WHOSE WRIT RUNS

This article was published by the Imphal Free Press ( http://ifp.co.in) on 16 Jan 2012 at http://ifp.co.in/imphal-free-press-full-story.php?newsid=3992&catid=5


What the Manipur administration needs most at this stage is moral legitimacy to enforce the rule of law, without the need to use force. As of now, there is none of this and this is evident all around. Nobody takes the government seriously and everybody thinks it can be challenged, not so much through the legal channels available, but by taking to the streets. The present atrocious spree of book burning, the defiance by affected teachers of the government’s much needed rationalization of transfer and posting, agitations for the government takeover of schools and colleges, students diktats on the way schools and colleges should be run or on the content of educational curriculum, etc are just some examples of this. It is an old story, but one which needs to be retold repeatedly to remind the government that it needs to pull up its socks or else it would end up condemning to the state into an endless limbo. We can only think of two advices at this moment. One of course is for the government to clean up its house so that the public mistrust it has earned over the decades is got rid of, but this will have to remain as a relatively long-term strategy. The other more urgent plan of action must be, to borrow a wisdom so articulately spelled out by one of history’s greatest men, Abraham Lincoln, in his famous letter to the teacher of his son, beseeching the former to teach his son to be, among others, tough with the tough but soft with the soft.

Our civil society is today no longer a discursive site where ideas are thrashed out and in the process consensual voices given shape and wings, but one deeply riven by numerous vested interests, each pushing its individual agendas, most of which are very often on collision courses. If the government has lost its credibility because of its lack of commitment and vision, so is civil society eroding away its own hold over legitimacy for the same reasons. Just as in the established order there is a leadership vacuum, so there is in our civil society of today. The result is, an increasing number of ordinary men and women, outside of the organized space referred to as civil society, have very few kind words to say, either of the government or for that matter most of the civil society bodies. The civil society, which was to shoulder the responsibility of being the watchdog of the government, is today itself needing a great deal of disciplining, commitment and vision. What we are left with is a very peculiar situation in which both the government and the civil society, in their state of degradation, need more than ever to check and balance each other.

We are of the opinion it is now the government’s turn to make the move. At this transitional stage this wish can only be reserved for the next government. It must back up its physical authority with moral legitimacy. It can begin from the advice of Lincoln, a leader who paid with his life not so much for the cause of bringing back his nation from the brink of splintering or for any emotionally surcharged fervour of patriotism, but for fighting a sacred war to emancipate Black plantation slaves and giving them citizenship. When it is convinced of the correctness and justness of its policies, our government too must learn to put down its feet to any effort to hijack them. It must listen to suggestions and voices of dissent and see the truth in them, but it must never leave the driver’s of the state’s governance, as so many times it has in the past. Far too often has our government conceded to threats of disruptive activities by organizations of all hues, and either altered or even dropped policy plans. This has lead to a Pavlovian conditioning of sorts in the general outlook whereby everybody has come to believe that at the end of bandhs and blockades, and other forms of coercive breaches of the law, there are rewards awaiting. This conditioning needs now to be de-conditioned. As for the maturing of our civil society, the responsibility must rest, to a great extent, on our generally silent intelligentsia and intellectuals. Sometimes it is difficult not to wonder if they are there at all. There would be brilliant intellectuals no doubt in practically every walk of life. The state has seen brilliant playwrights, doctors, performing artistes, academicians and journalists. But the difference is, how many of them can actually be termed as public intellectuals, capable of sticking their necks out, risking careers, foregoing money making avenues so that the potential within them can be converted to kinetic action. As the Bhagavat Gita says, action is all. Without this, nothing is worth anything ultimately.

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