There is no two ways about it: crimes are on the rise in the state. And while it is common for more crimes targeted at women and children taking place in Manipur today, the general overview of the crime scene in the state is that apart from petty crimes like thefts and vehicle lifting, there are the more serious ones of child trafficking, drug trafficking, murder and rapes happening. Technically, there is another category of crimes that are being not taken into account: mob justice which ranges from public lynching to dismantling houses to social ostracization, tonsuring heads of ‘immoral people’, mob vandalism and arson. To begin with, the growth of crimes in the state today reflects one major phenomenon: that of disconnect. Disconnect between individuals and the society, between different generations of people and disconnect between crime and punishment. Parallel to this disconnect at various levels are the common denominators for most crimes in the state today which are again centered on sex, greed and power equations. This phenomenon is relevant in other societies and other states except that in a state like Manipur where the police action and legal process tends to be well below the mark, there is an implied room for more crimes to happen since there is the knowledge that not much will be done about them.
In every society, the wide gap between the economic and social rungs of its member constituents inevitably creates a friction between unequal partners with the elite getting the best advantages and opportunities and the lower strata getting the leftovers. The ones at the bottom and the near bottom rung becomes the unwanted and the left out in terms of getting better opportunities in life while being aware of what lies beyond their grasp. And because they want better but don’t have the chance, they will be the foot soldiers of most crimes: getting into petty robbery, becoming couriers for drugs or arms or trafficked children and the ones who will be ready to pull a knife or a gun or a bomb or a demand letter for a few thousand. This is not to say that the upper class does not get into crime. For them, it is their power equations that will give them the heady sense of getting into various crimes and getting out of them that will pull them in. The greed for power and acquisitions ties the upper class and the lowest class in society to crime.
The tendency for the frantic pace of moral policing on one hand and the equally desperate reaction of rebellion from the younger generation, aided by the breaking up of social support systems is another factor that contributes to various forms of crimes. At one point of time, the cultural practice of eloping before marriage involved the entire family on the prospective groom’s side. An eloping couple would be given shelter at a friend’s or a family member’s house where the woman would be led to spend the night with the women of the household. Today, it is almost unthinkable that an eloping couple would seek the help of family elders. If at one point of time, eligible young men would come courting at the homes of eligible young women while their guardians kept an eye, today’s community leaders swoop down on young people who have resorted to meeting in darkened rooms and secluded places. The morality debate will have to be dealt with in the context of the lack of emotional connect and communication but specifically without drawing fine lines of who is to blame.
Many often say that modern technology is partly to blame for the rise in crimes in the state and more so, ones that involve women. Yes, mobile phones and internet connections do give a wide ambit for a lot of freedom where identities and appearances can be made up. But to lay all blame on the mobile and internet would be over simplifying matters. Just as the internet and the mobile can be used to pro-actively campaign for social good and spread social messages, so also it can be used for discrediting people, spreading rumors and as a tool to lie, deceive and cheat. A basic communication channel between family elders and the younger generations can in fact go a long way in recognizing the grey from the black and white. For this to happen, the older generation will have to give a sense of confidence to the younger generation: that they will not moralize and decide but merely help in decision making. The younger’s on their part will have to cede that their elders will only have their best interests at heart and acknowledge their wisdom. When the bond in each family stays strong and on a clear path of communication and trust in each other, a community made of such families would naturally be bound firmly. It is time we began to explore this arena before we tear apart at the seams.