The killing of a militant leader two days ago, not long after his atrocious escape from police custody bring out yet another general attitude to law and order, as much as human rights violation, not just from the official point of view but equally from those of the state’s so called enlightened civil society and more so human rights workers. The death was celebrated by the Manipur police publicly, as if it were another feather in the cap, and indeed as games hunters of the Colonial days did after mindlessly slaughtering tigers and other animals. One or two things that slipped the notice of observers deserve to be pointed out. First, the death was on account of negligence of the police. If the man had not been allowed to escape, which the police was supposed to do, he is not likely to have ended up killed. Worst still, he escaped not because he outwitted the police custody system but because the system was slothfully slumbering. It was in this sense, an absolutely unnecessary death. Although this probably was not the case, it is not altogether unreasonable to suspect the entire episode was stage-managed just so to have the man eliminated. In other words, the suspicion could have been that this was a more sophisticated way of camouflaging custodial killing to appear like a necessary and legal act. Second, regardless of what the murdered man is accused of, including the grave political crime of “waging war against the nation”, rule of law which says among others that an accused is innocent till proven guilty, cannot be swept aside.
Both these thoughts have very grave implications not just in the practice of democracy but also how democracy is generally understood amongst the people by and large. The killing perhaps was not totally avoidable after the man escaped and the police in all urgency began a manhunt for him, even announcing a reward of one lakh rupees for any help in his eventual recapture. It almost was a replay of the Wild West Hollywood movies where the sheriff of cowboy towns often declared somebody as outlaw and stuck up posters declaring rich rewards for his capture dead or alive. This should have struck as objectionable to the numerous human rights watch brigades the state boasts of. They should have been prompted to think that if the police had been more committed to duty, the man could not have escaped and all the macabre drama would have been avoided.
This neglect has now cost a life, and it is worrying that nobody seems to think the loss of a life is serious. This callousness is reflective of the desensitisation which has taken place amongst the population by and large. A few dying violent deaths a day is today seen as absolutely normal and even children talk of such deaths reported in newspapers as if they were reading out the scores of football matches from the sports page. But if this psychology is unavoidable amongst a people exposed to unprecedented and deadly violence for half a century, what was disturbing was the manner none of the so called enlightened section of society saw tragedy, if not danger, in this development. This is especially so when the police actually brandished and flaunted the killing as if the killed man were a prized trophy it just won. It did save its face to some extent for the blunder of slack vigil a few days earlier, but extremely brutally. It is as if to say it does not matter under what circumstance a man accused to be an insurgent is killed. This was also one of the extremely lame excuses when Ch. Sanjit was killed in broad daylight at the BT Road, and also at the custodial killing of Thangjam Manorama. And so there was absolutely no sense of outrage at the announcement that this escaped insurgent was killed, and as a matter of fact, there was instead a general sense of public acceptance and admiration for the police. But on another note, this was also a reminder how disillusioned the people by and large have become with the ways of many underground organisations. The manner they have reduced the insurrection once without hesitation seen as a revolution, into a cottage industry that spins money through extortion and intimidation, having surrendered in the process, their legitimacy to claim to be fighting on behalf of the people. This is also an indication for everybody to do a serious reassessment and rethink of the conflicts in the land.