Wanted Troubleshooters Not Troublemakers in the Manipur University
Conflict situation in the only Manipur (Central) University has unprecedentedly and unexpectedly protracted over time resulting into compounding the situation and causing unintended harms to local communities increasing day by day seemingly adding to the existing socio-political tensions in the state. Right from the day the conflict surfaced into open all our attentions are at "permanent removal of Pandey", (the VC) as the SOLUTION to all problems in the University to improve its academic performance at national level. But the dynamics of the conflict seem to taking regressive trends diverted from the intended higher goals over the last two months due to acute asymmetric power balance between the parties. Temporary halt on this trend may help recovery of the unintended losses of time and energy and re-strategizing further engagements for honourable solutions for the University community and for all concerned students and parent’s community directly affected by the conflict. Some reflects on: why and how the University campus community became so vulnerable to any external intervention with any aims other than the pursuance of academic excellence in the state. Will it possible to overcome this weakness in the society? Can the person be separated from the problem to work together on the latter?
Personalizing issues; externalizing problems:
Right from the start, naming a person in the position of the VC in the University, pointing out the manner in which his appointment came about and his affiliations in and connections with the power corridors of the present political dispensation, at fault or as the root cause of present turmoil in the campus, invariably also seems to be shaping strong-armed responses of the state and adversarial political mobilization from the other side. The fact that the state has been experiencing troubled relationship based on the contested histories and perceptions about present and future political situation also reinforce the “might is right’ responses of the state which has all the power in hands. On the other side, the belief that the more the person is targeted, the sooner he will disappear permanently (expected as face saving tactic) under social power (by ceasing all Academic & Administrative functions of the University) pressures from the Campus community by assuming mass supports seems to have not only been reinforcing the applications of ‘might is right’ tactics of the state, prolonging cease-work conditions of the University putting at stake future careers of thousands of students community and inadvertently adding to the existing social and political tensions in the state. Same is the story on the other side also.
When the cease-work unrest reached a peak stage some elected members of Parliament labelled the entire University campus as ‘den of insurgents’ because they dislike the opposition from ‘x’, ‘y’, ‘z’ professors or student’s leaders. Such postures and statements while it was unbecoming of any elected representative of the people of India speak of their own narrow local racial and personal prejudices against own countrymen. While it is not to target the person concerned in this case but to focus on the attitudes and ignorance of some of the elected representative who are unable to see things beyond their personal prejudices of the racial and political sensitivities of the people of India. Such prejudiced attitude against own people can also be seen as ‘anti-India’ or ‘anti-Indian’ and so work as very effective ‘trouble-makers’ than ‘problem solvers’ in any given conflict situation. However, it may also be considered that in any given conflict situation where there is acute power asymmetry between the parties it is the weaker that loses everything at the end and stronger get away with everything! Justice may be denied and unheard of the weaker side as the stronger parties equally involved in the conflict are themselves judge on their own to tell to world: they are on the wrong side.
Might is Right: Whose might?
Using the same theory of ‘might is right’ and practising it, and at the same time pointing fingers to the others for the same crimes in absence of a legitimate neutral third party to listen and intervene can be self-inflicting wounds. Under pressures from the Campus community the VC moved to a safer location in the city and then now repositioned at the power HQ temporarily with an intent to tire out or diminish the move to ouster him by an orchestrated political strategies and administrative actions against his adversaries. This has resulted in trampling over the genuine voices and grievances of larger community of the University who are directly affected by the continuing tussles. In this situation some people have no or less to lose and others who are directly affected everything. However, the resultant situation of this continuous stand-out over two months within the highest academic Institute also seems to be compromising the very dignities of all parties when it is seen to be coming down to a STREET fights level between two groups: one with only local community power and the other with all powers in hands, saying "The SOLUTION lies only on our side; Them are the Problems". Resolving such stand-out situation calls for a neutral THIRD party, which in this case, has been wanting by the ways and manners in which the VC’s appointment has come about with political affiliations in the higher-ups of the State.
The Central Government recently appointed a Fact Finding Committee (FFC) to put an end to the on-going unrests against the VC on their own terms and conditions without any consultation with the University community. Such arbitrary response in constituting FFC after losing two precious months, in the first place, speak of the ‘might is right’ prejudiced attitude and power-centred and bias analysis of the conflict situation, as if, to show the University community as trouble-makers and hindrance to their objectives. Therefore, the naming the committee to settle the unrests as ‘Fact Finding’ while protecting the VC on month-long temporary leave to discharge larger duties outside the state. Nobody on the other side also seems to have bothered to ask the objectives or the terms of reference: what facts and whose facts, methods and duration of finding by the committee. Rejection of such bias committee was obvious on the ground that it was not based on the established rules and regulations of Universities in the country. However, another reason heard equally loudly in the media was also on the personalized perceptions of some of the members in the committee who were known be close to the VC. While it is hoped that the Central Government will listened to right reasons and take positive response actions allowing institutional mechanisms to assuage the local needs and feelings, and address the issues, the immediate concern is the unceasing resolve of the university community protracting cease-work strike increasing self-inflicted harms in expectation of the Right Inquiry Committee as the pre-conditions.
Loss of trust and costs
As of now, the Right Committee seems to remain a distant dream while expecting the powerful adversaries in the war to become noble lords in the battle fields without letting up any efforts to demonizing the Authority which can be risking total unilateral defeat and loss. This has become obvious by the writings on the walls: electronic, print and social media strong distrust expressed from the University community and their opposition to the recently constituted Fact Finding Committee (FFC) by naming-personalizing some members who are objectionable. Lost or lack of trust of one party even with the best intention is likely to aggravate the distrust factors and level of suspicions. A question arises, here, which no party can dodge off simply: Should the situation be allowed to go on totally disrupting the entire academic functions compromising the future careers opportunities and financial costs of thousands of students taking exams under this University just because one VC is Bad? There has to be CLEAR ANSWER to this: Yes or No in definite terms without any preconditions or conditions attached to it. Any preconditions or conditions attached to restoring the University's academic normal function at THIS STAGE can only be DETRIMENTAL and Self-Inflicting HARMS to the society defeating the very purpose of the University and losing all community supports.
A temporary withdrawal without letting the issues out of hands till just and honourable solution is found in near future at right time by right methods of engagements. The University community has more local responsibilities towards to the population it serves for a just, peaceful and inclusively progressive society than any other authority outside. It is time to assess the outcomes of the struggles by retreating from the battle front to take stalk of the situation: (1) what has been the achievement as per the set goals and objectives of the struggles: balance sheet of loss and gains (2) what all losses can be addressed / recovered which require immediate attention and actions; (3) what methods of engagement worked as intended and what did not work or (4) worked to cause unintended positive and negative impacts on the local community and social support base; (5) how well assessed was the strengths and weaknesses of the adversaries and whether it has been well-informed assessments; (6) how did other stakeholders responded or reacted to the struggles; (7) which of them are collaborating and cooperating and which have turned adversarial; (8) what can be an improved/ better strategies and methods of engagements based on recent experiences of loss and gains; (9) when can be the right time for right actions till the justice is done to all concerns, and finally, (10) how the new strategies are likely cause negative unintended social impacts or is there any critical assumptions that may have killing impacts on the struggles.
It is time listen to others so others may also do the same. This is possible only when a decision for temporary unilateral withdrawal is arrived at in the campus community in the interests of all and the minds opened to listen to all voices raised by the struggles and unrests. There may be hidden opportunities which otherwise was perceived as adversarial in the hit of active engagements of minds and hearts in the struggle. How can the concerns of the stakeholders’ outside the campus be understood well and acted upon and so make them also understand the genuine issues of the academic community inside the campus if the struggle is personalized? Personalizing the issues only lead to spoiling the person(s) and sparing the problems may further divide people and groups, and the latter never to be solved and allowing vested interests parties of feast on the spoils. This, unfortunately, has been the patterns of conflicts and responses in the state and society. It is time to walk out of this stagnancy and discover a better society where conflict helps us to think bigger and larger future possibilities. This turning point to take the society needs more problem-solvers for the situation and no more trouble-makers; from inside or outside.
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