Crusade as Escape

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Wars, it has been so rightly pointed out, have many domestic uses. There is nothing like the spectre of external aggression and a threat to the integrity of nations and communities which can sink internal differences, even the most bitter ones, so much so that often these threat perceptions are deliberately manufactured by those in the hot seats of political power to divert attention away from the causes of their immediate headaches. This is also particularly the case if the leaders concerned are weak and at a loss at facing their problems head on. History is witness, and historians tell us today, that the medieval crusade of Christian Europe against the Muslim world, was not so much religious but political in nature, and often had less to do with saving Christianity than saving civil wars and coups at home. Once upon a time, sabre rattling of the nature was also very common in India, blaming Pakistan, and to some extent China, for its every ill. Remember the famous but never seen `foreign hand` that was supposed to be responsible for any trouble that flared up in the Northeast. Wasn`™t it quite a surprise that all the paranoiac din, almost all of a sudden died down? A second look will also reveal that the mellowing of the official hysteria almost nearly coincided with India`™s growing confidence in itself and its ability to handle its domestic problems. Now it seems a bit of it is returning once again.

In similar manner, one is often left wondering if there is no element of a `crusade masquerade` every time somebody rakes up the issue of Manipur integrity or Naga integration. One often is also left with the feeling that this integrity-integration binary benefits both sides of the Manipur-Nagaland divide, each with its brand of `hate sessions` against each other. True there are elements of it which are real, needing real and tangible responses, but it is equally true that more often than not, these have become diversionary tactics of politicians to get the heat off themselves. Especially in the context of what seems like a stalemated peace negotiations between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM), this new `crusade` also has all the feel of a desperate groping for an alternate route out of the mess. But if on the one hand the `crusade` has been about softening the fall from sovereign Nagalim to Naga integration, there is nothing very flattering to say about the periodic mock fury and political cabal about Manipur integrity either. The people`™s verdict on the issue has been etched indelibly already and there is no further need for grandiose reactions on the part of the government, to every provocative memorandum and every maverick claim. There are much more urgent issues at hand, and the government must instead take these on in earnest.

But the last point may precisely be the problem. The government has too many urgent and overwhelming issues at hand and perhaps these may be getting a wee bit too hot and hence the need often to deflect focus to something more ethereal and intangible. The rising lawlessness; all round insecurity of citizens; the deplorable state of roads; acute power shortage which is stunting enterprises; sinking standard of education; escalating corruption; multiplying unemployment; depleting hope etc, which all need not only intense focus and dedication, but equally importantly, imaginative remedial measures for immediate as well as long term problems. This is where neither the government, or for that matter anybody, is willing to apply their minds seriously. Come to think of it, everybody continues to be in their narcissistic shells, seeing no further than themselves and their private welfares, with little or no thought whatsoever of the greater common good. Corruption for instance has become standardised, therefore the guilt that should come with it totally missing, and practically everybody is out to use whatever little levers of power in their hands to self aggrandise and feather their own nests. To be in service, government especially, is no longer about providing services, but of using whatever means to siphon off government exchequer and get rich. The harm this does to the society at large, and therefore ultimately to everybody in the society, has been totally pushed out of sight. Nobody in position of power wants to engage their minds on these thoughts anymore. This deafening silence contrasts so glaringly with the eagerness to raise emotional war cries of Manipur integrity even when the issue is sleeping. Isn`™t this then a case of an imaginary holy war, invoked periodically as a bail for an administration at sea in dealing with real governmental responsibilities?

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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