A few overly respected Manipuri old-timers of a scheduled tribe demand committee have been almost successful in sabotaging the issues regarding the Inner Line Permit System. Then, a few NGOs have also jumped on the bandwagon trying to get the most out of this tragedy called Manipur. Instead of intervention, these NGOs have become a part of the problem.
According to the Business Dictionary, ‘diversification’ is, in corporate strategy, ‘a practice under which a firm enters an industry or market different from its core business’. But how is such a corporate thingy related to Manipur? Cut it short. Let’s come straight to the point.
We are talking about a few Manipuri NGOs; or simply put, a few organisations that have appropriated this concept of diversification successfully, but without considering the repercussion. Unsurprising it is, though, for all that matters are the success stories of diversification and nothing else, and thence more funds and more projects.
NGOs are a product of the neoliberal age, of which proponents have been advocating for the least intervention from any government. No wonder we have become commodities and our societies a market that the local Samaritans can use for their record-breaking ‘projects’, with sponsors from the global Samaritans. Does this also imply they are working against democracy unconsciously? They are representing us without our consent, often edging towards misrepresentation and further abusing taxpayers’ money from all across the globe for their save-the-world missions; so the answer is quite clear.
On a whole new level, I can also name one local Samaritan, who has been putting in too much effort to redefine the concept of diversification: Mrs Binalakshmi Nepram, who has diversified from gun-control and violence-on-women issues to those of indigenous societies and cultures.
Many people are watching this farce quietly because they are apprehensive about being called a name. Yes, we are a very polite people though we still indulge in territorial pissing like it is 10000 BC. We also suffer from the crab mentality but let me be clear: this has nothing to do about hate or envy. For some time now, Manipur has been under siege from the two overlapping issues of Inner Line Permit System and the scheduled-tribe demand campaigns with multiple stakeholders. In the brouhaha, Mrs Nepram & Co is now talking about indigenous craps to make the public issues a sort of cottage industry that can be exploited for whatever reasons one can come up with.
Sometimes it makes me wonder whether such a topic on an indigenous society is lesser controversial than, say, human rights, and therefore more hassle-free to get clearance for funds. Is it like: ‘The government should be soft with its Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act in this field, so why not dive in?’ I heard it through the grapevine that a couple of human-rights NGOs in the hinterland of Manipur are also sneaking into the world of sustainable development these days.
Truth be told, we cannot solve several of these issues within the existing system while the NGOs are too naïve to see the condition beyond the next big project. Solutions to a huge part of the problems lie, again, outside the existing establishment but these organisations, with other civil bodies—like that of the piggish scheduled tribe demand committee—are making a complete ‘mess’ out of the mess! Fascinating.
We can never expect these organisations to be impartial because that makes no business sense. Business, baby, business. You merely have to impress the funders with the number of deaths you have recorded, the number of conferences you have organised at fancy places, the number of volunteers you have been able to hoodwink and so on. It’s not without reason that people are claiming the NGOs are closer to the funders than to the ‘clients’ they claim to represent.
Now, more than the business expertise and all the scatological number games, our lives are precious and our socio-political goals not negotiable. So it will be a world of good for large-hearted organisations if they focus on their core business and do not allow their whims and fancies to get carried away. A little bit of honesty would have been appreciated but apparently, shamelessness is not in our vocabulary.
There are many drugs-menace-related NGOs in Imphal, for instance, and it will make perfect sense if they intend to get into HIV-AIDS areas for obvious reasons. But it is altogether a different tale when an NGO, which has been working on gun-related issues and polishing its portfolio with lists of conferences and seminars on arms and ammunition, starts nose-diving into an indigenous puddle.
Can you see the gluttony is so blatant? I’d expect that from politicians but never from self-styled saviours. While we are on this point, let me be also very clear that it’s not a problem if the heads of these organisations become millionaires and billionaires—or become the Gail McGoverns and the Anthony Lakes, those people who are known for their reason-defying salaries while working in non-profit organisations.
Yet if they started being nosy about a development, not necessarily in terms of growth, but rather like on indigenous matters just because it is trendy, then there will be a problem; that’s a given. It is like an additional headache to the prevailing misery over the decadence of our public life. Besides, it will be extremely myopic if we start considering every public issue as a project that should be funded and ‘maintained’.
We are not even talking about the unabated gun-related issues and armed movements, despite the fact that many of our local NGOs have been working on these areas day and night for the last 500 years. Now, the real issue is that many of these groups are simply trying to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. In this regard, would a conformist like Mrs Nepram ever be able to question the Indian establishment? A big NO.
Read the first line of the press release her organisation had published about one of the recently held conventions on peace and reconciliation: ‘Manipur, literally translated [as the] “Land of Jewels”[,] is a former Asiatic kingdom that joined [the] Union of India in 1949 and became a state of India in 1972.’
In the name of Supreme Mother, Manipur did not ‘join’ the union—it was ‘annexed’ or to the liberals, it was merged under coercion. Everybody knows about the Merger Agreement. So just ignore it if you don’t have the balls to talk about it, but don’t be so sycophantic and stupid simultaneously.
Staying in New Delhi, the best that Mrs Nepram can do is to ask her disciples in Manipur to send death certificates and reports so that she can, perhaps, mull on the symptoms, and make a PPT presentation, which she can further send it to potential funders.
Such a Samaritan’s act might be cute to many people but it is very grave. It is grave because the NGOs, by concentrating on the symptoms, are already legitimising terrorism and violence perpetrated by all sorts and shades of power brokers including state and non-state actors based in and out of Manipur. Besides, through overt aspirations of becoming saviours in every possible area the organisations and particularly their ringmasters are behaving like clowns.
Finally, the issue is about treating the causes and not the symptoms. It is all apparent that the NGOs have become a part of the disease today. The sooner they realise it, the better it will be for all of us.
** The letter/article was sent to KanglaOnline by Kapil Arambam and contents are purely opinion of the writer. He can be reached at kupelderanged(at)gmail(dot)com **