Your editorial of 5th July 2011, “Deepening Federalism” is forthright and bold. The logic of making an alternate arrangement for everyone in Manipur articulated in the editorial echoes what many are thinking today. It certainly stands to simple logic that even a child can fathom. If a child who has been playing marbles with others in a particular game wants out, and demands an alternate arrangement, such an arrangement would then have to be for everyone, would effectively have to be one that would alter the whole game. As a corollary, it also stands to logic that if the child’s primary motive is to break up the game through such a ploy, or by hook or crook, and have a few others come away with him from the game in order to set up their own elsewhere, then the rest of the children playing would easily see through the malcontent and straighten him out.
Manipur has always been a complicated game with many players, in the historical and contemporaneous scenarios. We have historical experience, as well, with many arrangements and adjustments among the players. Some have been more successful than others. Whatever the arrangement initiated or affected, a few foundations are pre-requisite. Political vision and will are necessary among the leaders. Opportunism is another; every coin has a flip side and it is for the leaders to think outside the box to grab such opportunities for even better long term advantage. Appeasement of one segment of a polity at the cost of others will only create other malcontents; thus such a solution has no vision. The use of simple idioms and symbols to carry radical changes are often underestimated. “Political solution”, “peace before development” (or vice versa), “integration”, “communal harmony”, etc., are examples of jaded idioms, evoking cynicism and plain boredom, that need to be replaced by new ones that can inspire younger generations.
The Swiss confederated arrangement is a federal one with the 26 regional and historical cantons retaining fundamental control over their own affairs. The Swiss federal government at Bern has certain specific functions only, such as national defence and foreign relations, a single currency and so forth. An important clause of the constitution was that it could be re-written completely if this was deemed necessary, thus enabling it to evolve as a whole rather than being modified one amendment at a time. We only have to look at the Indian Constitution and its average of two amendments per year to see the mess.
The State government has gotten itself into a trap by inviting and encouraging micro-management of our affairs to a union government seated in New Delhi, which is increasingly confused and fragile. Union jurisdiction needs to be clearly defined too. Parliamentary democratic representation in our legislature should be replaced by proportionate representation among the peoples of Manipur. A bi-cameral structure of the legislature is necessary. The system of direct participatory democracy through citizen’s initiatives and referendums should be introduced to bring about changes in legislation or an amendment of the constitution. If you want to “break free”, then you have ‘think free”. Presently, in Manipur, all parties of real or imagined conflicts chronically suffer from the same disease – cluttered thinking. Alternate arrangements require alternate thinking, it certainly seems logical to me.
Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy