When the Arunachal ministry crisis happened last year and legislators en masse jumped from one warring side to another leaving in the trail even a former chief minister dead by suicide, not just Arunachalees, but the entire Northeast hung their heads in shame. The patronising condescension with which the rest of India generally looks at the region, seeing the people here as too nascent to the ways of the modern world and democracy, therefore footloose and fancy free when it comes to handling the responsibilities and etiquettes of the new world order, no doubt would have reinforced by the sorry episode. We hope Manipur’s politicians do not end up adding fuel to this stereotype of Northeast political elite as simple-minded graceless, soulless, hedonistic and shallow worshipers of mammon. Let them interpret the people’s mandate in civilised manner, do only legitimate permutations and combinations of the parties propelled into the new Assembly by the people’s mandate, but refrain from manipulative games of split engineering through bribes of all kinds. Weren’t the pledges of all these parties include fighting corruption and lawlessness. Under the circumstance, they cannot begin this new innings with corruption and foul play of the highest order. Parties which cannot make the required number by fair and democratic means must have the courage to step back and be satisfied to sit in the opposition benches. Democracy, above all else, is about fair play and justice. For the enlightened section of the people, more than which party wins in the current race to the state’s seat of power at Heinou Makhong, it is the reputation of political maturity and courage earned at the battle that should matter, and for short term benefits should not want to belong to a banana republic where life’s dearest values and principles are up for sale to highest bidders. It is also disturbing that some known power brokers, touts and fixers are holding the future of the entire state by the short hairs.
It is sad to think how Manipur has come to such a pass. It is sadder still that there are so many more than just the politicians in the ring who enthusiastically encourage breach of democratic norms and even rule of law to have what they consider is right. This is not only a travesty of logic, but dangerous. Like it or not, one of the preconditions of a modern state is that rights and wrongs are defined by the rule of law alone and nothing else – not religion, not intuition, not even custom. It is true, when there is a consensus that any agenda related to truth and justice set by religion or custom needs to be incorporated in the determination of what is rule of law, the law indeed should be open to suitable amendments. It is precisely for this purpose that we elect our legislators. But until such a time as they make the amendments by the due legislative process, they too must keep by the directions of the existing laws and norms. If such recommended amendments do become the reality, then the new laws will determine the new rules of law by which everybody, including those who made the new laws, must abide by. It would be pertinent to recall here a line from Robert Bolt’s 1966 film classic, “A Man For All Seasons” based on the life of Sir Thomas More. When his young follower Roper proposed that More used the power vested in him to arrest the villain of the story, Cromwell, to end his villainy, More famously replied even the Devil cannot be arrested if he has not broken the law, and that even the Devil must be given the benefit of the law. He continued that to break the law even to get at the Devil is dangerous, for that would make the law flat making everybody vulnerable. We have to give even the Devil the benefit of the law ultimately for our own safety, he reprimanded Roper. The caution is, if the new Assembly begins by breaking norms, there will be no norms to follow later. If it begins with corruption and bribery, corruption and bribery will prevail later. Let us then make an appeal to our elected leaders, whichever party, BJP or Congress, gets to be in charge of the government for the next term, let it begin so on a clean, corruption free slate, so that it will have the moral authority and legitimacy to rule by the rule of law for the benefit of all.
Source: The Sangai Express