Imagine a land where there is no law. If that is possible, you are either in the amazing dream world of Lewis Carroll`™s Alice in Wonderland, which we all have read either in the original or else as abridged versions of it, or more likely in illustrated comic books. Or else you are in the other wonderland called Manipur. It is quite a parallel too. In Carroll`™s wonderland, the characters make law as and when they need it `“ so too in Manipur. There is supposed to be something as an established constitutional law in force, but that law today has receded into the background, thanks to its keepers who have either lost interest in it or else have become a law unto themselves. Instead, what are actually and most tangibly at work are on the spot laws, un-edified and untenable in any court of law, and made by any and everybody as and when they please. Leave aside the underground organisations which are pretty straightforward in their stand, claiming to be challengers of the established law as such, for other than them, the law and its enforcement have become a free for all agenda. What is absolutely confounding is, the government seems not to mind this at all when it should actually have been treating the matter as an insult to its authority. Reams after reams of commentary have been written on this and yet, not a single word or idea seems to have registered, and things continue as they always were, spiralling deeper and deeper into the abyss. What exactly is it that the government wants, can it please spell it out so that the people at least would know what to expect from it? Not that they expect much anyway, for proof of this the government just needs to look at the advertisement spaces of vernacular dailies and discover who the people are looking up with awe in matters of crime and punishment.
There are also people getting summarily executed in frightful regularity by all sorts of people who claim to have the law in their hands. Sometimes the guilt of these unfortunate victims are pronounced after they are dead and gone. Like in the haunting command line of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland `Off With His Head`, pronounced every now and then, with no apparent forethought or afterthought, and said as if by rote absolutely at random, it probably occurred to somebody somewhere that somebody else was guilty and passed a verdict in one of the on-the-spot piece of legislation. If the government needs any reminder it should feel guilty for these incidents, it should look at the helpless and muted protests on the streets against these atrocities, marked by the apparitions of womenfolk in ceremonial white, with fruit baskets in front and placards spelling out their protests resting on the side, performing what has come to be known as `wakat mipham`. Elsewhere, school buildings are being razed, hospitals are being stoned, bans are being imposed, `taxes` are being levied, shops are being shut down and the list of woes can carry on endlessly. All these are perpetrated by known and unknown players, but seldom ever named even if known. And the government still continues to turn the other way, pretending it has no eyes, ears or mouth. It does however with zest climbs the podium at every opportunity, talking of the virtues of democracy and democratic rule. What a miserable irony. It is bewildering and frustrating to know that all complaints and cries of lament have seldom made a difference, or is hardly likely fall on attentive ears of those who can make the difference.
Despite all this, people however still want to believe in the established institutions of constitutional law with clearly prescribed and edified procedures, as opposed to arbitrary decrees. Hence, here is our appeal once again to the Manipur government to please get its acts together. While it is evolving a peace policy on the issue of insurgency, at least take control of the home front and ensure things do not descend into complete madness. For this, it must first of all establish its presence and prove its credibility. Let its focus come back to good governance. Let ministership become an important and powerful tool of governance, and not the goal itself, as has so long been. Let it lead by example and not merely appeal to the people to be law abiding and diligent. And most important of all, let it clearly demarcate what portion of law keeping is its sole prerogative and what areas it can share or outsource to private parties, if at all this is proper or essential. Failing this, it cannot blame anybody else but itself for the resultant chaos.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam