Something is just not right in the manner the blockades on the highways have been allowed to carry on with the government doing precious little. By indicating in the manner that it is helpless in dealing with the situation, the government is sending out very wrong messages to the people by and large. To the docile the message is they should resign and hope and pray for the best to come on its own. This is hardly the kind of attitude to be encouraged by any forward thinking government or for matter anybody in the position of guardianship, be it at the family level or else the larger society. To the aggressive, the message would be radically different. It would almost be a license for them to take the law into their own hands at any time they wish and arm-twist the government into submission and thereby concede to whatever they wish to have. This latter reading of the message is a sure recipe for a never ending chain of street politics aimed at coercing the public and by a relayed delivery system the same coercive message would also reach the government.
As a matter of fact, this grotesque cycle of subversion is what has already taken roots in Manipur. By its very inaction, the government has been encouraging practically everybody, including students’ bodies, to develop an unhealthy sense of controlling and possessing State power, disproportionate to what civilised norms envisaged by the democratic polity, as legitimate. Hence, insurgent groups are de facto parallel government, issuing their own decrees, levying their own taxes, raising their own military etc, but even if this phenomenon needs a far more sophisticated response, what is beyond understanding is, what is keeping the government from controlling what it is mandated to control and what is very much within its power to do so? Why cannot it take the law in its own hands and not leave it up to the whim of every so called civil society organisation to dictate terms of how and by what norms the people should be governed. We are not talking about civil society bodies which lobby or resist government policies in the positive belief that the government’s will is not rigid, and provided it is made to see reason to the contrary of how it sees policy matters at any given time it can be made to alter or even drop these policies. We instead have in mind the mutant versions of civil society bodies which have come to believe they are the government and can not only make laws but also enforce them with violence. Should not civil society bodies be actually civil in nature and limit themselves to just challenging the government in civilised norms. What we get to see when this unwritten norm is crossed is what we are seeing today – virtual lawlessness.
The current blockade scenario is increasingly turning out to be another case of this state of lawlessness and the worst part of it is the government is apparently not taking any positive step to resolve the matter. It seems to be saying that indecision is also a conscious decision. Such an interrogation of set ideas would have made fine material for absorbing postmodern coffee house academic discussions, but in matters of the hard and brutal politics of the state, such an attitude is threatening to leave everybody, especially children belonging to below poverty line families, suffer from malnutrition. In the worst case scenario, it could end up accentuating or fomenting communal hostilities. So why is the government not swinging into action. True the situation is not easy and indeed would be akin to a Hobson’s choice as a decision either way would earn the ire of one or the other group advocating or opposing the idea of the creation of a separate SADAR Hills district. But although it is a truism that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the chief minister has no other choice but to exercise his own judgment on what the right decision should be and take it. At this moment, the most immediate need is to secure free, open and safe passage on all the national highways that connect the state to the rest of the country. One is reminded of a junior school textbook parable of a farmer and his son who went to the market riding their donkey and in trying to please everybody by doing what they presumed would please each of them, ultimately ended up carrying their donkey instead of riding it. The moot point is, the government must do whatever it needs to do to have the highways opened up totally, be it by reaching a settlement with the agitators or else using the power in the state’s command. If it is abjectly unable to accomplish this legitimate function of the state, it must voluntarily abdicate its position and make way for a spell of President’s Rule in the state to tackle the situation.