Pressure groups in a quandary

DURGA Puja is approaching and we can be sure that the pressure groups do not want to disrupt the oncoming celebrations. Why would anyone nurture animus towards those who wish to celebrate a religious festival? India is a country that professes secularism, not on the principle of total negation of any religious expression or atheism, but in the spirit of allowing all religions to co-exist harmoniously. The state too grants equal assistance to endeavours made by religious groups in setting up health care, educational institutions and social ventures. This has been the case for Meghalaya much before it became a full-fledged state. It continues to date.

The problem before the pressure groups is of an honourable from the ghetto they have been pushed to. The Government has expressed its unwillingness to talk, based on the pressure groups own radicalisation of the issue – which boils down to ILP or nothing. The slogan on the streets today is, “No ILP no rest.” This slogan was constructed by the agitationists as soon as the talks with the Government failed. Is this the language of engagement? Hardliners often find it difficult to get out of their cast-iron mould and this is what has driven many a group to take up armed rebellion so that they do not appear to have lost the battle. Whichever way we may try to camouflage the issue it has boiled down to the collective ego of not wanting to be seen as withdrawing from the fight without having won anything. Ego is a difficult thing to handle even for psychologists. More difficult is the collective ego that some carry as flag-bearers of the race. But there is such a thing as tactical withdrawal and the need to reflect and regroup and perhaps to think of new modes of protest. Pressure groups and activists have to do this all the time because intransigence or violence is not an option. Violence and bloodshed do not pay. In the histories of conflicts across the globe, no movement that is based on violence has been able to sustain democracy.

It is important for the pressure groups to climb down at this juncture and show some graciousness in deference to the religious sentiments of a group that has lived in the state not only since its inception, but many since the erstwhile British rule. This will not be seen as loss of face but a victory of the strong because only the strong can bow down and not break!

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