In another ten days, another year would have come to a close. The more important question is, would a new beginning be ushered in with the start of a fresh year in beleaguered Manipur? Or would the same vested interests who today have a vicelike grip on the affairs of Manipur, ensure that the dreadful Limbo continues to determine and define life in the state. For anybody who has lived in Manipur long enough, it is difficult not to be pessimistic, and in all likelihood, the status quo would not be broken on at least most of the fronts. Life in Manipur will continue to be measured from one bandh to another. Corruption at practically every level of the official power hierarchy will continue to determine who gets what job and which government officer gets the preferred posting and promotions etc. Just as the Niira Radia tapes are revealing a deep-seated and unholy camaraderie between corporations, politicians and the media, Manipur’s version of such a nexus, the minister-bureaucrat-contractor triumvirate will continue to decide what percentage each should keep of the official booty from developmental funds. That is, whatever developmental fund is left untouched by various shades of armed extortionists posing, pretending, or self-appointing themselves to be the executive will of the people. Indeed in a peculiar way, the adversarial positioning of the state and those avowedly fighting the state, share a deeply entrenched vested interest. Since both represent power and its equation in the state, there is little anybody else can do to effect a change in this structure. The revolution which once sought to dismantle this structure has been effectively absorbed gradually although discreetly into the structure itself. The adversaries have in an undeclared yet profound way, begun to complement each other. One cannot anymore prosper without the other.
Although the end or the beginning of a year is just an arbitrary man-made marker, there is no denying everybody has come to be conditioned into believing this point in the annual calendar is where the old is rung out and the new is rung in. There is also no denying that this psychological tuning is important, after all, the mind is what colours up and motivates our lives. In the ten days ahead, before the old year ends and the new year begins, let us sit back and do a mental listing of what each of us as individuals and then what each of us as social beings want rung out. Let us also see if there is a discrepancy between the two sets of desires – what we want for ourselves as individuals and what we want for the society. The dysfunctional nature of aspirations in Manipur being such, it will not be a surprise at all if in many cases we discover the popular vision of individual welfare and societal welfare are diametrically the opposite. The duality that exists between corruption and peace is an apt example. In what has become the universal pursuit today in the state, everybody is after easy money, right from the top of the hierarchy of the social ladder to those at the very bottom. In getting their hands at money, the outlook today is, the end justifies the means. Therefore, from petty officials who take petty bribes to make files move, to the bosses who ultimately pass the content of these files who take percentage cuts of the monetary values promised by the files, everybody think their ways are legitimate. Petty traders to big time merchants do the same. Even the onlookers have come to buy this argument, and therefore would even admire lifestyles of the rich who live far beyond what their legitimate incomes would have afforded them. What is not realised is, corruption is a zero sum game, and not a regenerative and creative one in which everybody can win together. Whatever money is pocketed by anybody through corruption, and luxury or vanity he buys with it, is also the value that would deplete from the public fund meant to ensure quality life for everybody. It is also a thumb rule that injustice and deprivation ultimately would come to be translated into violence. So when somebody who has aggrandised himself through corrupt and unfair means, wish the murderous turmoil in this land came to an end so that Manipur can become the paradise it was once fabled to be, let him also realise he is more responsible for what Manipur is today than anybody else. If we are able to acknowledge this disparity between individual and societal concerns, let the resolve for the coming year be to bridge this gulf. There cannot be a better and quicker route to peace for all of us than this.