Is disruption possible in Manipur politics ?

Akendra Sana *

Is it going to be business as usual in the way politics in Manipur is played out so long for any foreseeable future? These are interesting times. Manipur today can boast of many issues to pursue, promote or confront. Whether they are in the sectors of social, culture – the arts, sports or of course the kind of life we are in where politics play a pivotal role in deciding what kind of life we lead at present and that will determine our future.

Whether disruption is seen only in the negative sense,orwould it be shortsightedness if all theconfusion, upheavals, turbulence, disturbance, agitation, unrest and uncertainty can eventually lead to, is ignored. Because the confusion and disturbance have the potential to usher in a positive approach as counter to what areignoble in the existing ways of public life.

Disruption is about being ready to try every possible way to unleash new forces for betterment in the immediate future.Disruptions in politics take place because of certain event(s) that set a process rolling in which an individual is propelled to lead and possibly become a change agent or otherwisethrough individuals who see issues a little differentlythat may be refreshingly challenging to achieve a vision that may have been set along the way.

Do thememories of some past Chief Ministers inspire confidence in promoting the interestsof Manipur? Names of the early CMs MairembamKoireng Singh, Mohammed AlimuddinandYangmasho Shaiza are takento understand the challenges of governance.

These past Chief Ministers are taken as example also only because they had relatively shorter tenures except for Koireng,but his stint was also spread into three short spells interspersed with President’s Rule andthey were CMsin the very early years and when the administration was not what it has become and Manipur was trying to anchor itself and find its feet in the vast expanse of India’s political landscape. Koireng was CM before Manipur became a full state and had to function with Chief Commissioners who are remembered not exactly for their administrative acumen.

Alimuddin was CM soon after Manipur became a full-fledged state and Shaiza during the first non-congress rule India had withthe Janata party in Delhi. India itself was different, still struggling to fight food scarcity among others in the early periods and was confronting a host of other myriad challenges.

Legacies are always debatable. But did they have some qualities of vision that the later set of politicians lack?Do they appear relatively honest because there was not enough funds in the state those days to squander and siphon? Or did they possess some degree of integrity? Are the seeds of corruption embeddedonly in ready funds and that misutilization of funds was only waiting to happen oncemoney was available in the hands of those who are there to oversee development and growth.

But then is that not a too simplistic position to take given that conventionally it is always said that the corrupt would be able to line his pockets irrespective of the circumstances. And sadly corruption has come to define our lives.Many in Manipur seem to still have some good words about these three early politicians who are long dead.

Or is it then that the shorter tenures and shortage of funds were the reasons that made them perceived to be less corrupt or there are some other reasons?Is this not something to think about?The limited inference therefore is to try to understand whether they were less corrupt whatever the circumstances.

What about the times we live in? Do we want to continue to live as we do now? With any number of troubling issues before us, is there any force somewhere that would lead us away from the present state of helplessness of particularly the young who aspire for success rooted in merit and many who are rightfully jobseekers in the establishment? Are the elders responsibly creating the conditions and atmosphere wherein merit alone is the criteria to acquire a respectable job and for them to become willing and happy partners in the growth and wellbeing of the society?

Instead what do we hear? Stories of assumptions of a price tag for any job in the establishment and the general belief of sleaze in any number of transactions keep floating around all these years. Do we see any sane voice somewhere that promise a glimmer of hope? It is understandable to not expect quick remedies in the chronic nature situation that we are in. However it is only in anticipation of hope should we look for ways to come out of this depressing abyss. But who or what is providing that? We quibble and lament everywhere that nothing will improve. But is hopelessness the answer?

The belief that things can improve if only we are willing and are committed to such a cause should be the starting point? Or does the immediate enthusiasm of feathering one’s own nests and not bothering about whatever is taking place around is the priority rather than any effort to improve together? A simplistic explanation that we are still neck deep in our feudal ways of life is only to understand one part of the problem.

Of course elections are a costly affair. And the cycle of money flowing out through unacceptable avenues are resorted to fund them. But isit not also true in many other places?However do other places suffer from similar levels of hopelessness? Or is it worse in our situation? Add to this the menace of drugs abuse by a large section of the young population largely fuelled by seemingly easy way of procuring them as is evidenced by the seizures particularly in recent times.

