Confounding Ambush

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The ambush on the Phungyar MLA, Wungnaoshang Keishing on Friday April 15, near Riha village in the Ukhrul district, leaving eight dead and more injured, was to say the least, both confounding and despicable. The MLA himself miraculously escaped. The chief minister, Okram Ibobi since has vowed that he would use all means within the command of his government to smoke out the culprits out of their hidings and given fitting punishments. We hope he keeps his promise. If not anything else, we hope his government is able to uncover the entire plot, the masterminds as well as the executioners. Often in any crime in the state, all the focus come to be on the executioners alone thus allowing, wittingly or unwittingly, the masterminds to go scot free. This is something the chief minister must be wary of and prevent from happening. For although nobody has claimed to be behind the ambush, not even the NSCN(IM), it is already everybody’s knowledge who possibly could have been behind the crime. In Manipur’s ethnically demarcated districts, subdivisions, villages, it is not difficult to conclude with certainty which ethnic insurgent would be active where and which areas would be exclusively the turf of which militant group. To pretend this is not so is first of all poor intelligence if not abject dishonesty.Wungnaoshang Keishing has been demanding a separate district for the Phungyar sub-division by bifurcating the Ukhrul district, and according to the MLA himself and indeed many observers, this was objected by among others the NSCN(IM) and so also the United Naga Council, UNC. The UNC has since clarified and condemned the ambush. But can this district demand alone be the motive for the multiple murder ambush? Whatever the plausibility of this presumption may be, there can be no two ways about it that any investigation into the case would have to begin from the premise that this is a possibility. For at the moment, there seems to be no other clue to the ambush other than this circumstantial one, however farfetched. But if the government feels that the NSCN(IM) is involved, matters would become a lot more complicated, for the latter is in a peace talk with the Government of India. It may indeed become out of its jurisdiction and reach to handle. The state has seen this in the case of the murder of SDO Thingnam Kishan and his two subordinate staff. The case with involved the NSCN(IM), it will be recalled, had to be handed over the CBI for further investigation. In all likelihood, this will have to be ultimately the resort in the present case too. If the government too is convinced this would be the path of the case, it might as well promptly bring in the CBI from the beginning itself, so as to save time and embarrassments to itself.Another question ultimately has to be directed to the Union government. It is holding peace negotiations with a number of underground organisations including the NSCN(IM), and Friday’s ambush has demonstrated how empty these truces are once again. Not only the NSCN(IM) but also all Suspension of Operation, SoO, group of militants are still armed to the teeth, doing whatever they were doing before the truce, except attack Central forces. How is all this being allowed to happen with such audacity? This is a question the Union government will have to answer with urgency. While the hard won peace initiatives must not be jeopardised, the ground rules must be strengthened and enforced strictly. There must be tangible deterrents against breaking these rules by anybody too. Without this commitment, the ceasefires would remain a farce.What is imperative now is for the state government or else Central government investigators to establish the motive behind the crime. For one thing, this is no longer about classical insurgency anymore, but of political assassination to ensure an indirect hold on the politics of the established order. If allowed to go unchallenged, it can degenerate further and the assassinations can spill outside of the political arena into other rivalries, including business and individual. Such a mad scenario must be prevented at all cost. The executioners in the present case and the masterminds behind them must be exposed before everybody for the end of justice, and also that appropriate measure can be taken for the future.

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