Heroism and perfidy

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No surprises at all that trying times throw up stories of courage. From Mao Gate to Imphal, from Oinam to Tipaimukh, Manipur has been no stranger to this universal truth that tragedies always have had their shares of heroism. The current crisis is no exception either. The death of Sapam Robinhood, 16, though we wish did not happen and also believe could have been avoided, is a shining example. But if trying times bring out heroism in ordinary men and women, or in Manipur`™s case, more likely young school going boys and girls, there is also often a matching dark side to the story. Selfishness and meanness also show up on the sly to take advantage of the bad situation. No need to name names, for these stories are also as commonplace as the stories of heroism. Just one account should explain the situation. A columnist of a newspaper, using a nom de guerre slyly peered into a discussion on the popular social network on the current crisis unfolding in the state, and instead of joining the discussion and confronting the issue, copy-pasted large parts of the discussion thread and did a critique of it in a tone of ridicule, barely disguising the dramatis personae, therefore virtually amounting to a personality slander of the participants, one in particular. It is likely the writer whose identity is hidden behind the mask of a pen name has a grudge with the object of his ridicule, but this should have remained personal and not a score to be settled on a forum where the opponent has no way of engaging and contesting the innuendos and insinuations immediately. He or she could have done so in response articles, but the damage would already have been done and moreover the nature of these sly slanders is such that though severe injuries are caused, it is difficult to pinpoint any tangible malicious aggression. All the same, this would have been considered despicable and unethical by any standard, and in countries where people`™s privacy is valued and strongly protected by laws specially fashioned to deal with these insinuations, there is no way the slander would have escaped libel suits.

But leave these depressing and uninspiring stories alone for the time being. What we need to focus on now is the way forward to resolve the current crisis. All of us are stakeholders, for indeed the manner in which the issue is resolved, will have a direct bearing on the lives of all of us. There is a wide consensus, that a regulatory mechanism is necessary to protect small populations of distinct peoples from being overwhelmed by settlers from much larger communities. Manipur and indeed the entire Northeast, with its over 250 linguistic communities registered by the Linguistics Survey of India, are vulnerable. Small wonders then the Northeast have become so volatile region prone to murderous ethnic wars. In other words, the fear of alien settlers and cultures (which is what I interpret xenophobia to be, as do the dictionaries, and not what donors driven NGOs have come to portray it to be) amongst the different communities has a good measure of legitimacy. The demand for ILP or another law which takes care of this insecurity hence must be viewed through a sympathetic lens by the state`™s as well as country`™s policy makers. Suitable constitutional amendments can be made to bring this to effect and this should not amount to changing the basic feature of the constitution (which is next to impossible), for the ILP is already in existence, therefore it would be just a matter of extending an existing law and expanding its scopes. But the caveat is, this new law must not result in any undue victimisation of any other community. Even in our deepest crisis, we must never abandon our basic humanism.

One way of achieving the objective at hand is perhaps to look at what we already have. In the agitation for the ILP, the hill districts have been rather aloof, although there is no doubt the concern for demographic marginalisation is shared passionately. This is so because lands in the hills are already protected from transfers to anybody outside the communities inhabiting them therefore the urgency is not felt as strongly as in the valley. Perhaps, instead of the ILP, a legislation which looked to preventing land ownership transfers similarly may serve the purpose much better and with less hurdles to cross in its actualisation. This is just a thought for consideration and not a recommendation.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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