The recent incident of some young boys setting ablaze a popular centrally-run school and the subsequent trial in a juvenile court should not be reduced to an arbitrary aberration or as an occasional exhibition of perverse behaviour by juvenile delinquents. Locating such incidents as one-off affairs would tantamount to missing the woods for the trees as they expose a larger social malaise.
The debilitating effect of growing up in conflict-prone areas to the collective psyche of young people needs to be analysed with renewed vigour. We can’t wish away the fact that gradually being introduced to the grim realities of living in a place where the security forces possess extra constitutional powers indeed takes a toll on impressionable young minds. This is not to suggest that the spectre of goose-stepping men in uniform directly compelled the young offenders to carry out that infamous arson. But it does open the proverbial Pandora’s Box leaving us benumbed and with many unanswered questions.
Personnel of central armed forces can get away with blue murder under some archaic provisions of the law that should not be named. As a result, the state security forces emboldened by some residual powers vie with one another to have their moments of some unchallenged glory.
These semi-literate armed personnel empowered to do as they pleased are most likely to exercise those powers at any given opportunity proving absolutely right Alexander Solzenitsyn’s assertion in his ‘Gulag Archipelago’ that unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.
One needs to cast a mere glance at any of the check points adorning many places in Imphal. One is most likely to come across security personnel harassing youngsters for no apparent reason. On some occasions, one may encounter cases of police brutality against them when they were certainly not in the wrong.
The ramifications of such cavalier displays of power by those wielding it is that the most sought after job in the state is that of Sub- Inspectors/Jemadars for those who could afford to bid for the limited number of such jobs on offer whenever the government issues such a notice to this effect and police constables for the not so lucky ones but who insist that they must also possess a fraction of that power.
Victor Frankl, one of the great psychotherapists of the last century and a Holocaust survivor who developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy while describing his ordeals in four Nazi concentration camps including the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp had posited that all the camp inmates faced what befell them in three stages: first, they were all shocked; second, they developed an apathy towards the attendant horrors of anticipating death; and drawing upon Heidegger’s Will to Power theory, he said, thirdly, the survival of the inmates depended on what they were living for.
Frankl observed that those who didn’t have any meaning or greater purpose to live were the first to perish in the concentration camps.
Youngsters in Manipur who have to confront the bitter reality, one way or the other, of living under the shadows of those wielding the baton and bayonets must evolve ways to relish life and live it to the fullest. Every dark cloud has a silver lining and Frankl did survive the bestial conditions of the concentration camps by clinging to the memories of his wife without being aware whether she was alive or not.