Then there are of the issues that confront the community and even school children are exposed to all forms of mass agitations. What kind of impact such things must be having on the young impressible and vulnerable minds?Youth in mass agitations must be those who are likely to be the vanguard and are more prepared to become leaders, say university students or other enlightened persons who are in their prime of youth with their education, energy and idealism. Only then agitations are to give directions for the larger populace to move together and achieve the goals that are set.

Manipur in the past attained many noteworthy achievements through prolonged mass agitations in the past. Whether it was the statehood from being a union territory or the inclusion of the Meiteilon (Manipuri language) in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution and other issues dear to the hearts of the Manipuri people were achieved or resolved only after hard struggles of agitation. These mass agitations did not however throw up a singular individual or force who could have caused a disruption in Manipur politics that could bring about a more just and less corrupt public life.

What kind of agitation would bring about disruptions that have much larger impact may be by catapulting an individual or individuals or a force multiplier that usher in major upheavals and positive influences on the lives of the common men in the streets of Imphal, Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati or Ukhrul. True these two agitation for full statehood and language recognition did bring about the goals they set for themselves and certainly brought major changes. But they did not change the way public life was conducted.

And they did not spin up any major different political formation or individual politician with wider appeal who promised a less corrupt society with conviction and long term commitment because they were not intended to? Or is it that we continued to be contended with the way it was and we were not really looking for any kind of disruption that was capable of introducing a more equal society where aspirations of both the poor and the rich are expected to be met?

In the past there was the birth of the Manipur Peoples Party that can to an extent be called a disruption. But it arose more out of misgivings some leaders had against the then ruling Congress Party and cannot truly be called a disruption that helped an individual or a force to herald any major long lasting shift from the then existing political life. Well the phenomenon of the MPP with its birth in 1968 was in the past.

It was a formidable force through the 1970s till early 1990s electorally and in later years its influence has become weak. However, despite having been in power in the past, for the moment they appear to have outlived the fire they once had. Some semblance of a healthy strong political force can the MPP once again become only if it can reinvent itself in a major way. That of course is for the party to decide and act to stay relevant.

What then are the examples elsewhere? Well, in the past and in our neighbourhood in Assam, the student agitation of the late 1970s and 80s produced a Prafulla Mahanta and his team whatever were their weaknesses and limitations and whatever they had later become and whatever shelf life politically such individuals have. Mahanta, former president of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) which spearheaded the Assam Movement which came to be known as the Anti-Foreigners Agitation in the 1980s went on to form the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) and became Assam’s first ever youngest Chief Minister at the age of thirty-three in 1985.

In recent times we can think of a Kejriwal who managed to emerge as a disruption and made things happen whatever the drawbacks and weaknesses he and his team suffer from. Both in the state of Assam and the national capital Delhi, it is interesting to note that they both arose not out of any existing political formation but from mass agitation of their respective times.

It is important for Manipur to reimagine for a better future in its political life. Think of the successes our youth have achieved whether it is in the field of sports or the arts and all other fields. Many have reached heights that are widely respected and admired throughout the world. It is for them and all those who aspire to achieve similar positions that we need to reexamine ourselves once again to change the way we conduct our politics.

Let it be within the norms of acceptability of expecting results for their merit and the training the youth have attained for further growth and for meaningful lives in their homeland. Should we not be attempting to usher in a society of meritocracy and nothing else? Is there a leadership that can inspire?

Can there be one singular issue that is able to fire imagination with a much wider appeal that is more inclusive of the aspirations of the majority of all the communities however disunited they may appear at different times in history and at present?

Such an issue must be potent to bring about a movement worthy of involvement of all. It is urgent to be convinced of the hunger that the present needs a disruption in the politics of Manipur to steer the people away from the curse of hopelessness so that the future once again become something to anticipate smilingly for our younger generation.

So it is only when we have the courage to hang our heads in shame and grind our teeth with determination can we hope for some positive change. These are challenging times, yes, but solutions must be sought. Of course the agenda is to be able emerge out of the state of helplessness with or without disruptions.

Is there then an outlier somewhere nearby, someone who would provide the ignition that would channelize all the trapped energy for every frail nerve to spring to life?

Views are personal.

* Akendra Sana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer Akendra Rajkumar studied History at Delhi University and is a former Regional Head of a Central PSU in the financial services sector.
This article was webcasted on December 09 2019.

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