It would be wrong or rather incorrect to say every divergent view is a misinterpretation or distortion of facts. We must accept the fact that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and human understanding and interpretation is never black and white.
By Laishram Nandalal
A newly constituted 15-member committee headed by the education minister to accord approval for publication of books on Manipur’s history, culture, tradition and geography could possibly add up to a half-baked strategy as enforcing such policy will be near to impossible.
Considering the increasing ethnic assertions claiming their unique history and identity challenging unity and integrity of Manipur, Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s cabinet might have toyed with the idea of constituting the committee to examine books on the state’s history, culture, tradition and geography before publications.
As per the state government’s September 15 order, any person/group desirous of publication of books on the history, culture, tradition and geography of the State may submit an application to the Director, University & Higher Education, Manipur along with a copy of the manuscript of the book who shall place the matter before the Committee for Its approval. The Committee shall convene its meeting as and when required. Any publication of a book without seeking approval shall be liable to be punished under the relevant law.
The order is ominously silent on the timeframe for the committee to clear a manuscript and mechanism to address the complaint if a person/group wants to challenge the committee’s decision. Considering multifaceted interests of every ethnic community in the state, the committee will face a daunting task to take a call on a disputed narrative of an ethnic community without kicking up a fuss.
The content of some books may defy popular ideas and narratives or disturb the peaceful co-existence amongst the various communities in the State. It would be wrong to say every divergent view is a misinterpretation or distortion of facts. We must accept the fact that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and human understanding and interpretation is never black and white.
Instead of dictating what to publish or what not to publish, the state government could take whatever possible steps for encouraging academic research on areas that will serve state interests. It could earmark budgetary allocation for state universities and higher education department for publications of books on identified subjects and create scholarships for researchers. It may call for research papers from scholars for publication. The newly-constituted committee could at the best accord the approval for the state government’s publication of books.
If the state government goes all out for pre-publication censorship despite the criticism from the academic world, it would set a wrong precedent and have serious ramifications, hampering all the research works concerning the state and fuelling discontent among young scholars.
The state government must handle the situation with responsibility, humility and openness. It must try to create a healthy atmosphere for discussions and debates on the contentious issues among the informed stakeholders.