Beyond ambit of democratic protest More than an act of arson

Non-Cooperation movement. Even a shutdown to lodge a protest or to demonstrate that the visiting dignitary is not welcome may be acceptable within the ambit of freedom of expression, but setting on fire a venue, an open gym in this case and ransacking a hall cannot come within the understanding of a democratic protest. This was what happened at Churachandpur in the evening of April 27. The act of arson and violence came simultaneously with the shutdown call issued by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) and this should tell its own significant story and thereby hangs a tale, a very important tale. Institutionalising violence in pursuit of one’s agenda is one line that may be read into the April 27 incident and this cannot be justified under any circumstances. The Government will need to do more than talk tough. Taking a stand against the survey conducted by the Government at Reserved Forests, Protected Forests, wetlands and eviction of villages and as the Government has failed to answer this question earlier, a poser raised more than once here in this column, the ITLF should be in the position to answer from where the evicted villagers came and where they have headed after they were evicted. Else why should it raise such a strong voice in favour of the evicted villagers ? The arson and the  destruction came barely 24 hours ahead of the Chief Minister’s scheduled programme to inaugurate the Open Gym and obviously address a public meeting at Churachandpur and this made these acts of violence all that more disturbing. It was more than just an act of setting a new structure on fire and letting loose some hooligans to ransack a place, for it was a direct affront on a scheduled programme of the Chief Minister and when the venue of a programme which the Chief Minister is scheduled to attend comes under attack, many may see this as an attack on Manipur itself and this is no exaggeration. How the BJP led Government proceeds with this development, an affront on the institution of the Government itself, remains to be seen but this is something that cannot be brushed aside that easily. Non-cooperation movement and even a shutdown may be seen as acceptable modes of expressing one’s grievances against the Government but when hoodlums are allowed to take over and go on a rampage then one may say that this will raise a serious question on the much tom tommed ‘improved law and order situation’ line.
There are reasons why The Sangai Express gave such a prominence to the Churachandpur incident on April 27 evening. A venue where the Chief Minister was scheduled to inaugurate a new structure and possibly address the gathering, a place which was set to be inaugurated to mark the completion of one year in office of the MLA of Churachandpur Assembly Constituency being set on fire is more than just an incident of arson and so many things could be read between the lines and these are some of the reasons why due coverage was given to the said incident. One should look beyond just the act of arson, but look beyond the obvious, which is the act of arson and destruction, and read the unsaid but clearly audible part. This what all concerned citizens, people who are concerned about the pulls and pressures on the existence of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality should understand. As stated earlier in this column, many would see the act of arson and violence beyond the act of setting a venue on fire and try to understand the hands at work to get a better feel of the different power players at work. It may also help if one looks at the arson and the attack within the understanding of what has been happening in Manipur in the recent past and the different voices and demands that have been raised. The Government may have taken note of it, and it would help that much more if the people as a whole also try to see beyond the obvious and get a feel of the immense pressure that has been mounted on Manipur and her people.