While there can be no doubt that civil society movements in the Northeast, probably Manipur being the foremost, have always been very strong, it is difficult not to be wonderstruck by the ease with which those leading these movements claim they have the mandate of the people to do what they are doing. Doubt and uncertainty that are the hallmarks of all of us mortals even in making simple presumptions about what might be the minds and wishes of immediate neighbours seem altogether absent in these men and women. They act as if they are infallibly prescient about the collective will and aspiration of the masses in these agitations. From their gaits and languages, they seem to be in no doubt about their being the sole voice of the people. They are even inclined to condemn those with opinions differing from their own as betrayers and reactionaries, standing in the way of the `people` whose interests only they know. Sadly, this seems a bane of not just Manipur`™s brand of street politicians, but also of those who claim to be the intellectual elite among practically all the many communities who live here. In the wake of the present very complex crisis in the state, there have been so much said by these insufferable cabals, either claiming the hills-valley integrity in Manipur is sacrosanct or else that a separation is what inevitably must happen for it is predicated by the places own history. Missing is the humility that would have these ideas come as proposals from them as individuals, and instead they are pronounced as verdicts of the `people`.
As to how entire `peoples` can be so sheepishly single-minded on any given issue, is beyond imagination. While there are shared concerns of communities, every single individual is also a universe unto herself or himself, with her own worries, anxieties, aspirations, and so on. If anybody has an idea on how Manipur`™s problems ought to be resolve, let it be floated as a suggestion and food for thought for all other stake holders to discuss and ultimately seek consensus, and not the other way around where they claim to be omniscient representatives of entire peoples and arrogantly push their agendas. Even if a spiritually bankrupt emotional integrity pushed by one clique may have lost its charm except in dry and sterile rhetoric, a hasty separation, pushed by the other clique can have grave consequences, both in the short term and the long term. This is true especially in the valley, where practically every community in the state have been living together as neighbours physically, friendly or unfriendly as it were. Let these self-proclaimed opinion leaders on either side at least have the patience to wait for the consensual voice of all the stakeholders.
Even if these leaders do command the mandate of the `people`, forgotten are the ideas that even if large number of peoples agree on certain points, these agreements cannot be a fool-proof evidence of `truth`. Great reformers and thinkers have been very prone to face this problem through history. Socrates, Galileo and even Jesus Christ were killed because they went against what the masses believed in their times. Now we know where the truth was in each of these cases. Indeed, one of the biggest problems of the idea of democracy has been the question of what happens when the majority begins to want vengeful blood. The deadly ethnic conflicts, some of which have resulted in horrifying genocides, have often been the outcomes of this failing. The magnetism of mass violent street agitations is such that even people supposed to be rational become benumbed and often surrender their better judgments. Quite disappointingly, this is on the covert and sometimes overt plea that the willingness of agitators to take casualties, even death, sanctifies the cause they agitate for. No wonder the idea of martyrdom is so endemic, and sought for by those leading these movements the world over.
As for us, these have been very difficult times not only because of the distress caused by the heat of the agitations, and all the blood and gore came with it. Our struggle has been in coming to a decision on what the actual will of the people might be beyond these flames and furies. There would have to be a better mechanism to determine where a justiciable consensus on tearing and excruciating issues such as Manipur is faced with today, than the claimed prescience of the intelligentsia.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam