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People’s Campaign for Resurgent Manipur marked its 4th anniversary today with a talk on “Differentiated Group Rights/Aspirations: Problems and Prospects in Manipur” delivered by Prof. Samir Kumar Das of the University of Calcutta at New Delhi. The function was attended by students and professionals working in Delhi from Manipur and was chaired by Prof. Bhagat Oinam of the Centre for Philosophy, JNU.

Delivering his lecture, Prof. Das started with the idea of difference being a special form of diversity and how a right to cultural difference presupposes a ‘right to difference’ in the first place. Difference, he continued, is supposed to be negotiated and reconciled within civil society without the mediation of the state. Speaking for the need of a free and open atmosphere where civil society can exist and deliberate, Prof. Das identified certain pitfalls which afflicts civil society in a state like Manipur today. Although supposed to transcend the fault lines of community, Prof. Das said civil societies today are afflicted and aligned along ethnic ties. There is also, he continued, a tendency to conflate ‘strategic alliances’ between different groups as ‘civil societies’ which may not last. Further, he highlighted the need to guard against civil societies turning into ‘para-states’ and enforcing a particular morality over the entire society.

Referring to the issue of federal polity and group differentiated rights, he insisted that ‘sovereignty’ is ‘indestructible’ and ‘cannot be shared’. Elaborating on the issue and referring to the multitude of ‘homeland demands’ and different forms of autonomy, Prof. Das says that the hitherto solutions to continuing problems are premised upon a notion of ‘partition’, which may not necessarily work or which may not be in the best interests of the people. Rather, he insists, a condition for dialogue must be created by removing ‘hegemonic’ control conditions such as represented by the imposition of AFSPA.

Prof. Bhagat Oinam, in his presidential remark, endorses the idea that ‘civil society’ must be questioned for the lack of its ‘civic’ or ‘civility’ in Manipur and cited some troubling aspects of recent acts by ‘civil society’ in Manipur that forces some decisions to be taken without adequate deliberations.

Earlier, Mr Th. Wangam welcomed the delegates and Dr. Shanta Laishram gave a brief introduction to the Campaign, which started in 2011 as the ‘People’s Campaign for Assembly Election’ to bring about a change in the political culture and ethos in the state of Manipur, particularly emphasizing the need for ‘issue based elections’. He noted that the Campaign was renamed as ‘People’s Campaign for Resurgent Manipur’ in its first anniversary (2012) and committed to carry out a Campaign to bring about informed discourses on issues of public importance and to make public institutions and offices transparent and accountable, including the electoral processes.

Dr. A. Bimol Akoijam, a key member who started the Campaign, shared the action plans of the Campaign in the days to come, including preparing ‘report card’ of elected representatives and different views on issues of public importance so that people can form their informed opinions on those issues. He also siad that the Campaign has been seeking to involve people, particularly younger generation, those who are between 18-35 years, in the Campaign and also to make people who are outside the state of Manipur to have the facility of postal voting during election.

Kapil Arambam
Th. Wangam
People’s Campaign for Resurgent Manipur