Dialogue  January - March, 2009 , Volume 10  No. 3

Peace, Violence and Development in Manipur: Need for a new perspective

Amar Yumnam*


The General 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Issues surrounding peace, violence and development are the most talked about in relation to the contemporary situation in Manipur. These discussions, both at the official and the general population levels centre around the violence adversely impacting upon development and the need for peace so that development can occur. At least it is argued at the official level that peace is needed so that development interventions can take place effectively.

Need For Revision                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     But I would like to plea for a revision of this simplistic view of the relationship between violence and development. My articulation is based on the basis of my visits to the most interior areas of the State for various socio-economic related surveys. Starting from 1999, I have had the privilege of visiting the least treaded – least treaded by the government officials and least visited by state development interventions – villages lying far away from the seat of power in the State. In the beginning, it was confined only to villages where the existing roads could take me. But recently, my visits have taken me to villages for which no roads exist.                                                                                               My own training being in Economics, we are so much concerned with numbers. But visiting villages where there are no roads, no electricity, no water supply, no access to health facilities, no access to the public distribution system, and no opportunities for completing at least school education, Iam absolutely dismayed with the so-called data and official statistics. The people in these areas - they are our own people by the way -do not have the capacity to make their needs heard nor do they have the time to articulate their needs preoccupied as they are with their struggles for livelihood in absence of any official facilitation.

Visible Violence                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The violence with which we have been dealing with so far relate only to the violence visible to the urbanites and other more fortunate areas. This violence relates to the people who can articulate their needs and vocal enough to sound the powers that be in the administration. This violence relates to the presence and engagement of parties who have the capability to inflict injuries or kill members of the other side. This has been generally described as the conflict situation where various non-state groups fight against state forces, and in the process many civilians too lose their lives. This is the visible violence. We have been preoccupied with this visible violence so much so that we have been seeing this as the only issue to be addressed so that the State can embark on a growth trajectory.                                                                        There has now arisen the necessity of examining the connotation of violence in the context of development in view of the scenarios in the interior villages I had mentioned earlier.

The Invisible Violence                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Almost all the villages lying in the international border villages of Manipur do not have roads which can connect them with the rest of the country. Is not this violence? These villages no not have water supply system. Is not this violence? These villages suffer from the children dropping out of the schools right at the primary stage at rates 30 per cent or more. Is not this violence? These villages do not have access to electricity even today. Is not this violence? The children in these villages do not have the luck to get vaccinated except for polio. Is not this violence? The people in these villages get their daily needs at a much higher price from across the border even though they have incomes much lower than the State average. Is not this violence? Since the people do not have access to modern avenues for advancement, they do get married at a very young age; most of the girls do get married before they are eighteen. Is not this violence? The traditional activities in the villages producing items still in demand do not enjoy the potential growth disconnected as they are from the rest of the world and in the absolute absence of government facilitation. Is not this violence? Any complicacy in pregnancy and delivery implies sure death for the mother. Is not this violence? These villages have connections with the rest of the world only during the dry season, and they are completely cut-off during the rainy season; rainy seasons are longest in this part of the country. Is not this violence? Only parents who can transport out the annual ration requirements for their school going children, who are studying in places far from home, during the dry season would have their children not dropping out from studies. Is not this violence on those who cannot afford this transaction?                The worst part is that all these violence go unnoticed by the people living in the better off places of the State as well as by the administration. That is why I call these invisible violence.

The Priority                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Having spelt out both the generally appreciated visible violence and the not yet appreciated invisible violence, the question now emerges as to what should be our priority for attention.                                           Here a word about the warmth of the people in these places and their freedom from the suspicions characterising the “more civilised” population living in the more developed areas. The warmth of the people in these places takes a lovelier turn and gets reinforced if we land at any village in the heart of night. We would be offered shelter, food and hard-fetched water even before we could dare ask for. Well all the mountains in Manipur are inhabited by people who have nothing but ready to give you everything. The big question now is: Have we given them any in return?                                                                                               One touching feeling is the way the people in the international border villages feel about the national boundaries. They feel so strongly and closely about our national boundaries. They want them to be safe and protected as vehemently as possible by the government of the land from any type of incursion from across the border. They all want the other side to be more dependent economically and socially on our side rather than the other way round. They value and are much more appreciative of whatever is there on our side. Further they still have not lost heart even after six decades of planning and planned negligence. Well it is at this point that I would like to remind all of us living in the better served places a well-respected welfare principle of policy. This principle says: The accuracy, appropriateness and effectiveness of any policy is to be judged by how much it serves the interests of the most downtrodden of the downtrodden. The sooner we have a state alive to this principle the better would be for all of us. Our people are making our borders worth living for, it is now the responsibility of the state to make their living worth.     

The Power                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   By now, my priority of orientation should be clear to the readers. I would definitely vouch for addressing the invisible violence today much more aggressively than we do to stop the visible violence. Removing or reducing the invisible violence has the potential to reduce the emergence of additional visible violence. While removing the invisible violence can take care of the visible violence, no amount of efforts for addressing the visible violence can address the troubles caused by invisible violence.                                                                                                                    In this case of invisible violence, we cannot think of peace and development as separate entities. Development should possess an inherent quality of peace in itself such that the interests of the most downtrodden of the downtrodden are spontaneously taken care of.                    While the visible violence may be addressed and dialogued, we may have the transitory vision that peace is in the horizon. But no solution to the visible violence would be sustainable unless the developmental violence has been taken care of. Temporarily we may get an impression of peace, but the areas now subject to developmental violence would emerge sooner or later as areas marked by visible violence.                        Removing the developmental (invisible) violence, on the other hand, has the capability to address the issues of visible violence. Further this incorporation of peace as a component of development can make the resultant healthy atmosphere sustainable. The sustenance of this atmosphere would in due course reduce the scope for visible violence.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati