Imphal, March 26: “Democracy which we are practicing in India is not a mature democracy,” said M. Nara, ex MLA on the third and the last day of the Colloquium “Militarism and Future of Democracy in Manipur” at the Senate Hall, Manipur University. He contended that the need of the hour is to fight for a mature democracy. He further observed that the role of the military is to protect the country from external aggression. However, military has been used inside the country against its own citizens, which is against the principles of democracy.
The present system is totally unacceptable. With this kind of electoral system, how can one think that the country will advance, he wondered. In order to achieve a mature democracy, electoral system should be complemented by grass root level practices like petition, plebiscite, etc.
Speaking on the theme of ‘Electoral politics, democratic norms and practices’, S. Mangi, Professor, Department of Political Science, Manipur University, pointed out three problems that are being faced in electoral politics in Manipur. First, increase polarization on ethnic line in electoral politics; second, decline of healthy party competition in elections; third, the trend of individual candidacy for elections particularly visible in the hill areas. These trends, he argued, has resulted from growing militarism in the society.
G. Amarjit Sharma, Lecturer, Nambol L Sanoi College, questioned why electoral politics is such a limited practice and whether electoral politics in Manipur can check the increasing militarization. He further questioned the two politicians, namely Radhabinod Koijam and M. Nara why the political elites and representatives of the state have been silent when one of their colleague’s son killed a youth recently? There was concern being expressed that a specific section like the political elites love to sustain the increasing militarism and that electoral politics needs to come out of this. Rajesh Hijam of the Sangai Express, commented on how militarism has impacted on the system of governance in Manipur. He also asked if democracy in true sense of the term is practiced in Manipur. In that sense, he asked whether the existing system is democracy or the dictatorship of the people’s representative?
There were questions being raised on the issue of delimitation, AFSPA, plebiscite, the role of ideology, role played by the non-state armed groups in electoral practices, etc. There was concerned being raised whether Indian democracy in Manipur has contributed to armed movement. Najma Phumdreimayum, Organisation for Development, raised a fundamental point on the nature of democracy in Manipur because even if we are told that we are in democracy, we cannot speak freely. Shreema Ningombam, Lecturer, Nambol L Sanoi College, focused on the concept of civil society from a gender perspective. She expressed that for women, politics is not only in the public but rather begins from the body itself. Women are considered as carriers of dignity, culture and tradition.
During the ninth session on the right to self-determination: polemics and possibilities, Bidhan S Laishram of Zakir Hussain College, Univerity of Delhi, said that there is the need to reconceptualize the idea of the “people” staking into account the present state of affairs in Manipur. Homen Thangjam, Lecturer at MB College, Imphal expressed the view that the time has come for a serious deliberation on what constitutes the right to self-determination.
The last session on future of democracy in Manipur: open discussion was chaired by Th. Tarunkumar of Manipur Research Forum (MRF). The panel of speakers included Pradip Phanjoubam of Imphal Free Press, Professor E. Bijoykumar of Manipur University, Yengkhom Jilangamba of MRF etc.