Understanding Manipur crisis in four days!
There were once six blind men who stood by the road-side every day, and begged from the people who passed. They had often heard of elephants but they had no idea of how elephants looked like, for they were blind. As an elephant stood by them, the first blind man put his hand on the elephant’s side and said that it was like a wall. The second man felt only the tusk and said it was like a spear. The third, getting hold of the trunk, said that an elephant must be like a snake. The fourth, getting hold of the legs, said elephants must be looking like trees. The fifth, after touching the elephant’s ear, said it was like a fan. The sixth beggar got hold of the tail and said elephants must look like ropes. From this famous fable, we can draw an analogy to the fact finding committee sent by the Editors’ Guild of India purportedly to make an assessment of the media coverage of the Manipur violence. Like the blind men in the famous fable, the so called fact finding team jumped to wild conclusions without even getting a clear picture of the crisis. Such wild conclusions are not restricted to the EGI’s team alone, many media houses based outside the State are afflicted by the same ailment. Reporting an incident and understanding an issue are quite different even if the particular incident is very much a part of the issue. Any attempt to draw a comprehensive picture of an issue by gathering some knowledge of a single incident would be akin to the blind men trying to describe an elephant. The Manipur crisis is a very complex issue and we doubt even months would not be enough to understand it thoroughly. If any journalist coming from outside the State thinks that he/she has understood the Manipur issue after talking to some CSO leaders or Government officials, they are only fooling themselves. Do they have any idea for how long Kuki militants have been planning for an exclusive homeland of their own? Or do they have any idea of the long, rich and proud history of Manipur? Do they know that there is a very large section of people who cherish and value the idea of united Manipur more than anything else, including their own lives?
It is indeed quite disappointing that the EGI’s so called fact finding team landed here with a very rigid set of pre-determined ideas about who is evil and who is good, who are the aggressors and who are the victims. Going far beyond the scope of their terms of reference, they came up with a conclusion of their own regarding the genesis of the violence notwithstanding the fact that a Supreme Court appointed committee has been tasked with the same job. Within four days, the EGI’s team came to the conclusion that Meiteis started the riots. Even after four months, many media outlets based outside the State have been claiming that the High Court order ignited the violence. Have they ever questioned what those armed hoodlums and automatic rifles-wielding combatants (revealed by their combat dress) were doing in the midst of ‘protesters/agitators’ during the infamous Churachandpur rally of May 3? Is there any justifiable ground for attacking unarmed civilian population and burning down their houses just because they are not happy with the court order or Government policies? Earlier, there were strong protests or agitation by Kukis, Nagas as well as Meiteis on different issues but no community was targeted. But this time it was different, the Meitei population was targeted with full force. Did the EGI’s so called fact finding team take note of this marked departure from the earlier trend? Of course, there were reaction, retaliation and retribution. The EGI’s team not only went beyond their terms of reference but also filed a report full of factual errors. They ‘investigated’ the crisis in just four days and jumped onto the judgment throne. If the factual errors in their report are any indication, the EGI team’s knowledge of the crisis is at the best superficial. Their report only reminds us of the famous fable ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’, and nothing more.