Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Is AFSPA justified?

As Observation, Creativity and Research are Simply Personal Enterprise, Norm for Peer Review is Redundant

The normal and accepted response to politics in Manipur seems to be that people not in the government think it’s their duty to oppose everything the ruling party does. So, if we see a little practically there seem to always be two sides to every government decision or policy. Which is quite foxing, unless one wants to say that whatever a government does is unfair. And when the other party is in government somehow everything it does in regard to the same decision and policy are fair, although it was objecting when the earlier party was in power and handling those same issues. Or, is it that the policy and plans are one thing and everyone fails when it comes to implementation? Or conversely, is it that what is actually good for the state’s people is portrayed as bad by the opposition?

One thing is certain though. Because wrong people are in positions they are not suited for, they do not allow the right people to work and so the whole population imbibes the wrong values and suffers. Hunger, poverty, abuse, exploitation – just see the advertisements on online platforms these days that ask for charity. These portrayals show the real position, what the people in this country have achieved in the last seven decades. So, this kind of widely and educationally ingrained compulsive necessity to fight with others for positions taught by the schools and colleges in the name of fair competition – this viewpoint and perception of life has to change. This is noticeable most openly in spiritual institutions also which are otherwise able to do immense good but are immobilized by the non-spiritual endeavors and competitive ignorance which most of the unrealized spiritual practitioners make the realized ones suffer. It’s a great crime against the materially and spiritually deprived people, especially in places like India, where many landmark changes in quality of life can be made but it does not come about due to this difficulty posed by non-believing believers who misunderstand an invitation to stay in the spiritual institution as an invitation to occupy positions of authority, but which positions in fact have nothing to do with mundane authority but  are only for preaching to better the humane qualities through daily practice. This is where the real problem of hunger, poverty and education comes into focus and can be readjusted fairly. Since recognized religious institutions are selfless workers, it can restore the system back to its position of plenty, if such dedicated workers of recognized religions get the chance to rectify the system according to acceptability, understanding, choice and kindness.

In other non-related circumstances also, we see that the center of attraction and dependence for the social system in Manipur are the children, especially in the valley, who are emotionally pampered. We see that elders depend on the child’s judgment. Religion is not a constant or imbued factor, in Manipur valley at least, and hence without an emotional attachment of a superior spiritual kind, the elders are dependent on more of a childish kind of mentality even in their grown-up years as they derive their kindness from observing their children, in the absence of firm literature on spiritual background. This no one is contesting but only that it becomes a bit impractical in accomplishing public tasks as the state and the people seem to become self-centered as any small mind tends to be.

Now coming to the purpose of this write-up, all the above-mentioned circumstances exist in scientific research, and generally any pursuit of knowledge in the state, so to say. Every branch of study is meant for developing a scientific temper, however what is happening today in many circumstances is hardly scientific research in the true sense of the term. Allan Savory, a well-known Ecologist questions peer review of scientific research and his views is significant not just in the scientific field but also in any other work of the intelligentsia. Savory says, “What is science. People talk glibbery about science. People coming out of the university with a master’s degree or a PhD, and you take them to the field…they literally do not believe in anything unless it’s a peer reviewed paper. That’s the only thing they accept and you say to them… let’s observe, let’s think, let’s discuss and they don’t do it! Only when it’s in a peer reviewed paper or not. That’s their view of science. I think it’s pathetic. Gone into universities as bright young people they come out of it brain dead. Not knowing what science means. They think it’s peer reviewed papers etc. No that’s academia. And if the paper is peer reviewed it means everybody thought the same therefore, they approved it. An unintended consequence is when new knowledge emerges, new scientific insights…They can never ever be peer reviewed; so, we are blocking all new advances in science…that are big advances. If you look at breakthroughs in science almost always, they don’t come from the center of that profession, they come from the fringe. The finest candle makers in the world couldn’t even think of electric lights. They don’t come from within, they often come from outside the bricks. We’re going to kill ourselves because of stupidity.”

