The naked protest by some shameless men on the day the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson of the United Progressive Front, UPF, government at the Centre, Sonia Gandhi, was without doubt one of the most obnoxious scenes ever witnessed in the state this year. Not the least, it trivialised the July 15, 2004 landmark naked protest by elderly women in front of the Kangla Gate, in the wake of the alleged custodial rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by the Assam Rifles. We are appalled that the Manipur People’s Party, MPP, allowed its fair name to be used by these thick-skinned protestors. Rather than do the party, which incidentally is on an unchecked nosedive in popularity over the past decade or so, any good, it further soiled its reputation. What it did not realise was, such incivility is taboo even in hospitality extended to bitter adversaries in any civilised society. What the MPP also did not seem to care to take note is also that the Prime Minister did not come to the state as a Congress party functionary, but as the Prime Minister. This being the case, in the detestable public tantrum of its party workers, the party has also brought down the esteem of the state and its people considerably before the eyes of the world. For this reason, if the party has any modicum of decency left, it must tender its unqualified apology to the people of Manipur in particular and to the visiting dignitaries who were a guest of the state during their short visit.
We would also like to ask what the state’s law enforcers were doing when this lowly and distasteful protest took place? Have they forgotten there is something as public decency they have to ensure? Or have they come to believe the streets of Imphal are fit to become a nudists’ paradise? Henceforth, would anybody or everybody be allowed to walk around naked on the streets without attracting retribution from the law? Unlike the women protestors in 2004, who were defying the law, shouldering the responsibility of taking forward the near universal outrage in the state at the manner in which Manorama was found murdered after arrest, we are certain this group of shameless men protestors were merely interested in attracting cheap attention and not challenging the law. We see no reason why laws on public decency should not be slapped on them even now. If not anything else, this would at least remind everybody that the law of the land does have a definition on what the limits of indecent public behaviours are.
The other question that arose is, should the media have ignored the despicable protest altogether? Our opinion is, as long as the pictures are not allowed to get abhorrently graphic, or else the coverage of these events have voyeuristic intents, the media as the mirror of the society has a responsibility of bringing to the fore all the unusual things that happen in the society. This is with the purpose of alerting both the public as well as the authorities of these events. It would facilitate appropriate public opinion on the happenings in the state, as well as nudge the authorities to make legal interpretations of these events so that appropriate and proportionate legal actions can be contemplated and executed. It is important that the state authorities take legal implication of all public affairs seriously. It is precisely by their refusal to shoulder this responsibility that today the awe and respect that the law should command amongst the general public, has virtually disappeared. Hence, practically anybody, including paid employees of the government, who wants to indulge in disruptive activities, does not think twice of legal consequences before going ahead. And now, over and above disruptive strikes, bandhs and blockades, grossly indecent protests are coming to be allowed. There have been so many complaints by the chief minister, Okram Ibobi, himself that development works in the state are stalled by these disruptive protests. He should also consider the thought that it is the government’s own lethargy and reluctance in appropriate and timely application of the law in dealing with these activities which is encouraging anybody and everybody to take the law into their own hands.