By Amar Yumnam
We are aware or rather we can imagine the risks with which the humankind must have gone through in the process of evolution towards social formation.
Well, to begin with, we simply did not have the technology to tame the brutality of nature, winds, water, and what not. Everything was strange and a potential claimer of our lives. Well, the capacity to learn through experimentation and memories had taken us this far. In the process of applying our mind to reducing risks to life, we have walked through various institutions, from individual to family to village and now a nation state.
Promise of State: The promise of state and the necessity of it were founded on the failures of all the institutions before it to effectively address the human concerns for risk. Before the emergence of the state, the violations of contracts or agreements would lead to unsettled and non-arbitrated resort to violence from one or all the involved parties. The resolution was, in most instances, after the elimination of one or more of the involved parties. In other words, violence was the only arbiter of disagreements and conflict of interests.
But the human ingenuity has brought the institution of state into being in order to address inter alia the issue of non-symmetry of interests among the different members of the society. The state solely was empowered with the use of violence to arbiter conflict of interests and violation of contracts. Now this empowerment was to be based on effective governance by the state. In the present context, this effective governance practically means the effective arbitration of conflicts of interests among the members of the public or of organisations, and along with that reduce the risks to existence and create a sense of security among the citizenry of the state.
New Year and New Lowdown: The above are exactly what the people of Manipur expect and deserve. In fact, every group of population everywhere deserves this. We know that we have been increasingly living with rising risks to life without accountability over the years. The fresh new year too promises no change in the scenario. The governance has been as lackadaisical as ever in attending to the basic calls of the duties of the state. There are signs of rising signs of risks to life in addition to the already high risks to life. This proves beyond doubt that it is not just the collapse of the governance that we should be worried about, but we should as well be looking at the very dynamics of the character of the state over the years in order to properly appreciate the current malaise.
Since we have been living under the Indian state right from 1949, we necessarily have to look at the character of the Indian state as it has manifested in Manipur over the years. This is the only way to trace the evolution of a culture of violence and ethos to inflict injuries, including death, without accountability. Looking at the very institutions and organisations of state prevailing in Manipur and the very Statehood under the Indian Constitution, we realise on hindsight that all these were the results of years of violent protests when the normal ones did not pay off. Well, when the Statehood ultimately came, an ethos establishing that violence is a usable means to achieve objectives had already taken shape in the land.
This was followed by the foremost example of doing something wrong legally, and the process of eliminating lives without accountability. The armed forces of the state have been empowered by the “rules of engagement” whereby they get away with impunity any murder of public. The armed forces claim that they have their own internal mechanism of addressing excesses on the public. But that is internal to them and at best absolutely unknown to the public. What the general public observes and experiences are the armed forces pulling triggers on life and getting away with that. This has been happening in uncomfortable numbers and with the normal wings of the state remaining only silent spectators. While improving the reach of governance might be the objective of the presence of the armed forces, but the much lived experiences of the public convey the very ineffectiveness of state governance over the armed forces. All these factors have only reinforced the earlier ethos of violence as a usable means.
While it was only the state resorting to violence, the cumulative lessons absorbed by the public from the nature of the state, has completely generalised the belief in using violence and the effectiveness of it. This generalisation of the use of violence has made the existing state a complete failure in its role as controller of risks and insurer of lives of the citizenry.