Art of the Possible [2010]

The Imphal Free Press
June 25 2010

(Brave sons and daughters of the land, Your fatherland is on fire. The flames are rising roaring and cracking, Come and douse the fire, Come and douse the fire). This is the translation of a Manipuri patriotic song lyric which goes: Pari Imom Shamu Pangalba-sa, Napam Lamdam Khambi Meihou-re, Chaklak-le Mei-se, Lao-na Khong-na, Khambi Meikal Houro-ne, Khambi Meikal Houro-ne. Like all good poetry, this one too has a rich array of meanings leaving ample room for variegated interpretations. Our fatherland, or motherland if you prefer, Manipur today is on fire. Brave and nimble sons and daughters of the soil, let us put our heads together and think of a way to douse this fire. We have come to be a society on the precipice, let us pull ourselves away from the death trap. We can only do this by keeping a cool and thinking head, and never by blind fury. On our success or failure in this enterprise hangs the fate of all of us and our children, so the stakes are extremely high. Let us remember also, our problem is hydra-headed and each of the heads of the monster can deliver us the death blow. We have to see the monster in its totality and not get absorbed and engage all our attention to any one of the heads alone lest we fall easy prey to the other heads.

The territory entangle is not something that can be wished away, much as many of us would like to believe this is so; the ever deepening financial crunch the state is in is threatening to ruin the place and sink more and more of our population into abject poverty; the development agenda is all but forgotten; unemployment is spiraling; rule of law has disappeared for far too long and the law has instead come to be synonymous with the gun, regardless of whose hands they are in; it is only expected in such a circumstance that individual insecurity is the order of the day… each one of these is awesome and each one of these can put our lives to ruins form which there will be no easy salvation. All of them together may actually seem impossible to overcome. Impossible maybe not, but definitely it will be a treacherously long and arduous climb. What then must be our approach to this overwhelming problem before us? A single-mindedness of purpose will be essential but this single mind must be informed constantly of the ever changing reality in the backdrop. For all such single-mindedness if they occur in an insulated environ can very well land in a time warp.

A clear-visioned and committed politics must lead the way. By politics we do not necessary mean only the “mainstream” politics of the state Assembly variety that we are so accustomed to identity with greed, avarice, petulance, meanness and above all an insatiable lust for power. We do wish this important forum too is cleaned up but the politics we talk of goes much beyond. It would involve the way any individual or organization with a will to affect some changes to the society see the consequences of his or their actions. True politics in the end is about power negotiations between various sections of the society so that a just equilibrium is brought. Inalienable to this negotiation, we tend to subscribe, is the view that politics is also very much about the art of identifying and pursuing the possible. For abandoning this principle can very well reduce politics to foolhardiness and therefore a meaningless exercise that can only prolong the agony of those subject to it. This principle must apply to every level of politics, be it peace negotiations, revolutions, Nupi Lals, students’ agitations, or for that matter in the efforts to bring about a resolution to the ADC standoff or for that matter in the effort to bring justice myriad other issues that the state is faced with. Let us not allow ourselves to be condemned to, as Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a man who has had a lived experience of a society as tumultuous as our own during his lifetime, so succinctly put it – one hundred years of solitude.

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