One-sided reports vis-a-vis Manipur crisis

No doubt, disarmament is the first step towards containing the violence which has been raging across the state since the beginning of May. It was the infamous Churachandpur rally of May 3 which ignited the vicious cycle of violence where many armed hoodlums and combatants armed with assault rifles attacked unsuspecting Meitei villages and burnt down thousands of houses. The unsuspecting Meitei villagers had to flee for their lives as the marauding mob ransacked, looted and burnt down their houses. The Meiteis fled for their lives, not because they were cowards but they had no weapons to defend themselves from the war-mongering mob who were armed with assault rifles. It was surprising as well as shocking that neither the state security forces nor any central security force thought it imperative to intervene when the war-mongering mob including armed hoodlums and combatants marched all the way from Churachandpur to Torbung to attack Meitei villages. Armed hoodlums and assault rifles-wielding combatants were marching openly hand in hand with other participants of the rally which was ironically christened ‘peace rally’. But no security agency thought it necessary to thwart the rally or at least prevent the march from moving outside Churachandpur. This was perhaps the biggest failure of the state in the contemporary history of Manipur. Had the state (both Imphal and New Delhi) and its security agencies acted in time and of course with a sense of responsibility, the violent crisis which has inflicted heavy casualties and untold misery to all the people, including those who are neutral to the conflict could have been avoided. The terror unleashed upon the Meitei people at Churachandpur, Moreh, Kangpokpi and other Kuki dominated areas evoked fierce retaliation in Imphal, and this retaliation was given prime coverage by majority of the (national) media, portraying the victims as aggressors and vice versa. The infamous Churachandpur rally is indeed a tragedy for all peace loving people but the greater tragedy is the national media’s failure to question presence of armed hoodlums and assault rifles-wielding combatants in the so called tribal solidarity or peace rally.
Apart from their failure to raise this very important question, majority of the (national) media were only peddling false narratives fed by a particular party. First it was portrayed as a conflict between tribals and non-tribals. Then it was portrayed as a clash between Christians and Hindus. In support of their half-baked or incomplete reports, the list and details of churches burnt down or vandalised in the course of the violence were given ample coverage but again, many of the national media outlets either intentionally or unintentionally overlooked and blacked out the many temples burnt down and desecrated by the other party. How many of the reporters who came from outside Manipur and reported the crisis knew that every Meitei house also serves as a temple. It would do well for the non-local reporters to keep in mind that there is a sacred spot or shrine in every Meitei house which implies that a temple is defiled when any Meitei house is vandalised or burnt down. Unfortunately, the false narrative that it was a religious conflict held sway over a huge number of people both inside and outside India, including the European Parliament during the initial phase of the violence though it crumbled later following emergence of counter narratives. It is true that one group of people looted weapons from the state armoury but it was after the aggressors burnt down thousands of Meitei houses. Had the state and its security agencies protected the unarmed civilians from the heavily armed aggressors, no one might have            thought of looting weapons from the state armoury because they would have no need for weapons. Looting of weapons from the state armoury is another ubiquitous aspect of the volumes of reports published by many (national) media outlets but again, they have not till date raised any question on the source(s) of the huge number of sophisticated weapons and the endless supply of ammunition being used by the aggressors.  Identifying the source(s) of these weapons and ammunition is crucial in any sincere attempt to understand the Manipur crisis.