Hollow Men

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A perfectly innocent man was shot dead in front of his family inside his own house and yet Manipur fails to be outraged. Or to put it more accurately all the outrage that seemed to have been building up, simply frittered away after the murderers owned up to the killing. Quite atrociously, all that everybody is seemingly willing to risk doing, including those who had decided to come out on the streets to protest (that is before the murderers came open), is to appeal to the murderers to furnish reasons for the execution. Implicit in this tame demand is nothing but an all round cowardice induced by decades of intimidation and violence perpetrated on them, but also by an inherent inward looking and selfish side of the character of the place`™s elite. The metaphoric Manipuri Lion of the folklores is suffering from a terrible sore throat and can do nothing more than let out the mew of a house kitten even when threatened. What a tragedy this is. We can only hope this condition is not permanent. To ensure this is not so however, the brave sons and daughters of the land would have to gather courage and come forward to stand up to oppression of any kind.

Implicit also in the same tame appeal is that summary execution even without the semblance of a trial in a hopping court is permissible, as long as the executioners have an excuse to furnish for the killing. This would further mean giving moral legitimacy to posthumous award of penalties to already executed victims. Or maybe nobody, especially those who form the supposed enlightened crust of the citizenry, believe in what they are saying anymore. One is reminded of W.B. Yeats`™ description of what Ireland had once gone through because of similar violence as we are witnessing in Manipur. He had described it in a poem `The Second Coming` as a hopeless situation in which `The best lack all conviction, while the worst./ Are full of passionate intensity.` Yeats however was not a pessimist and added in the next line with a wishful thought: `Surely some revelation is hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.` Manipur`™s morale today has hit the nadir. Hence, its enlightened citizens must step out of their cocoons to make Yeats`™ `second coming` happen in the state. The madness must be put to an end and everybody must shoulder the responsibility together. Everybody must step out to claim their right to dignity and dignified living. In this, to draw inspiration from a cliche, there is no fear bigger than fear itself and it must be shed.

The vocal section of our society who makes so much noise on atrocities by the establishment must also speak in one voice. There can be absolutely no difference between the way summary executions are carried out by many who profess to be revolutionaries and those killed by government forces. The BT Road daylight custodial killing that shook the nation`™s conscience was unpardonable, but so should be the killing of a mobile tower caretaker by militants inside his house in front of his family. The fabled lion in the soul of the place must be restored. Only this can be the salvation. But while this is very much a fight of the people by and large, the government cannot be silent spectator. It cannot forget that the most important reason for its existence is to provide security to life and property of the ordinary citizenry. It has been miserably failing in this duty all the while, resorting to controversial terror tactics itself in the name of counter insurgency measures, adding thereby to the aggregate of the all round sense of terror.
Meanwhile, the ideology driven resistance movements must also rethink on the road ahead. Fifty years down the road, the situation has not remained the same. The aspiration of the people have changed radically, as is natural everywhere in the world, and moreover, as argued earlier in this editorial, the people have been intimidated into abject cowardice, and they live in fear of atrocities, not necessarily perpetrated by the supposedly oppressive establishment, but equally, if not more by many who claim to be fighting the established order. They must come together and thrash the issue out among themselves, and if a sincere and threadbare dialectical engagement reveals that the way forward points towards a reconciliation process, they must be courageous enough to be ready to change course and pursue what is the obvious zeitgeist of modern Manipur and its people.

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