Democratic resistance produced nationalist ideology: seminar

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Imphal, March 25:The act of resistance produced the nationalist ideology and not vice versa, said Kangujam Sanatomba of Alternative Perspective Imphal. He was speaking on the second day of the colloquium on Militarism and Future of Democracy in Manipur at the Senate Hall, Manipur University, Canchipur.
The armed opposition movement in Manipur was a struggle for democracy, expressed Sanatomba while speaking on history, resistance and ideology.
According to Sanatomba, the “merger” of Manipur to India shrank the democratic space thereby creating a new dissenting class. This dissenting class did not at first contemplate the launching of an armed movement.
The response of the government of India was a result of the emergence of insurgency in the political landscape of Manipur. By the time statehood was granted, it was too late too little, said Sanatomba. He suggested that the present conflict can only be transformed or changed through political dialogue, either conditional or unconditional.
N. Somorendro, who also spoke on the same theme, highlighted the right of the state to safeguard its interests against the rights of a group to determine its own destiny. The culture of violence that Manipur has inherited as a result of prolonged armed conflict has even influenced our day-today use of language and differences are sought to be resolved through “phuge” (will beat you) to hatke” (will kill you).
Yumnam Rupachandra of ISTV opined that India has shown a tendency of responding to internal armed conflicts. But he also added a rider that the military paradigm is more brutal in the fringe states like that in the Northeast and Kashmir than elsewhere in India. He said that even the national media seems to endorse this understanding of militaristic response.
Th. Anjulika, a freelance journalist, raised the question of whether the media is actually prolonging the armed conflict or if it is facilitating a solution. She made this observation while speaking on how the everyday coverage of violence affects our thinking. While critically looking at how the media in Manipur has also been accused of selective stories and demonising the enemy, she said that the media in the state is also one of the “victim actors, as much as any of the people”. From 1993 till date, six journalists have been shot dead and a senior journalist have been abducted, too. Both the state and non-state armed group also believe that it is their moral right to pressurise the media, said Anjulika.
The remaining two sessions discussed women in Armed Conflict. Key speaker Renu Takhellambam Hangzo of Extra-Judicial Execution Victims and Families’ Association Manipur, questioned the placing of widows of various fake encounters as wife of terrorists in the dominant statist discourse while at the same time it obvious that political leaders take the help of and are supported by armed groups to come to power. She critiqued the discourse of development which does not take address the issues of hunger and livelihood. Grace Jajo of Forum for Indigenous Perspective and Action, who also spoke on the theme, lamented the fact that the response of women’s organisations in Manipur have a tendency to see violence against women in conflict situation along ethnic lines and responding selectively instead of forging solidarity against such violence irrespective of the victims’ identity.   Speaking on “Counter-insurgency and Politics of Development”, Dr. Bhagat observed that 60% of the state’s development budget is earmarked for the Department of Home which is the code for the police establishment. In this connection he raised the question as to what kind of development is the state undertaking which builds the police force at the expense of building vital infrastructure like education which gets less than 10% of the budget allocation.  Endorsing Dr. Bhagat’s stance, Arambam Noni stated that development is mainly pressed to the task of seeking legitimacy of the state in countering the armed movement. The third and concluding session of the colloquium will deliberate on themes which includes Electoral Politics, Democratic Norms and Practices and Democracy, Civil Society and Challenges.

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