A day in the life of Imphal can be a confounding collage. So many startling but contrasting, and even contradicting, events can unfold at the same time. The front pages of local newspapers are evidence of this almost on a daily basis. Take today`™s newspaper for instance. A screaming headline announced a devastating act of terrorism in which an Improvised Explosive Device, IED, planted by some unknown criminals inside a crowded betel nuts vending shed exploded causing two deaths and injuring several more. Adjacent to this is another prominent headline proclaiming the surrender of an insurgent outfit to the government, an event the government was eager to claim as a sign of the arrival of the peace train in the state. Elsewhere, is an announcement that a plan for a beauty contest is shaping up, just as a book fair opened in another corner of the capital. Such is the threshold of alarm in the state today that there is little left which can evoke a sense of tragedy, or public elation. Through prolonged exposure, this abnormality has become Manipur`™s new normal, and despite all the violence, chaos, corruption… life goes on as if there is nothing to be too upset about. It will sound unbelievable to many, but Manipur these days even manages to make jokes about grenade gifts. There is even a popular song about bomb blasts at market places. If Manipur has lost its sense of tragedy, the fact of such a degree of desensitisation amongst practically the entire society, probably is its biggest tragedy.
But amidst the maddening collage of disparate and seemingly disconnected events that unfold each day, there are tell tale signs that some radical shifts in the mindset of the people are taking shape. Recall for instance a few days ago the widely reported public outrage when some young boys disappeared from a locality, reportedly lead away from their homes by someone known to the locality. The public attacked the home of this man and threatened to banish his entire family from the locality. It is anybody`™s guess the public ire on the man was because he was suspected to be a recruiting agent for an underground organisation. A scan of the front pages of local newspapers will reveal such shows of public outrage at suspected recruiting agents of insurgents are not isolated or unique. They have indeed come to form a pattern. If this trend holds, and it probably will, by the turn of the next generation, insurgency in Manipur will cease to be a revolution and insurgents no longer held in any esteem as patriots, although of the extreme kind. This hardening of emotions is already a reality to a good extent. The revolution, and those committed to it, must notice this, and the sooner they do it, the better it will be for everybody in the state and the revolution itself.
The times have changed, and this is only to be expected, for time is not a static phenomenon. As all have been witness to, there have been tectonic shifts in the economy, polity and outlook, not just in Manipur, but India and indeed the whole world. The very idea of Nation State and notions of its sovereignty have transformed unrecognizably. What we call today as internationalism, is in real terms about the formation of supra national institutions, of which there is an ever multiplying number. The UN, SAARC, ASEAN… to name just a few. Manipur has plenty of fight left in it. Its people will fight if they are called upon to for what they consider as their war. They cannot however be expected to remain committed to 50 year old slogans and war cries. Charming as the past era is, it must be allowed to be replaced by new ones. King Lear`™s tragedy was precisely an inability to do this. He remained charmed by the morality of a past era, and was not resilient enough to accommodate the new world order. Literature and the arts tell the stories of the heart and soul, and often have more for humanity to learn from than science can ever teach.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam