Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Dept of Environment and Climate Change

Why Restrain Criticism Against Government at All, and Why Only Teachers if it Has to be Done

For the government will it be enough to say that college teachers in the state have been ordered not to give comments on policy programmes of the government in public forums, importantly the media, and for the teachers who form a major chunk of the government employees in the state does it now mean they will bear in silence since any indication of a protest might cost some of them their jobs, the way the government lately is going full steam against criticism from any quarter. The government’s decision has come just when the people here had started looking up to many regular appearances by teachers who apart from educating their students were through the media beginning to reawaken the conscience of many viewers on matters not only academic but those of the common man’s interest. To deter the teachers the government has invoked the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rule, 1965.
The irony is the government did not base this order on individual cases of misdemeanour. In the show of vitriol against the government abundant to these times it just so happens that the teachers may be the first in a long line of those the government wants cut to size. One can notice there’s too much hate on the social media although news channels do edit before relaying, which practice the print and online media has not been able to stick to due to whatever compulsions.
The hate campaign, especially against the Indian government, of which the state government here has always been derided to be a tool of, has been occupying mind space for long. Those in power always try to turn things to their advantage and though sizable social media hate would obviously be unprofitable to deal with. Now this has become a good excuse for the government to keep issues away from criticism. The government, if it was fair, wouldn’t have imposed a blanket ban on the teachers because a backward community merits discussion of some sort always from its more informed members.
Legitimate criticism is being taken as negative by the government, especially when there has been no specific instances cited of excessive comments made against it. How could the government grow if it avoids criticism or self-censure. Every piece of criticism has to be taken up separately since the state is full of detractors of many hues and kinds. Also here, maybe one reason why those who have an opinion wouldn’t go along with issues in Manipur, any more than casually clicking a ‘like’, is that the kind of groove some people are stuck in here makes it impossible for observers, commentators and well-wishers to deliver them out of it. Issues are openly divisive and unmistakably belligerent, which only a particular breed of politicians will try to cash in on by feigning concern – but hardly anyone else. It is incredulous then the way the government on the one hand shows concern for the community and otherwise censures those in the community who show some sense of social diligence in matters of environment, human rights, policy etc.
No doubt the Manipuri ingenuity, which incidentally signifies something else, today implies to a large extent not how to subdue an adversary but to hate it. The far reaching culture proposed in earlier years is overridden now with attempts to equate this culture with past dates and archaic political events confounding the masses, especially the younger generation. Some people here have forgotten that Manipur’s culture by the very nature of it does not follow any chronology and is vast in its timeless scale. There’s an attempt to box in Manipur without giving it any air to breathe and if that is going to be Manipur’s moment of truth no one’s going to purchase it. And we can see now the government has reacted in its own way as far as it is able to respond to the situation, because they too can sense it and would like to do something about it, but only in a limited unaccomplished way.
The top heavy political class too is not helping anyone by its own discussions which it holds separately. The political class today does not belong to the common man. The man on the street is only told what is due to him or her; he or she is never consulted. Academia is different; most of those in academics do not seek popularity that may be essential for survival in a politician’s case. At present many in academia have won acclaim with their astuteness. But many politicians and teachers as well have not been able to maintain professional propriety, in turn affecting those teachers who are outgoing and knowledgeable.
In India Dr. Manmohan Singh is still celebrated as an academic as much as a former prime minister proving that both occupations are compatible and in fact ideal for public consumption. Even Prof. N Mohendro of the Manipur University was economic advisor in many government committees and boards and is a good example of how both professions can be fused. These personalities are also good precedents for those who may like to follow in their footsteps. Much earlier, during the freedom struggle and subsequently the newly formed republic, intellectuals, who were down to earth too, like MK Gandhi himself, are instances that can’t be missed out. So were the pass outs from the coveted seat of learning, the Banaras Hindu University, most of whom were well versed in subjects of study like political science and were political leaders of repute. The point is that those able to add to their teaching experience with appearances in the media as role models cannot be deprived of either position. A government that allows freedom of speech and expression cannot contradict itself by at the same time withdrawing these rights under some garb.
Even popular Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in a recent case, has been pulled up over a small matter of a tweet or two, what to speak of the gross malice social media trolls here bear toward the country. But surely the government should be addressing opinions generated against itself separately instead of trying to club in particular communities, like teachers in this case. It is arguable that even before the age of social media people here always said more than what is desirable, and also got away with it. But a particular profession cannot be held responsible and censured for this. And the government has a large workforce. Why not everybody; why only the teachers who with their scholarship can pose a threat to the many a times ill-conceived government policies. The clampdown on teachers who are widely respected in the state will stifle the voice of informal leaders of the community like the intellectuals and teachers.
There’s nothing to gain from all this, but a lot to lose. And the biggest loser is the community as a whole as it trespasses on Manipuri’s right to peaceful living and informed debate. Even as some people throw away their freedom cheaply as they sideline themselves from everywhere slowly but surely, the present sanctions is proof of more that may follow on the saner members of the community as a result of uncontrolled criticisms from others who are in no way connected to them, apart from the government high-handedness also. The country’s top court struck down Section 66 A of the IT Act in 2015 calling it ‘vague’ and ‘unconstitutional’, but already legal experts are mulling why the law shouldn’t be reintroduced in another avatar since cybercrimes at present are too many and have to be dealt with by trying to find other suitable laws under sections of the IPC and other specialised laws. Another moot question then also is how to operate the law against hate and incitement so that these instances don’t start accumulating and trickle over to derail rightful functions like the role of teachers in the society, which forfeiture of role is likely to be caused now in the state.

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