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E-Pao! Opinions - Perils of licencing our Liberty

PERILS OF LICENCING OUR LIBERTY
By: Vikram Nongmaithem*



Whose world is this? Whose land is Manipur? Does it belong to a few gun-toting savages (both Ėstate and private armed forces)? The toiling masses have little or no say in the day to day happenings in the state and even if they have a say, their voice often get lost in the wilderness. Blood begets blood. While the impact of globalization easily manifests itself in the lifestyle of the common man whose economic lot is no better than the feudal serfs of the middle-age Europe, the disease of consumerism has hit hard and only a handful of people reap the harvest of the so-called globalization. Most people seem to discount the ill effects of this mistaken modernity.

For example the mushroom growth of Manipuri digital music albums is a case in point. The MTV generation of many young Manipuris is at the crossroads of a cultural divide. This is not to say that all of them are blindly aping the West or their Bollywood masters. But it wonít be wrong to say that a large section of our youngsters are moving towards an abyss of cultural and moral degeneration.

Nobody can deny the fact that change is an eternal law of nature. But what is more disturbing is the fact that we are in a vicious circle of unemployment, crimes and problems relating to insurgency. Again substance abuse i.e. use of drugs and other related diseases are widespread in Manipur. Moreover some of the control measures taken up by the people have sometimes boomeranged e.g. prohibition of drinking has resulted in the widespread misuse of pharmaceutical drugs such as pills, phensydyl, corex etc. as collateral damage.

The easy availability of such drugs in the black market even after stern warnings from many underground groups is an important issue, which needs urgent attention. The increasing number of rehabilitation centers in Manipur is something one should never be proud of. The sudden shift in the lifestyle of the people due to the spread of western culture and the inability of the indigenous people to adapt and adjust properly to the fast changing developments have made us mere copycats. Simply put the mental health of the common people have deteriorated and stress related problems are cropping up day by day.

The inability of the state government to create jobs for the growing problems worsens matters. On the other hand the number of students studying outside the state has grown at an alarming rate due to the lack of high quality institutes in the state for higher studies. To put a rough estimate in numerical terms, there are at least, around 5000 students from the state in Delhi alone. The total amount of money that is going out of the state in a year turns out to around (3000 per month x 5000x 12 =) 180000000 Rs, a whopping amount. This is just a rough estimate.

Consider this figure for the whole of India. We may justify it on the ground that the amount is an investment for the future of the state but the existing trend shows that we have enough reasons to worry about. While the state is reeling under the problem of overdraft and financial crunch, there are bandhs; gheraos and all sorts of violence related problems almost everyday. While the whole world is racing for development in this cookie-cutter world, Manpiurís condition is spiraling backwards. While democratization has transformed much of the world, Manipur seems to be still in a state of Hobbesian state of nature, where might is right and the downtrodden have no voice being crumpled under the weight of poverty and illiteracy.

Those who dare to speak the truth for the welfare of the common people often run the gauntlet of the machinations of our Machiavellian forces (whether state or non-state actors). The problem is that we find it hard to know and understand where we should stand, which way we have to walk. Like a cyborg our conscience has been programmed to think and express the way they force us to. Where is our freedom then? Are we really living in a democracy? For the might liberty has become a license. Their license forces us to keep mum and prevent us from opposing the crude ways and methods they arbitrarily impose.

Yes it is true that the interests of the masses are prior to the individual but the moot question "Who are these masses? Are the individuals not party to the masses?" Time and again, there arise problems of ethnic strife and the problems of sovereign homelands of such and such groups. Isnít it time we realise that our political demagogues have befooled us and are playing havoc with the masses through persuasion, force and coercion. In the developed countries of Europe, there has been a process of integration such as the formation of the European Community, common currency (the Euro), European Parliament.

Moreover, there is even the likely formation of a Confederation of many independent states whose aim is the convergence trade and other relations based on security and cultural integration. Contrast this with the problem in our tiny state of Manipur where balkanisation, cultural hegemonism of the larger ethnic groups and the rebel psychology of the minority groups which have resulted in armed uprisings against the establishment and against one another. The internecine wars are regular in the front-pages of our dailies. So where will it lead us? Will it lead us to peace and development? Liberation from bondage.... Liberation from whom and whose bondage? It is high time the people of all communities in the state stopped following the whims and caprices of a small section of seemingly charismatic leaders who have misled us for so long, who are responsible for the death and destruction of so many of our kinsmen, our hearths and homes.

Isnít it time we gave up the Nazi philosophy of the supposed superiority of a certain race over others? Narrow chauvinistic outlook of ethnocentrism prevailing among the various ethnic groups in Manipur is actually a remnant of the slave mentality which British colonisers gave us by pitting one group against another. The underlying principle is the same as they inculcated between the Hindus and the Muslims in pre-independence India. Blindly following this outlook is like taking stale food that can cause illness when taken. Isnít it a foolish act on our part to follow the wrong path they had drawn for us fully knowing the full complications that would develop later in our body politic?

This era is the era of complex interdependence in world affairs where boundaries are vanishing and border posts no longer needed to be set up. Can we escape this evolving pattern of the world of globalism? Returning to a primitive fundamentalist mode of thinking, without any space of liberalism would only slower our march of civilization.


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