Fake Finding Committee ? Shooting the messenger
Fake Finding Committee-a term used by a wit to refer to the Fact Finding Mission of the Editors’ Guild of India which was here in Manipur from August 7 to 10 to study the media reportage of the ethnic-violence in Manipur. Not surprisingly the Editors’ Guild, Manipur and the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, have not taken kindly to the supposedly ‘fact finding’ report of the three member team of the EGI, going to the extent of outrightly rejecting the supposedly ‘facts’ unearthed by them. The EGI team was here when the ethnic violence had already completed 90 days and was on its way to the four figure mark and one wonders how it managed to come out with a 24 paged report after ostensibly covering a clash that had crossed the 90 days mark in three days time. ‘Much before tension erupted on May 3, Manipur’s tribal tensions, especially between the majority Meitei community and the minority Kuki-Chin-Zo community, were already reaching their boiling point,’ begins the line under the sub-heading ‘Social and Political Context of the Ethnic Clashes’ of the report prepared by the EGI team. One wonders from where this reading was plucked out, for in so far as The Sangai Express is concerned, if the Kuki community had any grouse, it was seen as something between it and the Government. It is also surprising to see that the three member EGI team conveniently overlooked the presence of heavily armed men during the Tribal Solidarity March of May 3 and how participants of the rally marched 12.6 kilometres from Chura-chandpur district headquarters to Torbung and went about setting houses on fire. Questions on the conduct of the Imphal based media houses, dubbed ‘Meitei Media’ by the EGI team, were raised as suggested by the name, Fact Finding Mission, but that it remained silent on why the Tribal Solidarity March ended peacefully at the Naga dominated districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenglong and not at Churachandpur which quickly spread to Moreh and Kangpokpi, says something profound. This stands out prominently in the report prepared by the EGI team. There is no reason for The Sangai Express in particular and the Imphal based newspapers in general to come under the impression that what it or they report is central to the reason of the clash dragging on for so long. In a way this would amount to insulting the intelligence of the people of Manipur and this is unacceptable. Miserably fail to contain the situation and then shoot the messenger and this is where the bluff of the 3 Corps Headquarters of the Army in alleging that the media in Manipur may be playing a ‘major role in arousing passion and not letting sustainable peace to come in’ can be called.
A fitting reply, the Editors’ Guild, Manipur and All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, have given to the purported findings of the EGI team and this is where it would be interesting to see if and how they respond. The three journalists deputed by the Editors’ Guild, India are veterans, scribes who know how to walk the tight rope and more importantly study and see if a rounded perspective on any issue is given while giving the go ahead signal to a report and the Editors and senior journalists of all Imphal based newspapers are no exception. Editing is central to all newspapers and to be taken in by ‘complaints’ or submission that not enough space was given to a particular report or input would be missing the trees for the woods. The report from the EGI comes close to this understanding, but then again it may not have been possible for a three member team to understand an issue that had dragged on for more than 90 days in just three days (August 7 to 10). In so far as the clash is concerned, the equation keeps changing for what the three saw from August 7 to 10 is vastly different from what is happening right now. It is also the same for the period, say from May 3 evening to August 6 evening. The clash is dynamic. But where the ECI team got it fundamentally wrong was its observation that tension was high between the Meiteis and the Kukis before the May 3 clash. Tension was there between the Kukis and the State Government before May 3, but to interpret this as a tension between two communities would amount to justifying the first match stick that was lit at Torbung on May 3 evening and the gun wielding desperadoes who took part in the Tribal Solidarity March.