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EDITORIAL: Shambolic Demonstration?

There are times when melodramas are needed to add that extra punch or make something a little spicier, but by and large, the rational man usually does not go according to the script churned out by melodramas. In Manipur, we have also had our share of melodramas being staged in the public domain and this specially comes to the forefront, whenever a group of people or an organization ‘nasal feed’ the glorious past of the land and the bravery of our ancestors to the unsuspecting public. Melodramas can also be detected quite prominently in the now done to death slogan, ‘Ching-Tam Amattani.’

To put it bluntly, this slogan has today become something like the slogan used by the Assam Rifles, “Friends of the Hill People,” or just “Friends of the People.” All noise and rhetoric without any substance. On the other hand an act or a few words strung together may not have even the slightest resemblance to what is generally understood as melodramas, but even the most sincere of acts enacted with a positive frame of mind, can mutate into some sort of a melodrama, if it is done to death or if it is kept repeating even though its novelty has already run out. The toys guns consigned to flames in a bonfire by children in Thoubal district on April 24, was a symbolic gesture of saying no to the growing culture of violence.

Psychologists, especially those specializing in children behavior, have for long been commenting on the connection between the culture of violence in a society and fascination the toy gun holds for every child. The popularity of video games, which primarily deals with violence and guns of all kinds, has also been attributed to the growing violence and gun culture in certain parts of the country. Does this then mean that a child in Gaza or Afghanistan is more likely to ask for a toy gun as a birthday present than a child born and brought up in Switzerland? These are speculative questions, but nevertheless are significant to the people of Manipur, especially given the fact that the goriest of crimes and violence such as a mob lynching their father and mother in front of them no longer shocks the sensibilities of the people as it should.

If one takes a trip down memory lane to Joupi in Chandel district or Churachandpur district, we can still easily visualize the pain and trauma that children were exposed to during the ethnic cleansing drive launched by the NSCN (IM) and the Kuki-Paite clash respectively. If we take all these factors into consideration, then the very act of consigning to flames the toy guns of children, holds some very significant symbolic meanings, which otherwise cannot be expressed verbally or through the written words. However the downside is, when this act is enacted too often, without any result, it becomes redundant and is likely to be clubbed as one of those melodramatic moments, created and scripted by some highly sentimental people, whose heart and not the head dictate their action and thought processes.

It is not only the violence as understood within the realm of bloodletting and confrontations and booming guns that our children have been exposed to but also equally to other acts which may not be seen as affecting the children, but in fact leave a deep scar, which time alone may not be able to heal. We do not know how the children whose books were snatched from their school bags and consigned to the flames, during one of the revivalist drives launched to promote our culture and identity, are doing today, but rest assured to many of them, the scar will remain and it will take more than the healing touch of time to erase that scar.

We have seen it and we have also spoken out against it a number of times, but no one seems sincerely concerned about how violence and the growing gun culture have impacted on the lives of the children here. When children as young as five or six, studying in their lower kindergartens and even those studying in class V or VI, are made to take out a protest rally, holding placards and festoons and raising slogans along the way, what is there to be said? And now children are made to come out, burn their gun toys as a symbolic gesture against violence and the gun culture, with no positive response from the people who matter.

Moreover we also need to ask whether the children really understood the core meaning and its significance or not. Time was, when young boys walked around the dusty roads of Lamphel with a catapult in hand, to shoot a bird or two, but that did not make their generation any more violent than other generations. Even thirty years ago, the kids of those days had a fascination for anything one could call a gun and it needs no elaboration to say that these children, who are now in their forties, were not pioneers of the type of violence that we see today. This is the reason why the repeated acts of consigning toy guns to flames and making a bonfire out of it have not touched the raw nerve of the people.

Leave insurgency related violence aside and let’s sincerely ask ourselves whether society as a whole has ever joined hands together to say a firm no to violence. The Sora incident, the Phayeng killings of a mother and her daughter, the killing of tower guards of mobile companies, bomb attacks (no we do not consider these as insurgency, but criminal acts which does not relate to any political issue but are strictly law and order issues), etc are all instances which we can recall to have a better understanding of violence and how it impacts on our young children. However sincere the objective, it stands true that burning toy guns as a symbolic gesture has lost its novelty and far from being a symbolic act against violence, it has the potential to be reduced to a shambolic gesture.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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