The news of a criminal gang on a recent abduction spree is disturbing. The gang has since been busted by the police, killing a member and capturing another, but not before an innocent businessman was brutally murdered, even though, as the murdered man’s family claims, a ransom amount of Rs. 10 lakh had already been paid. The crime is beastly to say the least and deserves universal condemnation in the strongest words. The criminals need also be given the severest penalty under the law to ensure jurisprudence is not dead and gone altogether from this land. The despicable crime is also an indicator that things have gone too far and the Manipur society is on a rapid descent into complete insanity. Such crimes once upon a time were simply unheard of, and indeed unthinkable anywhere in the state. But the depressing fact is, this wakeup call would likely go unheeded as did so many others in the past, partly because of a dreadful state of moral numbness brought about by the unremitting violence the state has been witness to for half a century now, and partly because the people are too hapless and terrified to protest atrocities not just against them but humanity as such.
Come to think of it, in many ways the much talked about state terrorism embodied and exemplified by draconian laws such as the AFSPA, untenable as it is, still have some degree of accountability comparatively. At least the people are still unafraid to come out and make their anger known and demand legal retribution. Whatever it is, even savage legislations like the AFSPA are still subject to some degree of civilized control, therefore in a roundabout way, a vent still exists to purge public anger. There are also adequate also room for intellectuals in their ivory towers to ruminate and pen down beautifully coined protest phrases and adroitly argued cerebral disapprovals. Not in the violence of the kind that killed the businessman, which is now threatening the mental and physical wellbeing of the entire population indiscriminately. If allowed to go unchecked, nobody will be safe anymore. It needs however be mentioned here that this is not the first case of kidnapping for ransom. The crime has been widespread in the past one or two decades. There have been other fatalities too. The victims most of the time belong to the government contractor classes, and officials of the various engineering departments who award and monitor these contracts. But sometimes they have also been impoverished government employees, such as the caretaker of a Public Health Engineering Department, PHED, water pump, who was killed along with his son in the custody of their kidnappers who wanted the government department to pay them a huge ransom. In most cases, unless there have been fatalities, these crimes go unreported, as the victims fear for their lives.
It is time for the government to evolve a strategy to tackle this growing cancer in our society. There is some academic justification, though not approval, in calling systematic and rationalized extortion by various underground organisations as a tax mechanism to run their movements. However kidnap and murder for ransom can remotely be clubbed in the same crime category. Yet, it must be said the underground extortion tradition, sometimes using extremely brutal and coercive methods, must bear a great degree of the responsibility for the current state of madness. The violent methods they have all along been seeking to sanctify in the name of their revolutionary movements, continually raised the threshold of concern of the general public to violence. They also left rooms in the shadow of their violent ways, for the emergence of mutant criminals like the ones who kidnapped and killed an innocent businessman even after they were paid a huge sum of money, probably because they did not get the amount they demanded.
The underground groups too must ensure that they cleanse those who commit these murderous felonies in the grey areas of law keeping which they helped institutionalise. The bigger responsibility must however rest with the government. Even if insurgency is too vast an issue to be tackled by a single strategy, controlling this kind of crimes should need much less effort and resource. Let the government go about the job immediately.