By Amar Yumnam
Nero was an Emperor of the Roman Empire in the beginning of Christian era. He is considered by history as one of the most irresponsible, irresponsive, non-transparent and gory ruler. In fact, he symbolises any ruler who rocks and rolls when his empire is in danger. We never imagined that Nero would ever be a reality in our part of the world. We have had, not very distant in the past, a ruler who sacrificed and risked everything to protect the image, prestige and glory of our kingdom in King Gambhir. It goes beyond our farthest imaginations that in this land of Gambhir and people who still cherish the legacy of him, we would be experiencing a situation similar to the era of Nero. While the people have been longing for a return of the Gambhir era of pride and progression, they have instead been presented with a Nero treatment.
Fire Upon Fire: We have been living, we have been experiencing and we know for sure that the last few decades have not been an era of progression for Manipur, state or non-state. We also know that these years of negative experiences coupled with the lack of responsive and responsible governance have taken a heavy toll on the body polity as well as body society of Manipur. The last few years have been particularly damaging in this respect. Although we still encounter the problem of contestation of state, we now have to face what I have repeatedly called the fractionalisation of the society of Manipur along ethnic lines. So the society and polity of Manipur now faces the biggest challenge of remaining intact and coherent. Manipur is no doubt burning. This longer run burning is now manifested in the most acute crisis of availability of essentials for modern life and livelihood. This being the situation facing the land today, the question naturally arises as to whether Nero should be indulging in rock and roll. Should Nero be leaving his kingdom behind at all at this historically critical juncture of acute multiple crises?
The Issue: Nero leaving his homeland behind in the mercy of an engulfing fire is no problem if he were just a commoner. But here the reality is that he is the ruler. Now this ruler has much larger implications than the original Nero of the first century in the sense that the former is Nero under democracy. Being so, he is head of the people. The moment we talk about the head of the people, the implications get multiplied. Being head of the people and in his capacity as head of the governance machinery, he represents the state and the state speaks through him. This is where the issue begins when Nero leaves his kingdom behind.
The state, which is represented by Nero in socio-politico-economic manifestations, is the highest form of institution evolved by human beings. But the state as prevailing in Manipur yet has not reached the stage of ensuring participation, inclusiveness, stability and growth. While it has yet to attain the stage of naturalness and stability with the masses, it is not even the “composite reality and a mythicized abstraction” of Foucault. Manipur is now at the stage of political evolution and political economic dynamics where the state should rather be seen as “a practice….inseparable from the set of practices by which the state actually became a way of governing, a way of doing things.” We are now at that very stage where we need to revisit the state again and again in order that it acquires an innate capability to evolve practices of governance adequate enough to ensure participation, inclusiveness and social stability.
This requirement is all the more significant in the case of Manipur and given the post-World War II experiences of civil war. The prevalence of mountainous regions, the existence of multiple ethnic groups and fractionalization among them, and the lack of growth have been given prominence among the most prominent factors facilitating the onset of civil war. The heart shudders to imagine of Manipur in this context of global experience and the messages the fractionalized population might deduce from the absence of Nero at this point in time.
International Dimension: Now let us see if we can somehow justify the leaving behind of his kingdom by Nero. International relations do no doubt constitute a very important element of modern governance. So let us grant our Nero a provisional space of being contemporary in his approach, and endeavouring to attract investment to his kingdom. Well, here we have three reservations. Japan is a country which now symbolises “years of stagnation”. In this age of active pursuance of integration in Asia by both ASEAN and Asian Development Bank, can we justifiably think of leapfrogging over South East Asian brothers and closing on the East Asian ones.
Further, attracting investment is no joke. In other words, it necessarily involves arousing the “animal spirits” of the investors (a phrase coined by the indomitable twentieth century economist, Jon Maynard Keynes). In this something like the birds of the same feather flock together prevails. Once a set of investors enjoy the spell of animal spirits in Manipur context, other investors would as well follow. But here arises the critical reality. No burning Rome can arouse the animal spirits of investors anywhere. Indeed, the Roman civilisation declined.