Thinking beyond a Game of Opposites | Let’s not go crackers

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Believe it or not, agree with me or not – but since May 2019, every time crackers are burst, Pawan Chamling is being remembered. This remembrance has been tinged with conflicting emotions. Some fondly remember him as the Chief Minister who implemented a ban on the sale and bursting of crackers in Sikkim. The move was widely applauded by those who had some idea of its significance for eco-conservation. Others accidentally remember him, celebrating the failure of the ban. Their feeling is along the lines of, “Pateka ta parkaunu paunu paryo ni hau. Tyo ta hamro adhikar ho” (We should at least be allowed to enjoy our right to burst crackers. What’s the big deal about it!) And the third group will keep on bursting crackers, thus expressing their deep-seated dislike and even anger against him. Simply put, they are acting out of pique.

It may sound strange but that is the sad reality of it all. Many of those adults who are bursting crackers are doing it to make a political statement – and a cheap one at that. When SKM defeated its arch-rival SDF, some victorious crowds used crackers to celebrate their long-cherished win. The air of brazen triumphalism was unmistakable. Nobody expects a bunch of cracker bursting impetuous youths to realize the long-term significance of the ban, but the sad reality is that nothing much was done to discourage the trend in subsequent months by the administration. The ugly crescendo was heard at MG Marg when a group of people openly burst crackers a few weeks ago.
Not bursting crackers shows respect for Sikkim, its environment, people and the future generation. It is nothing to do with Pawan Chamling and the SDF party. Cracker bursting political zealots must realize that by bursting crackers they are not causing any damage to their political rival, Pawan Chamling, as they perhaps might have desired. Nothing can be sillier than a mindless pursuit of revenge. This is causing a far-reaching impact on Sikkim’s environment practically, and our green image symbolically. They must be told by their acquaintances that they are simply cutting off their nose to spite their face. Their arrogance may win but Sikkim loses.
It is unfair for Sikkim in general to bear the brunt of the outworking of political rivalry in such a silly way. Politicians must educate their supporters about the limits of legitimate political rivalry. Political parties must organize regular seminars, workshop, talks, awareness and orientation activities with a view to inculcate values, ethics, principles and ideologies to which their parties espouse. The jhande, danthey and narey rajniti (politics that are hopelessly confined to carrying flags, sticks and shouting slogans) have only landed Sikkim in a situation where all we have in the name of politics is a bunch of revenge taking leaders and supporters. No wonder that people change their flags and slogans overnight. We, in general, lack courage and the reason for that is precisely due to our vindictive political culture. Hundreds of lily-livered fellow Sikkimese have spent their entire lives sitting on the fence. How tough it is to perch there precariously waiting to jump to the safer side!

Ideological differences within the framework of democracy can be very helpful. However, often what happens is a choice of silly opposites by politicians and supporters simply because they want to convey strong opposition feelings. It reminds me of the game of opposites that children sometimes play. It is actually quite an edifying game designed to help children develop language skills. If you are travelling a long distance with kids, this game can come in handy. You give out a simple word and ask the kids to name a word that means the opposite. But when people randomly choose the opposite of what their political rivals are doing, it is obviously not an edifying exercise. Such unthinking choices are doing us in.

One of the biggest challenges for the SKM government will be to help some of its narrow-minded supporters to think beyond pursuing petty revenge against their political rivals by bursting crackers. There are a few other areas where the new government must think and act generously. Organic farming is one big issue. Granted, much needs to be done. Some may even go so far as to say that it was an eyewash. But what the new government must realize is that Sikkim’s organic image will be a huge boost for Sikkim for generations to come. The mission is in need of a fresh approach and Sikkim is hoping that the Goley administration will take it to newer heights.

The new STNM hospital and upcoming medical college need a positive approach from all. Needless to say, imagining a government hospital of such a scale in India is stretching our mind a little too much. It is simply grand. If it is run and maintained well, it could be the biggest blessing for the Sikkimese people. The potential is simply cosmic. It must be looked at through a political lens and nurtured by every stakeholder. As a side comment, among other things, smoking in toilets must be immediately banned. Another ban!

With the win in the by-polls, the SKM government has certainly been strengthened. The added public mandate is significant in more ways than one. Sikkim hopes that the government will give deserving continuance to all the good things from the previous administration as it brings about its own new initiatives. That was the promise that Chief Minister PS Goley made in a press conference after his swearing-in. That must be the spirit at the state’s highest level of politics.

Well-meaning people are wishing for a cracker-free and Green Diwali. What’s wrong in wishing for a cracker-free and Green Sikkim for centuries to come?

“Cracker bursting political zealots must realize that by bursting crackers they are not causing any damage to their political rival, Pawan Chamling, as they perhaps might have desired. Nothing can be sillier than a mindless pursuit of revenge. This is causing a far-reaching impact on Sikkim’s environment practically, and our green image symbolically. Not bursting crackers shows a respect for Sikkim, its environment, its people and its future generation.”

By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at jiwanr@gmail.com

NB: Views/Opinions expressed in the article or write up is purely of the author or writer and not of the Sikkim Chronicle. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email id.

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