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EDITORIAL: Tears For Fears

The tears that flow down the cheeks of the average man and woman of Manipur are no longer tears of sadness or tears of happiness. Nor is it a reflex action of the tear ducts to an external force for which there is as yet no scientific explanation but at the same time, no one can take away the fact that the tears that stream down the cheeks of grown up men and women, of widowed wives and orphaned children and parents who have lost their children to some gun slingers and relatives is a fact we have to live with.

Not all tears of the type which we are referring to now can be ascribed to insurgency or the battle of the turf and one upmanship between the security forces and the numerous rebel groups operating in Manipur and the North East region, but is a direct fall out of the value system, which we have passed down to our younger generations. If children of VIPs come under the impression that they are also entitled to the perks and the benefits that come along with the office of his or her father, then we have no one to blame but their parents for overindulging on their wards.

And so the reality at the ground level is, children of VIPs have come to believe that the lesser mortals, that is the general public, should salute them and give them the right of way whenever there is a traffic snarl. This is nothing different from what their fathers usually do, ensconced comfortably at the back seat of their AC Ambassador or latest high end cars, while his security escorts do the needful of clearing the way, barking orders and with a lathi swinging around for effects and with the siren on full blast. No horn zones be damned.

Those who dare to stand up against such behavior or public conduct usually end up at the wrong side of the gun butt. The system which we have bred and passes off as administration of the land, has unfortunately percolated down to every sphere of life, especially in the social behavior of the people. The controversial and draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act fades into oblivion when viewed against such social behavior and the biggest surprise is, society condoning these acts which are nothing less than haughtiness topped off with a shade of goondaism.

Misuse of official perks and benefits is primarily the reason for the growth of such a culture. Before India opened her economy in 1991-92 and the choice was limited to either an Ambassador or a Premier Padmini, it was a common sight to see school children of the VIPs and officers who decide the fate of the people and the land, dropping and picking up their children from schools in vehicles with the registration numbers given in the MNG series, MNG standing for Manipur Government. It is the same when the Memsahib had to go shopping or go some long way to catch up with her friends.

If this practice had remained only at the MNG level, then perhaps, it would have been much better today but no, from MNG the culture or socially acceptable behavior graduated to something more sinister and dangerous. With insurgency becoming more intense in the 80s and 90s, the importance of police officers became all that more important and it was not long before they started throwing their weight around, which was unsurprisingly picked up with panache by their children.

 

The trend caught on and the higher up the ladder of officialdom one’s father or uncle is, the more leeway for the brash youngster to come under the delusion that he or she must have under any circumstances. The tragic story of Neelam Panchami stirred the conscience of everyone and so did the story of Tamphasana. All these happened in the 80s and all those who were involved and whose names are being whispered around as being involved in the grisly crimes have powerful fathers standing behind them.

Sometime in the 80s again, it was the turn of the son of a well known police officer, who went home, summoned the security escorts of his father and came back to a college and began wielding the lathis and went on a smashing spree. The jury is still out there in whether the son used the gun allotted to his dad. A number of youths were injured. The reason for the backlash? The police officer’s son was bashed up earlier for his cockiness and everyone be damned attitude. Children of the suited, booted, officers and dhoti clad political leaders dodging the law of the land  because of the political support they receive is not only an indicator of some class of people riding rough shod over the others but is also a strong indicator of the presence of a weak Government.

Maybe the media in Manipur has also not been sensitive enough towards this critical issue or else why was the case of a man assaulted with the rifle butt by the escort commander of an MLA given such a quiet burial? This happened just a few days back. We wonder how the story would have unspooled if the said MLA had turned out to be an Army officer or an officer from the Assam Rifles! One may call it being indifferent or just plain not interested at all that society is quietly accepting or even endorsing such a culture and it is against this backdrop that a young man of 21 was shot dead by another young man, who happens to be the son of the IFCD Minister N Biren on March 20 evening at Tiddim road.

At the moment, there seems to be no motive, but some have subscribed it to road rage, some to personal enmity that goes back to Bangalore where both are understood to have studied with the bone of contention being a young, innocent girl! Resignation is certainly not a culture amongst our Ministers and so it is not surprising to see Biren continuing as the IFCD Minister and who anyway is morally placed to advice him to give in his paper. Certainly not Mr. Ibobi, especially after what happened on July 23, 2009 at BT Road. The most painful and heavy burden comes when one cannot pin point the cause for the tears that flow down the cheeks of a group of people and the experience that Manipur is facing right now.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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*The Sangai Express- Largest Circulated News Paper In Manipur
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