I Am A Manipuri, So I Am A Liar: Globally speaking
By Amar Yumnam
Manipuris are now emerging or rather have been made to emerge as a bunch of liars. Anybody who connects with the rest of the world while still staying on the soil of Manipur is necessarily made to look like a liar in the rest of the world. Modern world and her contemporary development stand on trustworthy flows of information, communication and ideas. These flows necessarily demand honouring the deadline and timely response to communication. But these are impossible things to perform while still being a home-stuck son or daughter of the soil of Manipur. Further, information technology is a fundamental medium of communication across countries in the world today. Whenever anyone send a communication from any corner of the world to another corner, it is necessarily and generally expected that a reply should be elicited within twenty-four hours. This is where we are now seen around the globe as the most unreliable and untrustworthy group of people who do not respect time and commitment to the deadline. There would be weeks and months when we would go without access to internet and without the luxury of power; unfortunately information technology does not work with candles. These would necessarily imply that we would remain without responding to any of the communications and respecting any of the deadlines committed to anywhere under the sun. When after days, weeks and months, we would respond to the various communications (because of the large time lag, we cannot even respond to all the communications at one go as the accumulated mail gets piled up) expressing regrets for the delay in responding. We would write that the period of delay was because of the failure of the internet connection and the power outages. Then there would be no further communication from the other end. At this period of the twenty-first century and belonging to one the most venerable emerging economies (India), nobody in this world now believes that we have problems of internet connection and power failures for elongated periods. It is only the miniscule few who had visited the land would realise that in Manipur these are real problems. The end-effect of all this is that the world now sees Manipur and her people undependable for long term connections and relationships; the people in this land care a hoot for the deadlines and continuous flow of communications.
The contemporary world values speed and efficiency. In fact, the relative competency over others are founded on these, individually, socially, nationally and internationally. There are some significant studies emerging of late which examine the ill-effects of cumulative exposure to disadvantages. Three important observations have emerged:
1. “Growing up in a poverty concentration neighbourhood can have a long lasting negative effect on incomes of children as adults.
2. Cumulative exposure to poverty concentration neighbourhoods leads to a lower income later in life.
3. For those belonging to a non-Western ethnic minority there is an additional penalty for growing up in a poverty concentration neighbourhood.”
Now when we extend this analysis beyond individuals and to the land and people of Manipur, and particularly in the context of the Act East Policy, the world outside finds Guwahati and Shillong as more dependable points of communication and relationships than Imphal. One may say and take excuse in it that the insurgency prevalent in Manipur is the culprit. Here I would hasten to assert that it is not. The state of infrastructure and the character and the quality of governance are the spoilers. The significance of infrastructure as foundations of development and much beyond items of interest of the contractors and the contract-providers (read powers that be in government) have long been emphasised. An additional finding of latest research in development is the significance of writing as a strong correlate of development – “more statistically robust and significant relationship of writing with state emergence than with agricultural transition, supporting the notion of a special role of states in the adoption and transmission of writing systems”. We can extend this research into the failures of information technology and power by the government imposed on the people and the resultant exposure of the people of Manipur as habitual liars to the rest of the world as the same as the failure to evolve writing in the society. Or is it a case that the government of the day wishes all the people were illiterates and would not bother to write; this would have been a very convenient environment to rule for the powers that be. In one of the most significant articles of this year titled “Why human rights are called human rights”, Alan Sussman writes in the June 2014 issue of the journal of Ethics and International Affairs: “Historical memory—the memory of what we have done to each other—is a decidedly human attribute. It could be said that one may scarcely be human without it. It could also be said that without memory there could be no possibility of imagination, and without imagination, no moral imagination.” When the world sees that the Manipuris do not respond in time and do not respect deadlines, the historical memory advises the former to work more closely with the people in the North East other than the Manipuris. This situation has been made inevitably happen due to long failures in power and information technology; these are the areas where the state (read government) is expected to play the pivotal role in societies needing to move towards transformation for better well-being (societies requiring to move from ill-being to well-being). Hussman also quotes the January 1941 State of the Union speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt where he propounded the celebrated “Four Freedoms”: “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.” Interpreting this contextually and contemporaneously, we may now ask if reliable access to the information technology and power are not human rights for ensuring movement from ill-being to well-being. In any case, the governance should not be indulging in the collectively damaging game of projecting the Manipuris as undependable and habitual liars to the rest of the world.