Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Arjuna empathized with kinsmen on both sides of the conflict, unlike his cousin Duryodhana

Intellectual Stalemates are now a Disease Making Manipur a Fertile Ground For Untenable Diktats not Debates

At the onset of the Mahabharata war, Arjuna reportedly asked Krishna to bring his chariot between the two contending armies so he could observe who were fighting the war. Arjuna was heartbroken and grief stricken when he saw his kinsmen camp out to join the war and take up weapons to kill each other in a needless war invited by the sheer obduracy of Duryodhana, a man who was never amenable to peaceful negotiations.

Duryodhana too observed the two warring rival armies, but the nature of their “observation” was quite different. Duryodhana witnessed the side of his enemies from the perspective of the group he belonged to, and accordingly, the events are compared and judged. But on the other hand, Arjuna did not take the side of either, separates from each warring armies and observed the opposing contenders from the middle grounds.

This event marked the beginning of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, which symbolically convey that in order to reach the truth, one should not observe the “event” or “phenomena” through the  prism of the group to which one belonged, but with absolute honesty and sincerity, smashing all the ego that flies in the back of mind, should one try to arrive at the truth by disengaging from all ideological ties.

In his book “Ideology and Utopia”, German sociologist Karl Manheim argues that all ideological systems distort reality as they all present a partial and self-interested view of social reality. Manheim had said that only ideologically neutral intellectuals can uncover the objective truth.

In the backdrop of this wisdom, it is indeed frustrating and at times absurd to see that Manipur society has long witness a tumult of various organisation coming up with their so called “miyamgi demand”, and sometime ridiculing and scorning those who oppose them and still calling their stalemated “dogmas” as “meeyamgi demand”. Interestingly, these same people would then become the flag bearers for free speech, criticising the government if they think the latter has curtailed their freedom. Again, the same people would not hesitate to criticise those who obstinately promote exclusive ethnic interests other than their own.

They say, no one in this world will happily accept that they are wicked when we say it to their face. Hence, they suggest that when we point one finger at someone, three other fingers of the same hand naturally point back at us. They say it is ‘nature’s’ implicit suggestion revealing that we are three times worse than the person to whom we point to. This goes in line with what the Persian poet Rumi once said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”. This gives us an opportunity to self-introspect and reflect on ourselves since some outside help would be considered an insult, it is best to self-reflect from this simple yet profound wisdom.

Otherwise in this land of hypocrisy and double standards, it’s no surprise that people within and between communities see each other with an eye of suspicion. Flowering of ideas is encouraging but it is worthy of being called an idea if these ideas are backed by facts, has logical coherence and a theoretical basis. Otherwise, some random person who makes some random statements motivated by emotions and sentiments without supporting factual and logical consistency is just a sign of the vulgar domination and function of the demagogue.

There seems to be a morbid smear of the unconscious victims of the self-professed views regardless if it is academically feasible or not, that mark decadence and anarchy.

German philosopher Hegel had reportedly said that the Geist or ‘spirit’ is the ultimate reality which keeps evolving, or continuously advance towards perfection. And as he said ‘spirits’ reside in the mind in form of consciousness and manifest itself in the form of ideas. So certain ideas develop because of the Geist or ‘spirits’ and overtime there develop opposites ideas. If an original idea is called thesis, then the opposite idea is called antithesis, resulting in a conflict of ideas. And eventually this conflict is resolve by combining the valid aspects of thesis as well as antithesis into a new set of ideas which are called synthesis and the synthesis then become a new thesis and once again the same process is repeated and there develop an antithesis and then conflict of ideas leading to still newer synthesis. Hegel said that the ‘spirits’ evolve in a dialectical manner.

As is known that dialectics was an idea or concept, Hegel adopted it from Plato. Plato in his book “The Republic” had used the dialectical method to present as ideas. And in that dialectical method there was a protagonist Socrates who would present an idea, and then there was his opponent who would present the opposite ideas and then they would engage in a debate and finally a new idea would arrive at incorporating the valid aspects of thesis and antithesis. This was the method used by Plato which was later on adopted by Hegel, who in turn connected it to his own notion of Geist or ‘spirits’ saying the spirits evolve in a dialectical manner

One maxim goes that “creating an undesired stalemate is the height of stupidity”. And in this case neither Socrates nor Plato or Hegel can help us because we have philosophers and thinkers in this land who are wiser than them.

Interestingly, at times most of the TV studio platforms who claim their platforms offers open ended discussion would invite all those who collectively support a particular issue, representing only a single party, no opposition parties, and provide a one sided view to the masses, and still the media houses don’t hesitate to call these programmes “open debate”.  And the so called ‘debates’ or ‘discussions’ are more of an argument and at times are emotionally charged unlike debates which are often formal discussion in which the participants discuss a topic from two opposing sides that is regulated based on arguments which are lines of reasoning, support or evidence about a subject arbitrated by neutral competent moderator.

Unlike abstract themes, debates around “empirical topics”  are comparatively easy to judge, provided the parties present solid evidence with logical consistency and factual accuracy. The statement that “chronic alcohol consumption leads to cirrhosis” is a fact, not an opinion. While the debates can be controversial if the central argument is one of opinion and not known fact. But when science comes in, it becomes relatively easy to determine what is right and wrong unlike those topics pertaining to morality and ethics which cannot be determined by facts.

Hence, some issues cannot be judged by the whimsical decision of the majority and taking the decision for votes. For instance, in the court of law, court decisions are based on truth founded on evidence and not the impulse of the majority or minority outside court.

If this is not the case, and everything is decided by the whimsical decision of the majority, regardless of whether things pass the test of reason and are backed up by facts, then society will kill democracy and become an unquestioning moribund society.

As the right wing dictum goes “only a display of might will get India its due in the world”. And if such principles were to take effect, the political dominance of the BJP brand of nationalism would stifle democracy and its commitment to secularism and diversity. And India with its mighty Hindu population and BJP while playing communal cards can seek majoritarianism against democracy imposing their core values over others. But are we going to accept it unchallenged? (

In colloquial Manipuri language, there is something called “niti niyom ama ngakna chatpa” as we used in ordinary familiar conversation. Otherwise, we only live in a mediocre society whose leaders are demagogues seeking their support calculated to appeal to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than rational argument.

If a protest to demand ‘something’ does not have a room for negotiation and accommodating other viewpoints and is uncompromising and essentially deadlocked, it only reveals its vested agenda by labelling their claim as “meeyamgi apamba”. Negotiations are only successful when both parties involved are successful in giving up something for better return. This is how the nature of human interaction works. Only tyrants can get everything they want. (

Not so long ago, American television anchor Tucker Carlson so proudly claimed that English left behind India “a language, a legal system, schools, churches and building”. He further said that “when British left India, they left behind a civilization” hinting that India’s civilization is not as ancient as it claims but just over three centuries old gifted by British. His comment had received major backlashes but suppose if no one on the Indian side responded, then perhaps what the ‘white man’ said might come to be seen as true, and the former being colonial slaves for so long is accustomed to thinking that whatever the white man says is truly white and true.

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