Information Manipulation, Stated Beliefs and Revealed Beliefs: Manipur’s current methodology

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By Amar Yumnam

Governance has now attained the “the status of a lost word of the English language to a fashionable and challenging concept in a range of disciplines and research programmes.” In fact, governance is now a key word in every discussion of a society and its economy. But any discussion on governance is never complete without referring to a 1532 book, The Prince, of Niccolò Machiavelli. Looking at the challenges of reforms and the absence of political responsiveness to widely shared public issues in Manipur, Machiavelli sounds like the most appropriate commentator. He wrote in 1532 thus: “And it should be realized that taking the initiative in introducing a new form of government is very difficult and dangerous, and unlikely to succeed. The reason is that all those who profit from the old order will be opposed to the innovator, whereas all those who might benefit from the new order are, at best, tepid supporters of him. This lukewarmness arises partly . . . from the skeptical temper of men, who do not really believe in new things unless they have been seen to work well. The result is that whenever those who are opposed to change have the chance to attack the innovator, they do it with much vigour, whereas his supporters act only half-heartedly; so that the innovator and his supporters find themselves in great danger.” This sounds exactly like a commentary on contemporary Manipur. The response in terms of electoral outcomes, the responsiveness of the political elite to the core issues of the people, and the very character of action of the administration in Manipur all reflect the very phenomenon explained nearly five centuries back.

But this is not the end. Manipur has now acquired additional aspects in this and with a very dangerous outlook for the society. The degraded character of governance functioning has now taken roots in the very functioning of the individuals themselves. Till recently the problem was one of divergence between the stated beliefs of the political class and the beliefs revealed in their actions; there was no convergence between the two. The public felt this and despite the Machiavellian weakness of inability to effectively organise at the collective level, there were voices of dissent loud and clear. Now this has almost disappeared. In a context where the government sector is the only effective and widespread employer of people, the governing class has been able to corrode the core values and principles of governance of every government sector and institutions such that the relevance of dissent has been murdered. All in the government sector and all those who aspire to get access to the facilities of the government have only sacrificed their personal beliefs and joined the bandwagon of sycophancy. This has led to the below par quality in any delivery by the government and the institutions in Manipur in every aspect of performance. The situation has reached such a level that even the non-state forces, which had promised a better world and elimination of the negative traits in the governance in the beginning, are now strong partners in the game of non-convergence between stated beliefs and revealed actions. This is a very violent atmosphere where the very source of any dissent could be eliminated as the two partners, the state and pseudo-anti-state forces, have the capability to indulge in any violence without accountability; there have been and there are examples of this in Manipur. It is a kind of scenario where the scope for recovery to an ameliorated social context is hugely stunted.

Now we may wonder how such a situation can prevail for long. The answer has to be found in what is happening with information sharing. A very systemic disease of the governance as manifested in the functioning in every government sector and institutions in today’s Manipur is the indulgence in information manipulation. Information is manipulated in such a way that the stated beliefs are taken as genuine ones by the populace. It is also done to cover the revealed actions so as to make them appear as truly reflecting the stated beliefs. There is a large scale indulgence in information manipulation. Some people are aware of this game but there is the Machiavellian weakness and the contextual danger of being victim to elimination.

Thus such a beautiful land of Manipur is now dominated by people who manipulate information to portray positive images while stealing in every possible way. This game is administered by the sharing of booty by state and pseudo-anti-state forces. This has murdered the scope for common people to organise in any way to voice dissent with every probability of getting lives eliminated without accountability. Manipur is now really dirty, dangerous and deadly. One has to be a practitioner of the game or leave the land behind. It is a place where there is no scope for theory, no scope for critique, and no scope for social amelioration. Who cares?

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