Making Discourses Work

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Obviously discourses do not work in Manipur, which is probably why its conflict scenarios never ever change. True discourses also cannot possibly happen, for what people generally do in the name of discourses is to state their positions and stick to them. The illusions of any resolution to any of the myriad problems are merely breathers the conflicting parties agree to so that they can go for each other`™s jugular again after they have regained their breaths. Hence we have the cyclic recurrence of all the most vexing problems. Take any issue, be it the Mayek tussle, Sadar Hills district creation, Jiribam, Tipaimukh, the Senapati census anomalies, the demand for Inner Line Permit System or now the opposition to it, or whatever else `“ the conflicts of interests remain unresolved because none ever was interested in allowing reason to decide the issues. The Sadar Hills issue is waiting to explode again. And the outcomes are quite easily predictable. Despite many successive governments having agreed on granting the demand, it is unlikely the putative district will see the light of day just as yet, for the lobbies objecting it have more trouble potential than those demanding it. We are not presuming which demand is just and which is not, but only questioning the refusal to allow reasons do the mediation in the matter. The problem has been around for more a decade now, and yet there seems no way out, not now or in the near future, knowing fully well no stance has shifted even an inch on either side of the fence.

Sadar Hills is just one immediate example. We picked it for the reason that there were rumbles recently that it was threatening to become a full blown crisis yet again. But the same scenario of obduracy of opinion can be said of so many, if not most other situations. It is an obsessive, and to that extent atavistic, narcissism that has come to be the dominant determinant of the visions of the communities here. We have all lost the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and from that vantage critique our own opinions. For one thing, this can never be a way our conflicts can ever see an acceptable resolution, not to talk of an honourable one. This dreadful and endemic myopia will, it seems inevitable, continue to condemn all of us to another generation of social tension. And let there be no doubt that no one party can have it all for all the time for even the smallest party can stand in the way of even the biggest bully. The state`™s own experience in the past one or two decades, which have seen some of the most gruesome violence, ought to have demonstrated this to everybody convincingly.

But it is not too late yet. Let us learn to step down from our stated positions and try to see beyond merely our own self-interests, or community interests, as the case may be. This is not just a question of simply assuming a liberal position at all. It is in fact what one may call an enlightened self-interest. Seeking the middle path on which all can walk without treading on each other`™s toes, is indeed what democracy is about in its essence. Let us first of all think of absorbing this essence and then give form to it latter. Both these task can only be accomplished by sincere, consensual, discourses where reason is given the premium. The only way such a discursive space can be created is for all of us to abandon our frustratingly familiar, obstinately linear, mono-track visions. Only then can we begin seeing the infinitely wide possibilities that exist beyond our own secluded opinions. In all of these, let the goal be a resolution to our common problems and the return of peace. Once this spirit is agreed upon, let us pose the same questions that have been troubling the state again and try to find the answers. What is so wrong or right about Jiribam or Sadar Hills as new administrative districts? What is so wrong or right about conducting a fresh census exercise, in the entire state if necessary, if certain numbers are simply not adding up even by the most elementary arithmetic? What is so wrong or right about the 6th Schedule, school affiliation to another state`™s board, Meitei Mayek in school curriculum etc? Honest, open queries and equally honest answers to these can open up new realities and new possibilities to a path of peace.

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