Review of Seram Neken’s “State, Society & Governance”
PORTRAYING CONTEMPORARY MANIPUR
THROUGH LITERARY JOURNALISM
To someone who wishes to digest the contemporary Manipur society, the book ‘State, Society & Governance’ written by Seram Neken will certainly serve as an immense input. It portrays almost all issues ranging from dirty electioneering to unattended garbage in the city, from irrational homeland moorings to frequent economic blockades, from crippling corruption to injustice in distribution of amenities, from gun culture to diminishing indigenous population. The book covers issues facing women and children of the land, HIV and AIDS scenario, environmental pollution, challenges facing the media community and commercialization of education.
The rise of self-styled social workers in Manipur politics is the theme of the first essay of the book published by the Ashangba Communication and which was formally released at Imphal in March last. The author nicely dwells on the changing political culture of the state with the emergence of a wealthy class of young people who by hook or by crook enter electoral politics in the guise of social workers. The article identifies the weak public mindset that grooms such social workers through various media, not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of wealth and power.
Seram Neken, who is a freelance columnist in local English newspapers of Manipur, blames the moulding of separate homeland or district demands on ethnic grounds. Manipur is a composite nation with diverse peoples, traditions, cultures and topographies. The author advocates the tag ‘Our Homeland’ instead of ‘My Homeland’ in his second article. Exclusions of women, children, HIV affected population, marginalized ethnic groups and residents of remote hilly districts are generally done by our own people, not from outside but from within. The author expresses his wish to remain aloof from fragmentations and narrow mindset in society. In one of his articles, he writes frequent economic blockades which are a great challenge facing the Manipuris can well be turned into a good opportunity for self-development. The article ‘Turning Challenges into Opportunities’ propagates change of lifestyles for reducing dependence on outside products and promotion of domestic products.
‘Had Gandhiji been born in the land of Sharmila ?’ is one of the articles which compares the two protesters – Irom Chanu Sharmila and Anna Hazare, and their missions. It is an educative and interesting study of the decade-old protest of the iron lady. One of the articles lists out the historical and social relations between the month of August and Manipur state. The article ‘Terror Greets another August’ nicely explores events happening around the globe and their relations with patriotism.
‘State, Society & Governance’ contains fifty articles on varied themes and is divided into six categories – namely Society & Governance, Communication & Education, Environment, Women & Children, Health & Drugs, and Culture & Tradition. The book strongly advocates minimum use of plastic products, increase bicycle ride, tree plantation etc. for reducing the degradation of environment and climate change in Manipur. Shifting of government offices, educational institutions, Raj Bhavan etc. from the Khwairamband Bazar is suggested as the possible solution for reducing traffic congestion. The woes of street vendor women, burgeoning flesh trade in city and the courage of the orphans are discussed in detail in the ‘Women & Children’ section of the book. Most informative and interesting is the issue of heavy schoolbags on the back of small kids and the solutions thereof, which the book dwells on in its ‘women & children’ section. Parents’ role in grooming children is also digested well in the book.
The Health & Drugs section of the book beautifully identifies drug abuse menace prevailing in Manipur. The cheap and easily available abuse items such as Dendrite and Eraz-ex are also portrayed in its article entitled ‘Saving the Manipur Youth Brigade from Substance Abuse’. The book also documents the two decades of HIV epidemic and responses in Manipur. Roles of NGOs, Legislators, positive networks etc. in the response to the AIDS epidemic are also discussed with proper chronology.
In the culture & tradition section, Shumang Lila and Rashesori Pala are discussed as important cultural elements of Manipur. The author describes Shumang Lila as the best social medium which can very well counter the negative impacts of new media invasions on the youths of contemporary Manipur. He also puts suggestions for improvement and continuity of this traditional medium. Rashesori Pala, the first women choral group of royal family is described as the symbol of women’s unique role in Manipuri cultural aesthetics. It is written that ‘Sankirtan performance by women in rituals had not been allowed until the birth of Rashesori Pala in 1779’
The last article of the book traces the history of Keli Kao, the infamous bull in Khwairamband keithel and the branded eatery called Keli Chana. These are interesting historical elements of the city.
This book is indeed a useful resource for those who wish to study contemporary Manipur. In its preface, the author identifies the book as personal views he held at various points of time. In the FOREWORD of the book, Prof. Naorem Joykumar, Department of History, Manipur University expresses the opinion that this book will be a good attempt in the process of giving new idea and hope to the people of the state. Dr. Chinglen Maisnam, Department of Economics, Manipur University, in his introductory note, is hopeful that the book “State, Society & Governance” will be able to further the cause of alternative paradigm for development of Manipur state.
The creative construction of the narratives, the use of simple comprehensible language, precise and clear vocabularies, journalistic style involved etc. reveal some element of literary journalism in the writings of the author. The book easily and automatically carries a casual reader down to its 50th article with enthusiasm, eagerness and interests in no time. It is a creative piece, a mirror of contemporary Manipur and an appeal to native peoples.
The book can also be read online from