TODAY -

VIP culture or colonial hangover ?

Abujam Manglem Singh *



In an insurgency affected state like Manipur the exercise of protecting people occupying constitutional posts assumes critical importance. Understandably, Chief Minister, being the head of the state's elected government is provided with Z plus security, with armed guards manning every road his motorcade takes. The Governor, Chief Justice of the High court, Chief Secretary and perhaps the DGP also deserve high security protection.

However, in our state, one gets the impression that there has been an excessive use of the 'security threat pretext' to provide security cover to all and sundry, wasting valuable tax payers' money. Also the overt display of weapons and sometimes abusing nature of the security guards infuriate citizens and leave them with deep frustations.

VIP protection using security threat bogey and the burden this impose on the exchequer has come to the public domain ,with Supreme Court of India making critical observations of the practice and have asked the governments to furnished all the relevant informations pertaining to the issue in the past.

In Manipur, the abusive nature of the VIP protection, in its extreme form, is played out in every roads when the so called VIPs and their motorcades pass by. The motorcade moves as if the roads are specifically made for them frightening ordinary passers with their speeding cars, loud horns, sirens and at times shooing the public with stick wielding guards.

Are common citizens on the road less an important or less a citizen of India than those with security cover? Do they and their guards have the right to abuse passer-by on the roads just to allow their bosses to reach their destinations while stranding citizens?

Are they not breaking laws when they bang vehicles of common men with their sticks, while they themselves breach traffic rules? These are questions that require a serious and critical look into both by administrators and civil societies because this strike right at the heart of the very foundation of a democratic republic .

India's constitution is premised on the concept of equality of citizens irrespective of their background. By allocating huge sum of scarce resources to the protection of large number of self styled Important Persons, the principle of equality is violated.

Not just because they and their guards are often abusive and sometime threatening but because instead of attempting to secure the streets of the state for every citizen with greater vigour, the state has diverted resources to selectively secure the lives of some persons only.

This practice grossly disrupt the foundations of a democracy, aggravating the feeling of alienation of common citizens from the state on the one hand and creating a sense of brazenness in the mind of the protected. Of the two, the latter is far more serious since it has all the tinge of a colonial mindset where the coloniser (read ruler) expects the ruled to be submissive and the subservient to them .

The audacity and impudence with which motorcades of VIPs whiz pass roads in Manipur at the expense of an average citizen stinks of colonial hangover mindset, morphed into VIPsm.

While the practice might be expected to toned down in future with subsequent reforms ,hopefully, the hangover mentality is not expected to go by any time soon. The ruler mentality syndrome is hard nut and won't crack that easily. It is a deep seated problem and has taken its hold over the minds of the powerfuls, and its grip so firm that it won't be generations before we uproot it from their head.

It is not that this culture manifest only in the streets, the practice is pervasive. As pervasive as the thought itself, starting from queues- where people with guards break queues demanding treatment worthy of a ruler, in their speeches- arrogant, abusive, threatening, disdainful attempting at every opportunity to assert their authority and self importance.

What worries me as a common citizen about the practice and the thought of VIPsm is the disservice it is doing to undermine a democratic republic by driving wedge between powerful few and common mass, further entrenching the socio-economic divide, reflected in the power structure of the society.

Excessive VIPsm has been the topic of debate in prime time national television channels on many occasions and its high time we in Manipur also discuss the issue with urgency. For far too often insecure atmosphere has been used as an explanation to serve the vested interest of a few.

With understandable reluctance on the part of legislators and executives to reform the system, as status quo cater greater benefits to them, Judiciary is expected to apply prudence to the issue and defeat the hangover that is undercutting the democratic ideals of the country.


* Abujam Manglem Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer teaches at the Department of Geography, Manipur University, Canchipur and can be reached at amanglem(aT)yahoo(doT)com
This article was posted on February 02, 2016.


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