Anna Hazare Wins and Nation Building Suffers: Manipur angle to a country-wide issue

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By Amar YumnamIn the light of unprecedented cases of corruption, both in volume and frequency, two recent cartoons are of immediate meaningful relevance and doing rounds in internet circles. One is paraphrasing of a popular detergent brand. Here the Prime Minister is shown with full of scam-stains in his clothing ranging from 3G, Commonwealth Games and what not. The caption reads as: dag achha hai (the stains are good). The other cartoon is the same head of the people being sunk in a glass of water and almost getting drowned. Anna Hazare drinks out the water and the Prime Minister is left high (or is it low) and dry inside the drinking glass. Well these are wonderfully symbolic cartoons depicting the depth to which the country has fallen due to the endemic corruption. No doubt corruption is an issue which the country needed to address earnestly and head on. But the evasiveness of the Prime Minister was itself hindering the process of correction almost to the point of irresponsibility. The condition was ripe for a non-elected but sincere leader to emerge and press home the points. A new Anna Hazare was born. The government of the big country was brought to its knees and made to respond immediately. This is a new dimension of how powerful a non-elected can become in democracy, and ipso facto a demonstration of a new facet of democracy itself that election is just a single facet and not in all. There could be people and forces in a democracy that are more knowledgeable and more committed to the causes of nation. The Method and The Contrast: What has been of greatest interest to social observers is the cool (not cold) response and keen observation of the approach and fall-outs of Anna Hazare’s move by the people of Manipur. In fact, no other group of population might have been hit by corruption as badly as the Manipuris have been. However, they were not joining the bandwagon following Hazare’s attack on administration unlike in the rest of the country.This approach might have been prompted by the recent and live history of Manipur having to carry along with and on the fast of Sharmila for almost a decade and more. Hazare also adopted the same approach of fast unto death as Sharmila has been doing all these years. While the government of India has looked the other way all along in so far as the fast of the young girl is concerned, the response to Hazare’s has been immediate and positive. It is this differential response of the government of India to the same method of urging for policy responses for common good that occupies the mind of the Manipuris post-Anna Hazare fast. This needs critical examination. It is true that corruption is an issue that is country-wide in its incidence. In other words, the harmful effects of corruption are felt throughout the country. On the other hand, the case of a non-democratic and non-sensical piece of legislation, against which Sharmila has been on fast, affects only a miniscule portion of the country’s geography and demography. The legislation has not been experienced by the larger sections of population of the country and to this extent they are least concerned about it. Further, the larger sections of population of the country have very little, if any, knowledge about the demography and geography of the region where the controversial legislation has been put in place for decades together. In the light of the personal experiences of the people of the region affected at home by the legislation and while they move about in the rest of the country, the differential response to the two fasts, one by Hazare and another by Sharmila, has only served to validate and further add fuel to fire the long held opinion of the regional population. One of the most common grievances of the region against the government of India has been that of step-motherly treatment by the latter to the former. It is this which has been validated willy-nilly by the differential response of the government of the country. There indeed is a mass anguish right now running through the veins of the people of Manipur. Avoided: It is a moment in history in nation-making of the country when such feelings should not be generated in any group of population wheresoever they are. A country and nation is something where the whole is larger than the sum of the parts. But a country is very different from a sportsperson. A sportsperson has to concentrate on the sports where she is most competent and build up a programme of exercises specifically relevant to that. A country, on the other hand, cannot afford to do so. A country’s government cannot afford to adopt the behaviour of a sportsperson by selecting any specific geographic portion or person as more important than any other. Besides, no room should be created where any group of population can nurture such a thought. This is particularly so at this age and stage of evolution of the country towards evolution as a nation. Here the slogan of the recent census to the effect that each one of us counts and so should join the count is an apt one to be followed in the polity decision-making in this country. While merit should matter instead of corruption, absolute inclusiveness and equalisation of policy responses irrespective of the geographic location, and size and composition of demography are imperatives that should inform every policy making in this country.

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