The question is, does peer review advance the science of research. According to Savory, it doesn’t. And what I would say is, he is right because any branch of learning is for teaching us the science of achieving freedom, and peer review as a norm in other professions seems to limit learning and research. Just plain thinking is also a learning process and one can’t restrict the mind of a person who may not be academically perfect but is able to catch on to the impulse of a general need in everyone to be thinking, not controlled dictated thinking but just plain thinking that allows the mind to do what it wants. How else will each human evolve?

Let’s introduce this topic of peer reviewed opinion in the kind of situation here in Imphal where many people are questioning the AFSPA implementation in Manipur. With except a few politicians or so everyone’s saying AFSPA should be repealed, citing that this law was never used in Punjab during the militancy days there. One can reply that every punishment given by law courts is according to the severity of the crime and past records of the culprit. Now whereas Manipur has been into armed conflict or at least negated the idea of its being part of the Indian state almost ever since it was declared a part of India, some say the anti-state terrorism movement worldwide started here, the crime at all levels of physical, intentional and psychological act has been far greater than any kind of contribution Manipur has made to the Indian polity, with commonly all enterprise in Manipur being initiated or contributed by Central government resources. On the other hand, Punjab was more trustworthy as it has one of the best, if not the best record, among the Indian states. And it’s not that they were not under any law during that period of unrest.

Now the thing is people in Manipur are calling the AFSPA colonial and out of context historically after the Britishers left. The constitution of India was framed under the leadership of a very learned person, Dr. BR Ambedkar and while we approach the courts under other laws that are acceptable though they are also so to say colonial, why are people in Manipur challenging a law which was approved by the same person after scrutiny of the laws handed down by the Britishers. Ambedkar may not have foreseen the problem of troubled states in a future India, or he may have, but he found the AFSPA law appropriate and consonant with the laws of the earlier period, because it’s the same state with only the ruling disposition changing. How can a law be changed when the mind and actions of the people are not going to change overnight with the change in ruling disposition? All or most other laws in the constitution are also from the so-called colonial times, and if we go by that argument, does it mean the whole constitution has to be rewritten. Challenging a law also means challenging the credibility of the lawmaker in standing by it, it is good to remember. Like for instance in Manipur where the AFSPA is applicable, learned men here may say that they themselves are free from suspicion by the security agencies as they have done nothing wrong during Manipur’s years of armed conflict, but it is for the others in the state who might be harassed or harmed by such a law that Imphal’s learned men are speaking up. Does it mean then that law has to be equated with sentimentality?

Also, does it mean that such a learned person or activist is vouching for the lawfulness of all the other people in the state and that no one in Manipur belongs to a suspicious group, or that all individuals in the state are beyond suspicion for anti-state activities, although the state has seen endless armed violence, psychological warfare etc. And each individual is mentioned particularly because Imphal is a closed community and every individual by being so remotely situated mentally, ideologically and ethnically, contains the potential to react and spread anti-state movements very quickly. And who or why should a learned person vouch for a whole mass of people unless such a person has other political, personal or professional motives, like maybe overtly or covertly acquiring a powerful status, popularity or gain for himself or herself.

This may be a good question to ask of the skeptics, and also lawmakers in India may have considered this matter already. Why Manipur is under AFSPA and why not Punjab was under it may be because it is an extended arm of the law which is applied in special cases. And Manipur fulfills all those negative conditions through its physical and moral non-contribution to the Indian state for very long times now, while Punjab during all that time was doing the best in the country. The law is parameters which have been crosschecked over the ages and maybe not everyone can see the truth of it like Ambedkar did or the judicial system in India still does. So, coming back to the point, peer review in the case of the AFSPA law seems to be a childishly emotional attempt to hoodwink the law by asking it to repeal a law so that lawlessness can continue in Manipur.

(Opinion expressed here are the author’s own and does not reflect IRAP’s view at all)

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