EDITORIAL: Shooting The Messenger

The cloud over the assassination attempt on Phungyar Assembly Constituency MLA, Wungnaoshang Keishing, by well armed unidentified gunmen on April 15 at Riha village in Ukhrul district will continue to cast its shadow for some more time to come. This is perhaps the only point that can be said with a degree of certainty while other points still remain in the realm of speculation, suspicion and recalling and analyzing the conduct of the MLA in the days before the deadly ambush was carried out with such clinical precision.

While speculations and doubts are natural in such cases, especially when the gunmen do not come forward to officially claim their hands behind the attack, it would on the other hand mean inviting trouble or creating tension, when speculations begin to overshadow the logical  perspectives of the people. Given the political and social scenario in present Manipur, it is also easy for any group to whip up unnecessary tension, by shooting in the dark and needlessly pointing the finger of accusation, not for the attack, but for some imagined insinuation.

As things stand today, a number of Naga civil society organizations have already gone on record and asked the media, the Imphal based newspapers, to be more blunt and precise, not to publish baseless news. Given the uncertain nature of the attack and the cloud of doubt which continues to loom over the incident, it is surprising to see that some organizations have come to the conclusion that some news is baseless. In other words, it means it has already worked out what is baseless and what is not and this is what we find interesting.

As an institution which is there to disseminate information to the people, it is only expected of the media to recall some events that preceded the ambush on the MLA. This is more so, since the MLA is seen and had projected himself as the champion for creating or transforming Phungyar Assembly Constituency, consisting of four sub-divisions, Phungyar, Kasom Khullen, Sahamphung and Kamjong, into a full fledged revenue district. Whether the MLA had any hidden agenda or not is something which the people he represents should decide, and it came as something of a surprise to see some civil society organizations accusing the media of publishing baseless reports, terming it attempt to implicate them in the attack.

It is unfortunate that ‘The Conspiracy Theory’ continues to be the characteristic that defines the political scenario in Manipur, or else how does one explain or justify the accusation leveled against the media “that such games are being upon by media houses for their own selfish ends.” It is the thumb rule in journalism to recall some of the past developments to any present story, if it has news values and it is according to this that whenever a terror attack is launched in India, the media often quotes the hijacking of an Indian Airlines passenger plane and the release of Masood and some of his cronies, for the safe return of the passengers at Kandahar. This happened during the NDA regime and Jaswant Singh had to personally go to the then Taliban controlled Kandahar to free the terrorists in exchange for the safe release of the passengers. Likewise, whenever the rapid growth of militancy in Kashmir is discussed, the meek surrender of the Government to the demands of some militants, for the safe return of the daughter of the then Union Home Minister PM Sayeed is taken as a reference point.

A number of Naga civil society organizations, including the UNC and Ukhrul based organizations have issued statements in connection with the attack on the MLA, but interestingly while all expressed anguish and pain, there has been no direct condemnation so far from these said organizations, apart from some statements coming from Phungyar AC. The NSCN (IM) has already spoken out on the incident and though it did not forthrightly said that its men were behind the attack, it has nevertheless accused the MLA, Wungnaoshang Keishing of betraying the Naga people and supping with the Government of Manipur, which is anti-Naga to the core, according to the outfit. The very fact that the outfit had to recollect the past incidents (the resignation of Naga MLAs, the Senapati Naga Peoples’ Convention etc) to make sense of what they are saying right now, cements our stand that incidents of the past, need to be recollected to give a more meaningful insight to any story.

It is unfortunate that the media, which is nothing more than a messenger should be targeted and accused of trying to create chaos, strife, confusion and division amongst the Tangkhul community. The Tangkhul community is not so fragile that a news report can cause confusion and strife amongst its members. Take note of this or are we wrong in assuming that the Tangkhul community is a closely knit society that no force can divide it much less a news report, which merely recalled some incidents of the past ! The Riha village ambush had all the ingredients of a top act of political intrigues, assassins, appropriate timing topped off by the signature style of well trained professionals in jungle warfare. The decision to carry out the ambush too could not have been taken by middle rung leadership of any group, but necessitates the involvement of the highest decision making body within the group. The NSCN (IM) has not officially and directly said that it was behind the attack on the MLA though it did not stop them from going on an offensive against the MLA. This should be more than enough for anyone with a modicum of common sense to deduce the facts and identify what is baseless and what is not.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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