining the roads and lanes, etc., has now become the thriving ground for the Manipur variant of “social workers” to prove their mettle. In the process, we now observe clashes very violative of the rule of law. One very prominent example is the one between an authority holding constitutional responsibility and another with no constitutional authority but a king’s man no doubt.
Sleep Lost: The unfolding events would make any conscientious person lose her sleep as to what exactly is the kind of crises the social in Manipur undergoing today. Are they of the positive variant or of the negative one as explained in the beginning?
If the conflict between an authority holding constitutional responsibility and another with no constitutional authority but a king’s man were within the bounds of the rule of law, it would be of wonderful utility to the society, but, unfortunately, it is not. This is exactly what worries any social scientist. Society has a very path-dependent characteristic, or as we generally put, history matters. The actions and events of the past have definitely impacted upon the shape of the society today, and today’s actions and events would go into shaping the society of tomorrow. Here I would like to go back to the social scenario of the land as we have lived through in recent decades.
The late 1980s and almost the decade of 1990s the model and manner of functioning of the law and order enforcing agency in Manipur took after someone presumably most decorated police officer as he is used to be described; he was the law unto himself and what he said and did was the rule of law itself.Under this general model and replicated in the commando wing of the agency, the organisation did emerge as the most unruly agency of the state. It was unresponsive, irresponsible and very difficult to account for. It really must have been a very difficult task to bring this agency to a condition of one possessing at least a semblance of responsiveness and accountability as it is today. But the task is still incomplete, and in the meantime the society has learnt many negative lessons and paid a huge societal price in the process.
But this damage was relatively easy to address. This is because the disease afflicted only a part of the system and not the whole. But the recently unfolding affliction is system-wide and involves issues of state, king and sovereign. The king is important not because he is king, but because he symbolises the existence of a framework for social and state functioning as well as the protagonist of the collective sovereign. If the king and his man start indulging in activities in complete violation of the framework for social and state functioning, and in complete suppression of the functionalities of other functionaries of the state, then we really are in danger. In this both the state and the sovereign are under attack from the king and his man. What we are experiencing is fast and absolute decay of the state. This decay of the state is not of the kind some philosophers look forward to consequent upon civilizational transformation of the people and their interactions. But, on the contrary, it is a very dangerous one where all the brakes on individual and social functioning would collapse. The direction this society is moving forward (or rather backward) tois a very violent one, and particularly cruel to anyone without material or political power. The social lessons the unfolding events teach the general population would be hugely negative, both wide and deep, and would be very long lasting. Remember every society has a long memory, and the long memory of the society of Manipur is being shaped in a dangerously violent way. Violence is itself dangerous, but couple it with danger, the resultant scenario cannot even be imagined.