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British Raj Hangover

In the conventional sense, hangover is a term associated with waking up like a sick cat with bleary eyes and a nauseating tendency, that even a look at the toothbrush might force one to rush to the bathroom or waste bin to flush out what is inside. And of course hangover is a reminder of the ‘˜one too many on the road pegs’ or the ‘˜king sized peg’ that one may have enjoyed the previous evening. This understanding also comes with the presumption or assumption that the nauseous spasm that hits the gut of the poor guy, who couldn’t hold his drink, last for a few hours or it may just about make the hapless man unable to go to office for the day and forcing him to exercise his brains to come up with the perfect excuse to explain for his absence, when confronted by the boss.

This is our elementary understanding of the term hangover and is always associated with alcohol consumption, but down the years, a number of words smiths have used this term to partly describe a situation or a state of mind of a people or an individual. It may not necessarily have to do with nausea or a splitting headache, but may well encompass the inability of a man or a Nation to let go of the past and still cling onto the archaic and outmoded thoughts and practices of the days gone by.

India comes uncomfortably close to fit the description of a country, which is still suffering a hangover of a bygone era and nothing  illustrates this better than the still in force numerous outdated and archaic laws and acts which were scripted and enforced during the days of the British Raj. There are reasons for this and one could be the obsession of all Indians with the Gora Sahibs. After all, if we can inherit the railways, first started during the days of the Raj, then there is no reason why we cannot adopt some of the rules and laws the Britishers had enacted and left behind, is probably the logic put forward by those who are intent on sticking to the same set of laws and Acts which were enforced when the Sun Never Sets on the British Empire.

However what sounds funny or hilarious and absurd or odd, is the very fact that the Acts and laws, which were drafted by the erstwhile British ruler, were aimed basically to silence the voice of swaraj or freedom raised from different parts of the country. So we still have the Contempt of the Court and Breaching the Privilege of the Assembly or Parliament, the mandatory Your Honor in the Court room and a whole array of other social behavior, which may not be found in the form of codes and Bills, but which nevertheless play an important role in the lives of every Indians.

The Parliamentary system of Government is another replica that India has inherited from their former British masters. Inheriting a legacy is fine and perhaps needs to be encouraged, but when this culture of adopting everything left by the British, without studying the pros and cons, become the order of the day, then we can only say that India is yet to get over the hangover of the British Raj and we feel it is necessary to point out this juvenile mindset of Delhi, as it not only portrays India as a country run by 21st century Peter Pans, but has also had a retrogressive effect on quite a large number of its citizens.

That the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was adopted from a similar Act passed by the then British rulers, to silence the voice of freedom that was echoing from different of the country, is not only an apt example of the policy makers of the country unable to come up with any thought processes, which suit the political and social climate of the age, but is also a stark reminder that Delhi is not at all keen to let the people see for themselves the difference between a free India and an India lorded over by a foreign power. The country has witnessed many debates on the pros and cons of continuing with the controversial Act and whenever this Act is referred to, the name of the iconic, Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been fasting since November 4, 2000 to demand the revocation of the said Act, will always crop up.

The modern history of Manipur will never be complete or will appear half baked if there is no reference to the summer of 2004 when the State was paralyzed for months on end, after the bullet riddled and defiled lifeless body of Th Manorama was found after she was picked up by some Assam Rifles personnel. Linked to this story, will be other stories, such as the historic nude protest in front of Kangla, the handover of Kangla to the people of Manipur and evacuation of the Assam Rifles from there, the personal intervention of the Prime Minister to somehow calm down the people and very significantly the setting up of a review committee, headed by Retd Justice Jeevan Reddy, which soon became known as the Jeevan Reddy Commission. Others well acquainted with the North East and Manipur were also co-opted as members.

It is another matter that the UPA Government, in its second innings, is still sleeping over the recommendations of the Reddy Commission, and this do nothing except serve as a grim reminder of a country faced with the ghost of adopting a controversial Act enforced by their erstwhile ruler. From Manorama in 2004 to the recent violence in Kashmir, which claimed a number of lives, the debate over AFSPA is far from over, courtesy the inability of the Government to think out of the box or carrying on the culture of being spoon fed.

The other Acts, which are hilarious and at the same time, senseless are Acts such as the Restricted Area Permit and Protected Area Permit. The British, in all their wisdom thought it best to keep the indigenous people of the North East away from the influence of the outside world, lest it brings more harm than good. This was more than 150 years back and the North East of 1947 is not the North East of 2010. It was something of an irony tinged with a touch of tragedy that the Sangai Festival has just concluded and we heard the Chief Minister hold forth on the tourism potential of the State. The only hitch was of course, all those who turned up for the festival are all natives of this State and Manipur may surely find a place in the Oxford Dictionary for coming out with a new meaning of tourism festival.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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