It’s been for some time that Manipur has been caught up in cycles of unrest. Various social and political issues have prompted different forms of protests time after time. Many such social movements are indeed worthy of the name and the labour involved and need all the support that can be garnered. However, one has to be wary too of frivolous attempts disguised as a movement but seek some ulterior motive other than the stated, occurring either by intent or genuine misconception.
Thankfully, with the change in government the state is witnessing a decline in bandhs, blockades; and the much undesirable but regularly happening violent gheraos and lynching should be the next things we confine to the past. Ideally, these forms of protest should be replaced with humane forms of protests.
Many protests do have a basis in some underlying problem, but instead of seeking out relevant corrective measure they are often misdirected for some socio-political gains. Such undertakings can be easily manoeuvred because the state is diverse, hence the mass media is predominantly divided into various vernacular groupings catering to differing sentiments. And, thus, Civil Societies and the general masses by virtue of information asymmetries that exist in the state, tend to be easy prey in such scenarios, which have been repeated all too often.
The public must be able to make informed choices whenever some social issues come up so that we don’t get taken for a ride. Thus, the media in Manipur must take responsibility and bear accountability over the news it publishes because being the fourth estate it needs to play its part in rebuilding the state. There have been glaring instances where peaceful conditions were drastically altered by insensitive and dubious reporting. As Manipur doesn’t yet enjoy even a semblance of political and social stability the need for media due diligence is dire. While the public and the mass media being a watchdog over law enforcement, legislature and government is essential, it should not lead to mob justice and media trial tendencies.
We must learn to respect the due process of the law. The goal of social movements should be to put in place a fair and reliable system of governance and refining the procedures of public service.
Besides the undesirable trend of mob justice and corporal punishment that have cropped up in society from certain elements, we have recently started to also witness incessant media trials of one issue or the other. Take for instance the last Manipur Public Service Commission’s Manipur Civil Service Examination. First notified in 2015, the advertisement was withdrawn over demands to include local language criteria as an essential requirement. This was a real genuine issue, and the authorities thankfully remedied the matter. The controversies that marred this exam afterwards need to be examined thoroughly for their merits, and as far as possible avoid media trials which will manifest misinformation and undermine the due process of the law.
What came as a shock was that the student groups protesting against MCSCCE 2016 actually vandalized the MPSC Office and the Car of the then Chairman of the Commission, much unbecoming of aspiring civil servants. Further inspection of the complaint revealed that the grievances of these protestors arose only after the results were declared, which may have been coincidental but raises doubts nonetheless on whether these protests were only for self-serving goals. No doubt, one familiar with the landscape of the state can fathom that there may have really had genuine concerns and grievances. MPSC is not UPSC in terms of its capability, standards and organizational efficiency.
Thus, every effort to make the MPSC better is to be appreciated, however, any attempt seeking to dictate the functioning of a constitutional body through the use of brute force would be most undesirable for the society as a whole and governance in particular, and needs to be nipped in the bud.
Watching TV News reports on the MPSC MCSCCE 2016 controversy one can sense that parallels are drawn to the Assam Public Service Commission APSC Scam. Here it is pertinent to note that such a comparison holds no water. In the case of APSC the Job for Cash scam was caught red handed and the modus operandi systematically unearthed; the emphasis was on evidence of wrongdoing, not on a propagandist approach. The whole anti-corruption operation against the APSC was carried out objectively, the people involved are being arrested and penalized, much unlike the case of the MPSC controversy where the protesting candidates are asking for quashing of the whole exam. Especially surprising since quashing of the completed examination is being demanded ahead of other options like re-evaluation or inquiry and investigation.
The whole logistics of conducting a statewide civil services exam are rather massive, and there are humane considerations too: are the candidates selected the cause of the controversy that they are so being targeted? Would they be made scapegoats in the name of activism? Don’t they deserve prudent review at the very least? Surely merit cannot be considered with such disdain and preface such little regard. Many among them would have left other jobs and opportunities to take up the MCSCCE 2016. If the matter is sub judice, is it not best left to the wisdom of the court?
It is also noteworthy that many recruitment processes in the state are being mired in such controversies and jobs remain scarce. Our people are simply suffering in a quagmire of litigation and protest. It is about time we adopt procedural corrections and learn to sieve out the corrupt without halting the process of growth and development as a whole.
This article was sent to Kangla Online by AS Eunice, who can be contacted at plcmeryl(at)rediffmail(dot)com.