By Amar Yumnam
Two recent events are critical testimony to the character and quality of governance we have in Manipur; these two display in full bloom the pretentiousness and non-synchronisation with contemporary needs of the present government in Manipur. While one of these two is a single happening, the other is an ongoing one. The single happening is the one in which the head of the people in Manipur came out to the venue of a highway and scolded in full public view a Minister in his council for whatever. Given the historical quality, orientation and commitment of the person exercising the liberty to scold a member of his team in full public view to the cause of the people of the land and the province, it betrays nothing more than a drama. Since he has been in power for an otherwise long time, he must be presuming that drama pays well in this land of theatrics. A character named Mary in Pride and Prejudice of Jane Austen utters and it would be good for him to recall that: “..every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and ….exertion should always be in proportion to what is required”. Another character, Darcy, in the same classic states: “Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast…..The indirect boast [is] highly interesting. The power of doing any thing with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance”. Well, “the imperfection of the performance” is already before all the people for undertaking something in a very half-cooked approach to the project. First, the lack of supporting funds for full implementation of the project is an information already in public domain. This weakness should not be attempted to be filled by public display of theatrics in governance functioning. Second, the guiding principles of the hurry for the urgency of the current project in terms of a Festival later in the year are still hazy at best. This is a much more important issue than the progress or otherwise in the road-widening project. A festival or fair today in Manipur should clearly spell out the approach and orientation to the integration, knowledge and technological issues desiring to be addressed unlike what all have been done or not done so far.
The second event and an ongoing one is the one relating to the demand for implementation of the Inner Line Permit system in Manipur. This is an area where the government should rather be displaying a sense of urgency and commitment in functioning. If it is not prepared for this it should say so. It should not behave as if it is going to act and without ever acting. The time and energy of the people should not be wasted and tested for long as the contemporary speed of global race for advancement is fast and furious. The clarity of the thinking of government in this issue is paramount as it centres on nationalism. The nationalism issue is now at the heart of the country’s policy-articulation, the evolving political economy of South East Asia and the socio-political turmoil of Manipur. First, the government of India as prevailed at the Centre has never so far given attention to the requirement for nurturing a shared spirit of nationalism which encompasses all. This has led to a situation where ethnicity and localism are stronger components of the prevailing spirit of nationalism rather than the nation state. But the new government under a determined Prime Minister has shown unmistakable signs of addressing this lacuna. The provincial government should now spell out and adopt a policy on how to converge with this. Second, the nationalism of Manipur has for quite a few decades been allowed to be increasingly based on and synchronised with ethnicity and localism. This is a critical moment for Manipur for addressing this social characteristic particularly in the light of the unfolding scenario of linking up with the South East and East Asia.
Here I would like to recall a lecture delivered on August 31 of 1837 by Ralph Waldo Emerson before a Phi, Beta, Kappa Society. He spoke: “It is one of those fables which, out of an unknown antiquity, convey and unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end…The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man, – present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man”. The upshot my argument is that it is not the time for street plays of the Head of the People of Manipur. There is so much to be thought about in a creative way about what we want and need out of the festivals and fairs being organised here; these issues go much beyond the activities and thinking mind of the contractors on construction of roads. Further Manipur faces critical issues of defining and re-defining nationalism. Any delay in shared application of knowledge and mind on this issue would be at the peril of the society of Manipur. Here the provincial government has an inescapable responsibility on how to mobilise and direct the energies of the people instead of indulging in public theatrics.