Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba
One feels pain to know that for some section of the public, the Christmas Festival differed a lot from earlier. It may be said that it was a direct result of the general strike imposed by the organizations representing the artists of the State and other bodies decrying the Chandel issue. The Chandel incident may be viewed in different perspectives, it may be taken as a man assaulting a woman in a public place and none of the concerned authorities intervening to safeguard the woman in question, namely Momoko. However, the incident was blown out of proportion as it was no longer about justice demanded to penalize the perpetrator of the crime.
Here, Livingstone may be viewed as a drunken assailant or as a ‘Superman” of the NSCN (IM) who has enormous clout with politicians and someone who always has had his way at Chandel area . Nevertheless, a woman was assaulted and the artists of the State inclusive of the public took the incident in the gravest manner. The matter was amplified by staging a protest in front of the CM`s gate by the outraged artists in further condemnation of the incident .Later the resolve of various civil organizations led to imposition of the general strike demanding justice for the outraged actor. Some among the film artistes took the initiative of leading the arson themselves and the public followed suit.
The resulting state of affairs witnessed complete anarchy raging in the valley areas with the general public bearing the full brunt. However, the effect was felt deeply by the tribal Christian populace as shops remained closed down and the sudden imposition of the bandh stranded Chirstmas shoppers from the hill districts at Imphal town. The scenario of a silent exodus was witnessed in Imphal streets as individuals with laden baggages trudged along the streets silently amidst the burning tyres headed for the hills. They were to be at home and be with their loved ones during the festival of love, peace and brotherhood.
Stones were thrown and many incidents escaped the attention of the media. The sporadic incidents which were targeted at some tribal inhabited areas largely remained unreported, many must have borne the angst with silent fury. It has been assumed that some damage might have been done and the communities were polarized for an instant in time. A crack appearing within the social fabric could have fermented resentment in the hearts of the thousands who had to be transported to their villages under tight security escort.
It would be pertinent to address questions here: were the circumstances reasonable? does the Livingstone attack on Momoko deserve the violent outbreak or were there other unseen factors? Were withheld emotions released due an undeserving episode?
Certain sections of the populace, those with the ability to think progressively have viewed the events and acted in a rational manner on the note that the communal harmony of Manipur cannot be compromised by such circumstances and that the larger interest of the public is paramount. Such insight led to the general strike being deffered from December 23.
It was also witnessed from some young Manipuri starlets having felt dissent of the bandh being called off. However, the matter was compromised and certain statements which should have not been made public were made aware by an actor at a meeting held at Thangmeiband Thau ground. It may have been done so unwittingly or due to the immaturity and the angst borne then. Instances of unethical reporting were also witnessed in the media. A report may not necessarily be carried if it may result in disrupting the communal harmony of the State. This decision to print or not to print rests on the experience and wisdom of the editor and comes under the ambit of media ethics. As the saying that children playing with fire may have devastating effects, similarly an issue which may have been settled in an amicable and reasonable manner had nearly spiraled out of control. The lesson must be learnt now that before pressing the panic button, the concerned must have the prudence to gauge the future predicaments and act with wisdom and in the larger interest of the public.
Manipur state is inhabited by many ethnic communities and there are organizations representing specific communites but care has to be taken whether the decision taken by one may be in the interest of a particular community but cause undesirable effect to other communities.
It has been an immense relief that the agitation concluded without much collateral damage. Let this incident serve as an example that the interest of the individual cannot override the larger interest of the State. The unity and communal harmony of Manipur hence cannot be compromised.