WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN UKHRUL: HEIGHT OF FRAGILITY

This article by Amar Yumnam was originally published in 1 Sep 2014 issue of the Imphal Free Press

Any loss of life due to actions by any agency, whether state or non-state, is painful. No effort should be spared to avoid such kind of an outcome. Death is never a reversible event and so should never be externally imposed on any soul. This principle should be respected by both the state and the non-state entities. Otherwise, the state or the non-state agency would emerge as the Enemy of the people. Something like this keeps on happening in Manipur. In other words, Manipur has been in a cycle of fragility for the last half a century. There would be moments when things seem improving but would be back to the same turmoil situation sooner than later.

Before I proceed, let me explain what do I mean by fragility in the Manipur context. First, Manipur has consistently failed to provide minimum economic infrastructure so that the people can indulge in meaningful efforts for livelihood in a facilitating context; the state has not developed the capability to facilitate people’s endeavours for productive activities. Second, the state in Manipur has constantly displayed the lack of a reliable capacity to uphold the rule of law. Third, Manipur as a polity has failed to produce political leaders who can inspire, fire the imagination of the people, acquire the trust of the population and thus command respectability in actions.

The tragedy of fragility anywhere in the world is that in most cases the fragility gets alternated with conflicts. This has exactly been the case in Manipur. While there are political and economic reasons (I would not count cultural as significant) for this cycle in Manipur, I am afraid if this has been made structural by the institution of state here. This fear is borne out strongly by what is happening in Ukhrul now. We know for sure that for the last nearly a decade Ukhrul has been moving in a robust way towards stability and convergence with the overall polity of the land. This was indeed a welcome development after decades of incorrigible violence and instability, particularly as the atmosphere was anti-state politically and territorially. This trend was about to take roots spatially and politically when the latest developments have taken place. Instead of positive political and economic interventions getting evolved and implemented, we now see a situation where the provincial law enforcing forces have claimed lives. This speaks volumes of the dogged failure of the state agencies to learn lessons from the earlier rounds of the cycle of fragility. What is even more disturbing is the likelihood that the state agencies thrive in a context of the sustenance of the fragility. When I say state agencies, I would definitely imply, a la carte Milton Friedman, the people manning the agencies of the state. A broad picture is now emerging in bold frame that these people manning the state agencies rather commit to see to it that the disturbances continue. The deep and widespread corruption everybody talks about might be most convenient to indulge in an atmosphere where the fragility of the state is salient. The recent culmination in the killing of two persons by the law and order enforcing agencies should be fully owned up by them. While there could be excuses and arguments that the town and surrounding areas have been under tension for some time, the shooting to dead is unpardonable; this action betrays the incapacity of the state to learn lessons from past events and absolute lack of governance capability to face crises positively.

Now let us trace back the fragility indications Manipur has encountered in recent years. I would take up three. First, the Malom incident which produced Irom Sharmila. This happened when the scenario in Manipur was moving towards decline in conflict and as if the fragility cycle was not going to be repeated. Second, the Manorama incident. This also happened when the similar developments were taking place in Manipur. Now comes, the third example of the current happenings in Manipur. Whenever the fragility indicators show signs of improvement, we have always had a state, in both union and federal sense, which would see to it that the situation goes back to the instability scenario. This has happened so many rounds in Manipur that in most likelihood the institution of state has made the fragility structural in the polity of Manipur. The democratic process has not given us political leaders who can inspire people and lead the state out of fragility towards stability and development. But the fragility seems to have ensured the personalised and individualised success of the people manning the state agencies to follow tricks of personal aggrandisement with full immunity. This is how the fragility has been made structural in governance in Manipur.

Now the state has emerged as the biggest problem of the state in Manipur. Bringing a change in this scenario would necessitate altering the character and orientation of governance in Manipur. How to bring about this change is a million dollar democratic question in Manipur. Fragility has too long been allowed to characterise the political economic feature of Manipur, and this has to be changed sooner than later. The state should always be an evolving institution and never one thriving in conditions of fragility at the cost of the common people.

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