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Slogans, Festivity and Back to Slogans: Manipur agendum for moral ambiguity

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Now we need to examine as to whether Manipur suffers from a negative mindset of British Colonial Legacy. What is the prevailing social reality in so far as recalling the period under British Rule? Without much ado, I must say that the people of Manipur do not suffer from any negative mindset consequent upon the British colonial rule.

By Amar Yumnam

The governance approach of the present government in Manipur has invariably been (a) to continuously evolve one propaganda or another to attract the attention of the people away from the pains of daily struggles in a world of decreasing returns; and (b) to arouse the core emotional feelings of the general population towards some festivity diverting from rising difficulty of livelihood challenges. This is to ensure that the general population do not find time to collectively articulate and share engagement to move ahead with that articulation. We need to ask why the provincial government should behave like this? The contemporary principle for development intervention is one where the earlier welfare state principle has undergone transformation from one of public sector dominance to another of where “there is the search for new models of governing in terms of ‘co’ such as co-steering, co-managing, co-producing and co-allocating.” As the size, scale and capability of the private sector being still low and weak, the public sector (read government) still has big role to play in the case of Manipur. It is exactly here the government has failed and has failed for sure – the government is facing decreasing returns to her efforts.

The intellectual capability – as dominated by what Bertrand Russel calls the possessive impulse ­– of the government has manifested the inability to fully understand the changing dynamics and the evolving challenges of the social dynamics of the complex and the diverse Manipur. This naturally has led to governance underperformance; Manipur has been failed to join in a transformation expected at this stage of development as a region in a Third World country with “colonial histories and .. in the process of developing economically and socially from a status characterized by low incomes, dependence on agriculture, weakness in trading relations, social deprivation for large segments of society, and restricted political and civil liberties.” But the government knows one thing perfectly well that it is representative democracy through the electoral process here. The preoccupation with the daily happenings relating to the Sangai Festival was still high, but a new slogan to dismantle the structures of the British Period was brought in. The objective of the underperforming government to continually engage in propaganda is to stop the people from establishing a clear moral choice and bog them down with continual Ambiguity in Moral Choice.

Now we need to examine as to whether Manipur suffers from a negative mindset of British Colonial Legacy. What is the prevailing social reality in so far as recalling the period under British Rule? Without much ado, I must say that the people of Manipur do not suffer from any negative mindset consequent upon the British colonial rule.

First, if the people had suffered any kind of exploitation, subjugation, resource drain and brain drain affected by the British colonial rulers, how could there emerge a Constitutional System immediately after their departure? Did this social capability fall from the sky above Manipur?

Second, did Manipur have abundant mineral and other resources such that the British Colonial agents would indulge in large scale exploitation and transfer?

Third, what is the inherited legacy of stories being told to us by the elders before they left this world for their heavenly abode?

Fourth, do the general public feel that the existing buildings constructed by the British – and still under rightful utilisation – are an eyesore and despised as depicting the British subjugation?

Fifth, has not the legacy of English given our people a global identity and the route for easier presence for our boys and girls in the countries in Europe, America and the world?

Sixth, did the people of Manipur ever suffer the tragedy of being colonial labour force?

Seventh, when Hillary conquered the Mount Everest, the then New Zealand Prime Minister, Sidney Holland, said: “What a grand achievement on the eve of the Coronation! I hope this terrific example of tenacity, endurance and fortitude, in this our Coronation year may be regarded as a symbol that there are no heights or difficulties which the British people cannot overcome.” The whole world was aghast with the White Supremacy and Racism reflected in this statement. Did the people of Manipur suffer any experience of Racist behaviour or any incarceration during the British Rule?

Eighth, one core argument against colonial legacy is what the Dependency Theory tells us. “The core of the neo-colonialist argument is that a distinction between political and economic freedom misses the point that there can be no real political independence while economic dependency remains. Economic colonialism has serious political consequences. So political autonomy had not really been achieved with the formal and constitutional ending of colonial government. Supposedly independent societies and their sovereign governments were found to be lacking in control of their economies.” The underdevelopment protagonists argue that “underdevelopment is directly caused by dependency on central economies and that capitalism itself in the periphery is unable to bring about a process of development. A second tendency [traces the] obstacles to national development stemming from external conditions.” Thus underdevelopment can be a deliberate position imposed from outside instead of being a transitory phase. Manipur is still underdeveloped but does Manipur suffer any of these characteristics of dependency imposed by the ex-colonizer British?

Destroying the inherited British structures would face at least the following questions:

  1. The existing structures are still fully functional and beautiful, is there readiness for designs with improved functionality and needed finance?
  2. Assuming that there are already improved designs and the necessary finance, is it that Manipur does not require investment in other areas to enhance the development process instead of spending on just break and construct?

Let us leave aside all what have been said above. Still there is inherent potential for an altogether different interpretation and extension of the announcement to dismantle the British period building in order to free the minds of the people from colonial mindset. Coming as it does at this critical time in the evolutionary dynamics of Manipur, this is a dangerous potential. Let me not spell it out here openly. But let us recall, the distinction in Christian theology between Directly Voluntary and Indirectly Voluntary while discussing Good and Evil. Let us recall this and give up the proposal to dismantle. Giving up the announcement would be a better option for the person who had made the announcement in addition to the larger Indian nationalist argument.

(Amar Yumnam is Visiting Professor, CESS: Hyderabad)

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