By Amar Yumnam
The educational institutions in Manipur, right from the first stage to the colleges, have been locked out by the provincial government. This has also been articulated as a correct decision arrived at by the government after application of her critical mind as put to the public domain by the second-in-command of the provincial government. Let me start with a quotation from the classic Rights of Man by Thomas Paine: “If we look back to the riots and tumults which at various times have happened in England, we shall find that they did not proceed from the want of a Government, but that Government was itself the generating cause: instead of consolidating society it divided it; deprived it of its natural cohesion, and engendered discontents and disorders which otherwise would not have existed. In those associations, which men promiscuously form for the purpose of trade, or of any concern in which Government is totally out of the question, and n which they act merely on the principles of society, we see how naturally the various parties unite; and this shows, by comparison, that Governments, so far from being always the cause or means of order, are often the destruction of it.” Paine also writes in the same book: “When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.” Before I make any comment on the latest manifestations of the orientation and quality of the provincial government of Manipur, I must at least express my personal gratefulness on the recent shut-down of the educational institutions; it has forced me to reread Thomas Paine’s classic. But beyond this, the decision has been nothing more and nothing less than dangerous stupidity. It is a complete case of the Gods making it mad before destroying it.
Now the onus is on me to articulate before the wise men in command on why I term the whole approach stupid. To begin with, it comes immediately after the recent Ukhrul fiasco. The recent happenings consequent upon the processes of governance there in Ukhrul are supreme examples of governance incompetence and absence of application of critical mind; a critical mind is not an external thing, it should be spontaneous and accompaniment of any decision-making process. Both the Ukhrul happenings and the closure of educational institutions sine die are examples of the government looking at these decisions as the ultimate outcomes and as finality in the process. Society is never a static entity, and anything is part of the process and never an ultimate. The provincial government is under the illusion that it can enforce an outcome instead of influencing the process of transformation in a positive way; negatively in the present cases.
Second, the world has multiples of examples of how the imperatives of the education and knowledge creation processes were honoured even in the worst of circumstances, and thus ultimately secured the civilizational process. The nearest example is the case of Vietnam where education was not compromised even during the high periods of bombing by the American forces. The continuing example is that of the United States of America where scholars call the final shots even in decisions for Atomic Bombing of Japan (a colleague and friend of mine has recently brought to my light how Kyoto was spared of the deadly bombing thanks to comments of the scholars) and the deepening global competition in knowledge and technology. But in the case of Manipur, ‘the wise men’ have thought it prudent to put a stop to the whole process of knowledge acquisition for periods best known to them. But unfortunately for them, and even more unfortunately for the society at large, the rest of the world does not wait even a second for us; it is a red herring race.
Third, education can never be an off and on process kind of thing. The social transformation dynamics are such that they continue irrespective of whether educational processes are in place or out of place or absolutely hang-fire. The problem is that the transformation with the education and knowledge creation processes is always healthier and richer than otherwise. The contextual problem is that the provincial government has applied her critical mind, and has come to the conclusion that interruption in knowledge creation would be prudent.
Fourth, the latest developments putting Manipur in the heart of the global connection between South East, East and South Asia demand that the province prepares herself forever continuously and with greater capability so that the unfolding processes serve the interests of the people and the land in positive ways. The imperatives for this preparedness are wide and deep. The province has not yet have the fortune of attaining any social and economic momentum so far. Further, the unfolding challenges are of a nature and scale where the people and the land have not experienced in history. This necessitates the compulsion for committed preparation than ever, and in a way very different from the periods so far of only exploiting and misusing the doles of allocations from the federal government.
Fifth, the internal dynamics of the home are such that there are so many conflicting interests to be addressed. Shutting down of the educational institutions does not in any case help address these conflicts. It only amounts to suicide before the others kill you.
In fine, the greatest tragedy of the people and the land of Manipur so far has been that the provincial government has all along been under the spell that fire-brigade approaches to social issues are relevant and would pay off. No they do not. Time is now for realising this. Social issues are always much more than law and order issues to be addressed in a way of fire-fighting exercise.