Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba
Violence has been closely associated with Manipur since it transformed itself from a kingdom in 1974 to merge as a constituent unit of India in 1949. It achieved independent statehood in 1972. The circumstances surrounding the merger and delay in granting statehood caused discontent among the people and later formed the basis for the emergence of insurgency in the state.
Today, Meiteis dominate the valley areas and the hills are occupied by more than 33 major and minor tribes. With numerous armed ethnic groups operating as well as the presence of state security forces in every nook and corner of the state, have created a situation of armed conflict in the state. Armed violence has become an inescapable norm, in fact an existential condition, and the defining characteristic of the Manipuri society.In such a situation, the innocent public have become the victims. Collateral damage, on account of the armed conflict, is borne by the public. The innocents continue to be maimed and killed. In other words,they are caught in the cross fire.
Manipur is at a critical juncture today. The innocentshave lost their voices, which a functioning democracy ensures and safeguards. Fear for reprisal and punitive actions by the armed actors have literally extinguished their voice and cut off their tongues. Or perhaps, the inability to muster support on issues impinging upon their livelihood and survival mechanism hasrendered even uttering of a feeble sound of angst and dissent impossible. Take for example, the extortion spree undertaken by various groups and endless strictures imposed upon the public by the state forces. The tactical and material need of the armed opposition groups and justifications rendered not only on the stated illustration but also on “familiar” issues may sound perplexing to the public. At the same time, restriction to mobility and access to natural resources and other facilities in the name of security by the state forces have rendered the public mute spectators, not even as agents and actors, of a spectacular opera on violence. The public seems to have arrived at a critical juncture where they have come to accept the unholy truth of not being able to reason out reason with reason. Here lies the end of liberty and tragic farewell to democracy.
If Manipur is at a critical juncture, what is equally true is also the inability to make sense of the absurd and deconstruct meaning the nonsensical. Killing is absurd. Violence does not make sense. However, the twin-like siblings (killing and violence) rains everywhere. The problem is “who’ll stop the rain?”The satanic wedlock between democracy and violence, as in democracy enshrined in the basic law and violence scripted through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and joyful celebration of the unholy tie through rains of bullets and bomb blasts, have only made the public a mute spectator. Immobilised and paralysed by a fear psychosis, the public have totally abandoned its basic instinct to survive or even to cry or weep or to question the absurd. Democracy is an empty vessel today without the voice or moan of the people. Literally, the voice of the public has been erased by waves of violence.
In the midst of uncertainty and caught in the crossfire, if the voices of the people have been rendered mute, if the “reasons” of public are blacked-out and if the physical entity of the people are erased, then what prevails in Manipur?A law and order problem? Definitely no !There are survivors who dictate and frame rules for the victims to follow. They are the ones who takes joy in reaping the benefits of confusions or of the absurdities lying around like garbage. Paradoxically, each group are different from one another and they are not the same or alike. Take for instance, are all the insurgent groups alike? In the absence of “reason” and the death toll of democracy the sort of regime that has emerged in Manipur is “demo-crazy”. Crazy people rule over the people. The state of confusion is conducive for unleashing violence: precisely that is what prevails in Manipur. Victory to power of the barrel is the motto. And where do you and I as the common people figure? As erasable numbers!