Information Society and Manipur Society: Bloody Who Cares?

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By Amar Yumnam

The society of Manipur is at best a conglom eration of disconnected sets. The fundamental basisfor any society’s progress and enhancement of individual well-being is theexistence of certain norms characterising the daily functioning of the members.The British industrial revolution was founded and sustained towards a higherlevel by the emergence of specialised sets of population. Now all theseseparate sets were respectful of each other, trusted each other andcollaborated with each other for evolving a thriving society. Each setendeavoured to excel in the relevant area of specialisation, and in the processdid not hesitate to learn from the expertise of another set. Similar is the storyfor every civilised society. The degree of transformation of a society and thespeed of progression to a civilised world are determined by the strength ofthis interactive relationship.

Non-existentHere: But the scenario of Manipur is absolutelydifferent. The kind of social capital which we had experienced while growing upduring the sixties and seventies of the last century is almost extinct today.Those were the days when any positive development would be the commoncelebrating theme for all the members of the community. However a major changehas taken place in the interim period since then. Today there is no commontheme of positive development wherein all would sincerely join in thecelebrations. Any celebration today is at the cost of another set; there is nocommon celebration point involving no cost to any set of population.

Of coursediversification of occupations has been taking place in Manipur, though at avery slow pace. Now this diversifying process is not leading to emergence of astrong specialisation which can serve as the backbone for further societaltransformation. Rather the society and the polity have been busy engaging inactivities to resist the emergence of any scenario wherein specialists wouldoccupy a prominent social space. Specialisation somehow has to be deniedrewards. We have a kind of scenario in Manipur today where the people indifferent occupations are disconnected from each other. No group wouldrecognise the significance and role of any other group. Each group would behaveas if it is all in all – activity, knowledge and what not. Further each wouldbe busy deriding any other.

The ImmediateImpulse: I have emphasised above that it is asif the society of Manipur does not endeavour to nurture specialisation and expertiseand instead indulges in deriding anyone who might be in the know of things. The immediate impulse for writing this piece and the background has been thebehaviour of the media, fourth estate, in the aftermath of the recent killingof Osama Bin Laden. Almost all what the media in Manipur did on this was eitherreproduction or translation of reports from external sources. I am fully awareof the fact that the media houses of Manipur do not yet have the capability forposting reporters in the areas of occurrence. But what disturbs me is theabsolute lack of effort to provide any local input on the commentary side. Inthis age of information it is absolutely fundamental that the media play thecatalysing role of converting information into knowledge, and this conversionhas to take place contextually. This can be done by enhancing the commentarycomponent of the report on events with local inputs. In the immediate case ofBin Laden, the media could have taken comments on the possibility of his staywhere he was killed without being detected by the military establishment ofPakistan. We have in our little land two army generals fully posted and theprovincial police chief, besides other experts, who could have been asked aboutsuch issues by the media. Incorporation of such comments in the reporting wouldhave served many positive purposes. First, the reports would have possessed alocal flavour. Second, the request for comments would put our relevant expertsto be alert on all times about happenings not only here but globally as well.Third, reporting of such comments would serve as a morale booster for thecommon people in the sense that they now have among their midst people who cancomment on issues relating to their areas of expertise. Fourth, it could set in motion a positivetrend of listening to people who should be in the know of the core dimensionsof a debate, and thus ultimately strengthen the base expertise system of theland. All these effects would be of immense importance for taking the land andpeople towards a knowledge society by facilitating the process of transforminginformation into knowledge. But this is not happening.

While attackingthe media for it not rising to the occasion, I must hasten to add that thefeature is generic in the functioning of every agency in the land of Manipur.Education policy would be done or undone by authorities with no involvement ofeducationists. Social policy would have no place for social scientists. One canmultiply the narrative as the number of acts taking place in the land.

Why: At this point we need to ponder why such a situation prevails inour land. Without wasting any time, we can immediately say that this is becausethe system of governance has been twisted from development orientation so muchso that anything can be achieved socially, politically and economically intoday’s Manipur without using knowledge and without consulting anyknowledgeable person. What one needs at all is the capacity to indulge intreachery and cheating. Now this character has become systemic. The individualsgetting benefits out of this treachery have now become so powerful politicallyand economically that they do not want any specialised society to emerge inManipur. This is the tragedy of Manipur today. One group which can break thisnexus is the media, the fourth estate. But this seems least prepared for the role.

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