The bomb attack at the venue of the Sangai Tourism Festival was to say the least despicable. Nobody will argue that everything about the attack spelled lowly terrorism. It was not even a directly carried out attack and a proxy had to be used to courier the explosives close to the festival site. Most tragically, the courier, a rickshaw driver who apparently was given a tip for transporting the packet that contained the bomb was killed probably because the bomb exploded prematurely. Two other people nearby also received minor injuries but they have since been declared out of danger. Though the casualty figure was low, the intent was clear – it was meant to terrorise. To give the devil his due however, it would only be fair to say the bomb was meant only as a message of intent and not to cause any extensive damage, for the attack happened in the morning, when the fair was in process of preparation to open. Had attack happened in the evening hours, when crowds thronged the venue, the disaster would possibly have been unimaginable.
Though nobody has claimed responsibility, the dying man pointed his finger at some men who claimed they were from the KCP. But whoever was responsible, even if they did not mean to cause extensive mayhem, definitely have managed to damage the reputation of Manipur extensively. The tourism fair, it may be recalled had several foreign participants, and the stories they would be telling when they go back to their countries is hardly likely to promote a friendly picture of the state, one that would draw more participants from other countries in the coming years. It would also have turned back the clock of tourism prospects of the state by several years. Some of the foreign participants did make this point clear and were visibly upset with the security arrangement made for them that could be so easily breached.
The saving grace, as we see it was the manner the common people disregarded the message the attack was meant to convey. On the same evening of the attack, huge crowds turned out in perhaps the largest number in all the days of the fair and participated with no hint of fear, almost as if they were standing up together and in unison declaring they would refused to be terrorised anymore. The response would have been frustrating for those who intended to intimidate them. But beyond this sense of personal rebuff, we hope they too received the message the public was conveying to them – that they would stand by and cooperate with only those with whom they share a cause. The implications of this message should reach out much further to all organisations claiming to be fighting on behalf of the people. It should have made it clear to them that they have to constantly make the effort to sync with the aspirations and desires of the people. Otherwise, their ideologies and acts would sooner than later become reactionary in nature. This seems to be happening already to a great extent. Even for the remaining “responsible organisations”, there has come about a huge disconnect between their and the people’s outlook.
There was another positive message coming out of the sorry episode. In the defiance of the people to terror was clearly visible Manipur’s hope. It demonstrated the accusation that the people of the state have been subdued and intimidated into total submission to the will of the numerous subversive elements operating in the state, is not true to all extents. Perhaps a threshold has been reached and the people are beginning to assert their independence from fear once again. If this is so, no thought of the state at this moment can be more encouraging. As the condemnation messages from the Governor and Chief Minister also underscored, the will and determination loudly visible in the people’s defiance, is the new spark that can reignite the creative and constructive spirit the place so desperately need today. This flicker of positive light we hope would spell the beginning of a turnaround for the entire state to once again place it on the track of progress and prosperity – the promised land of “chak hongba, nga hongba” (land of plenty) of the place’s folklores.