Friday, May 24, 2024

Weaponizing Grievance


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Time and again conflicts in Meghalaya and in Shillong city in particular have happened because some groups play on the emotions of people who feel cheated by the system and nurse a perpetual grouse against the government of the day. These grievance-soaked youth feel that they are losing the fight over unequal access to resources that are getting scarcer by the day even while the population of unemployed youth is growing phenomenally. Such youth can either grieve alone or join a group that speaks the same language of grievance and the overwhelming sense of deprivation, both of which need a bashing board. In the case of Meghalaya the non-tribal has been the convenient bashing board. The group that harnesses all those with grievances plays on the emotions of the youth and leverages their sense of powerlessness and inadequacy to compete on a level playing field, as a form of power.
So where is the emotion; the anger and the sense of helplessness directed at? As always that anger is directed at the weak and defenceless. And who are those wretched of the earth that bear the brunt of the misdirected grouse? They are the poor non-tribals who cannot pay for their safety. Non-tribals engaged in business are the cash cows that regularly pay these groups so that they are allowed to pursue their businesses unhindered. Those who pay the groups get back their money from the goods sold in Meghalaya to the ordinary citizen who in turn feels burdened by the cost of living in this state. No one dares to take the government which has failed to address unemployment and the poor educational outcomes in the state. Even those indulging in blatant corruption are allowed to do their dark deeds without hindrance. The groups also know that exercising their democratic right of putting the right sets of questions to those elected to resolve those grievances does not sell. Over decades the groups have learnt to mobilise the aggrieved to swell up their ranks. After all, there is strength in numbers. This cycle of violence has been allowed to carry on unabated like a torch handed down from one generation to the next.
The government has as always taken the easy way out and tread on eggshells as far as taking on these groups is concerned. Now they are so emboldened that even if a group member with criminal antecedents is arrested the government is told to back off. And the government is silently acquiescent. The question is when will this reign of terror end or will it ever end? Has the government constituted a team to study the composition of the groups; their sources of funding etc. Can any group take the law into their hands and continue to move around scot- free? What is the role of the State when the Constitution is being trampled ruthlessly?


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