Of people and people’s Government: Manipuri style

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If a national or international prize for the most obedient, docile and subservient people is to be instituted and awarded, the people of Manipur, of all the people in India, will get it hands down. Again, if a list of honour for the people who do not know how to complain and protest – or cannot complain and protest for lack/non-availability/scarcity of basic needs/amenities – is to be prepared and placed at an International Hall of Fame, the people of Manipur would again figure at the top.
For such people of such an ‘honour’ – or impending honour – they have got to pay a price – a dear price. Fact is, people have had been paying for the last forty four years of Manipur’s statehood. A peerless price! A priceless price! Of ‘silence’. Of ‘ji sarkar’ to the government. From the people to the people’s government. No wonder then that there had not been, during this long forty four years, a single public protest, out cry against the non-availability/scarcity of basic needs – potable water and electricity and other amenities. There has been, of course, countless instances of ‘Manipur Bandhs’, protest rallies and “road blockades” over several other issues – (many a time on non-issues). And there shall be more. But the single most important issue – the be-all-and-end-all of issues – the mother of all issues, of water and electricity is yet to be treated as an ISSUE. No public protest had been launched. Nor is it forthcoming. No bandh had been called. No rally had been organized. No road blockade had been staged. What a noble-minded people! People of our golden Manipur! How so gentle and serene! And to think that Manipur is now the international capital of protests/bandhs/blockades/sit-in-protests/rallies. Do we now hear another happening phenomenon – ‘total shut down’.
So vividly did I still remember how, during my post-graduation days in Bombay (for some inexplicable reasons I still prefer to call Bombay as different from but not against Mumbai), section of Bombayites came out of their houses with pots and utensils in their hands and staged “Rasta Roko” on roads and railway tracks. For the simple but basic reason that potable water is not made available to them. And how so effectively they have managed to draw the governmental attention.
That is not the done – thing here. This land is not Bombay of the mighty Arabian sea. This is Manipur of the golden land,……… Manipur of the Imphal, Thoubal and the Nambul rivers. Manipur of the once-upon-a-time Life-giving-saving Loktak Lake. Mother Manipur of the hills. ‘Maid of the Mountains’! ‘Wonderland’ where ‘silence is golden’. “Subservience rule the roost”, “boot-licking the passport to success”. “Kissing the backside of the authority the norm rather than exception”. No matter whether water runs dry … no matter whether current cease to come! No matter whether road and transportation is of zero standard.
The successive governments and the Chief Ministers of the state in the last forty four years have reigned but did not rule. They commanded but did not conduct. They arbitrated where they should have resolved. Their cabinet consisted mainly of courtiers and contractors-turned-politicians-turned-contractors, chosen for their personal loyalty or influence or money and muscle power, in short for everything but their policies. They failed not because they antagonized too much but because they were afraid to antagonize enough. They retained Ministers whom they should have dismissed for corruption/scandals or incompetence and they dismissed/removed Ministers whom they should have retained for their ideas and principles. This is the legacy that 44 long years of state governance have produced. Such governance have accelerated the pace of not socio-economic development but that of corruption, nepotism, favouritism, not to forget the culture of contracts, and all the vices associated with corruption.
So is the present government. And so shall the future (later) governments. For the people of this golden land of Manipur, keeping mum is a far better option. Potable water, electricity and road and transportation, sanitation are mundane matters. Non-issues. But for the people of this wonderland, a niche must be carved out. Fame and reputations built. Legacy must be established on this  planet earth: Fame!, Reputation!, Popularity! Of silence. Of subservience.
Yes, honourable Chief Minister/Ministers,
Your people are subjects. Not citizens. Your so-obedient-a-people are subjects to be played/toyed. Never a concerned group of citizens to be empowered and developed with dignity. Your people-ever-ready-to-serve the master/his-master’s-voice – are subjects who are in the society but not of the society.
Yes Ministers/MLAs promise them – your people-like subjects – the moon. They will be too happy. Why moon, Minister/MLA, why not the sun? Your loyal subjects will be too overjoyed and will be on cloud nine, waiting for the sun to shine on their life. It is another matter, in fact, who bothers,/cares, if the sun/moon never shone or will never shine. Promise(s) is what you must and what matters and promise(s) is what your subjects love hearing. Promise(s) only to be unkept and forgotten (read conveniently). Wasn’t it Charles de Gaulle that great French War hero turned politician cum statesman who once famously said “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word”.
Mister Chief Minister! Be happy and reign happily. Lord it over the land and the people. This land of yours. Your Manipur. Your Golden Manipur. Your golden, nay, gold-like subjects. The very  obedient loyal subjects who keep electing you and your team. Time and time again.
(The writer is Professor of Sociology at Manipur University, Imphal and could be reached at [email protected])

Source: The Sangai Express

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