By Amar Yumnam
Two recent events have caught the attention of social analysts in the land of the jewels (people say, but we are yet to see any crown of jewels). One is the bomb blast at Sangakpham where two young school-girls were killed among others. Another is the damages being suffered in the wake of the demand for another district in Manipur. While these two events need to be carefully analysed, we need to be aware of a social feature of the last two decades in Manipur, i.e., the increasing fractionalisation of the society along ethnic lines in an otherwise a society traditionally rich in the social capital of personal networks.
The Sangakpham Incident: In private as well as public domains, people have characterised this blast as an act of terrorism. I am afraid that the perpetrators might not be fully convinced by this charge of terrorism on them, and instead might be under the false ego of having caused damages to score their points. So we need an understanding of what terrorism is and the components of a terrorist attack are. While doing so, I make the assumption that the perpetrators do read and understand the reactions of the people on their “acts of valour”.
In order to save labour and time, I would rather quote Sandler and Enders (2008) to define terrorism: “Terrorism is the premeditated use or threat of use of violence by individuals or sub national groups to obtain a political or social objective through the intimidation of a large audience, beyond that of the immediate victim. Although the motives of terrorists may differ, their actions follow a standard pattern, with terrorist incidents assuming a variety of forms: airplane hijackings, kidnappings, assassinations, threats, bombings, and suicide attacks. Terrorist attacks are intended to apply sufficient pressures on a government so that it grants political concessions. If a besieged government views the anticipated costs of future terrorist actions as greater than the costs of conceding to terrorist demands, then the government will grant some accommodation. Thus, a rational terrorist organization can, in principle, achieve some of its goals more quickly if it is able to augment the consequences of its campaign. These consequences can assume many forms, including casualties, destroyed buildings, a heightened anxiety level, and myriad economic costs.”
The general characteristics usually accompanying a terrorist act are (i) use of violence to make a point; (ii) selection of targets with maximum propaganda value through unprovoked attacks; (iii) selecting hardened targets and sudden attacks in order to rule out pre-emptive measures and counter moves; (iv) disrespecting age and sex while attacking, i.e., having no qualms in making children and women victims of the attacks; and (v) allegiance to the self or group members only.
Given this understanding of terrorism and terrorist attack, we can now indulge in an evaluation of the Sangakpham blast. First, we must say that the perpetrators need a lesson or two in Basic Economics. The act would have been true to their logic of action if there were any chances of causing a heavy casualty to the properties of the state or general population and in the process hasten the realisation of their objectives with less cost of time and money. But by any stretch of imagination, no group is going to move forward towards achieving its goals by the type and timing of Sangapkpham incidents. We must emphasise that the fundamental rationale for a terrorist blast is to score a point in their favour, irrespective of whether the cause is positive or negative, but the Sangakpham incident involved only costs on either side. The perpetrators have incurred the cost of the bombs and the exercise to plant them and the good will of the people. The victims too have lost their lives and property without yielding any benefit to the perpetrators. It is time the perpetrators know their Economics well.
Once again, let us try to evaluate the incident from the angle of characteristics any terrorist attack should possess. Here too, we must say that, except the disregard for women and children while attacking, the Sangakpham incident violates all the features mentioned above. Even more, the attack does not even satisfy the South East Asian tradition of insurgents where they have shown proficiency in selecting targets. The perpetrators of the Sangapkpham incident should understand their own acts.
One to Nine and More?: Manipur was once a single district territory, but it now has nine. Recently the demands for more are becoming very vocal and furious, and the very administration seems to have added fuel to the fire. The time is now for us to determine as to whether the failure is in terms of lack of a separate district or lack of effective governance able to deliver development. Time is now for us to evaluate as to what we have achieved by having nine districts which would have been inconceivable with less number of divisions. We should also decide and identify if there is any which would be unachievable in the absence of a separate district. Well, we are for decentralisation but we must also realise that there is a limit to it as well. In other words, the costs of decentralisation should not be allowed to overrun the benefits of it.
Fractionalisation: What is of utmost concern to us is the element of heightening fractionalisation along ethnic lines salient in both the Sangakpham blast (act and after) and the demands for separate districts. Well this is not a trend where the administration can remain a silent and non-thinking spectator.
In Fine: We can say for sure that the Sangakpham attack was a very bad one even by the standards of the perpetrators themselves; it was bad, stupid and poor terrorism. But the time is now for the governance of the land to rise to the occasion. This is because, given the spate of recent political developments, such attacks are likely to rise. Besides, the administration should now be fully alive to the fractionalisation challenges confronting the State and come forth with an implementable plan of action.