At the outset, the brutal murder of Ningombam Satyabhama, a Junior Research Fellow at the RIMS Pathology Department is a reminder of the fragile and barbaric nature of the state and its people. But in a state that is fast becoming no stranger to cases of gruesome deaths and cases of rapes and molestation, there seems to be no one to shed tears or raise an alarm over the nature of death of an infant who was cut to death, probably owing to his severe cleft lip and palate and both hands having six fingers each. The regularity of cases of rape, murder and crimes being committed against the children is now in such a manner that there is not a single week that goes by without one or more cases coming to light. The State Police, which for long has been adept at their operations against armed cadres and netting 9 MMs like they were fish in the pond, are still to crack any criminal cases in recent public memory in any of the major cases that have shaken the public consciousness. Even when the names of the acuused in certain crimes crop up and there is some sort of action taken up, there is also the other side of bail being given and the case lying somewhere. All of which, explains the public anger on the streets bristling with fury and a total lack of conviction that the police would do its bit in solving the current case. This also explains the culture of JACs and public meetings that decide the course of public agitations. Sorry state of affairs that the public but mostly the women of a society have to take to the streets to demand action indeed.
The matter of whether bandhs aid in making the concerned authorities sit up, listen hard and take action is another matter altogether. When 2012 went by to give way to 2013, the year ending month gave the gift of another public agitation in the state over the alleged molestation of a film artiste. The public fury then was such that curfew had to be imposed and one from the media fraternity became a fatal casualty in the fracas between the protesting public and the police. That case is still unresolved and the film artist in question have gone ahead with her life and career, even going to the extent of having a film shoot of the deceased’s memorial site which so incensed locals that she had to apologize and accept the ban that she would not have any film shoots in the area in the future. All the cries that reverberated during the agitation then have been put behind with a resounding noise. Cut to the agitation phase, when passions ran so high that there were contrasting claims, when the call for agitations to be called off on account of Christmas. When it comes to the part of bandhs and their effects, we would also have to take into account the fact that they create problematic spaces for working professionals who have to report for duty, school going children and other students, daily wage earners who make their living by driving rickshaws, selling vegetables, carrying loads and others. Most bandh calling JACs and organizations have been kind enough to announce that the media and medical personnel are exempt but going by past and present records, the truth is a totally different story on the field and in the streets.
Starting mostly from the last public agitation over the artist’s alleged molestation case and the physical attack that was meted out to her, a different bandh culture has unfortunately begun to emerge. The trend from then till now has been for younger people under the haze of alcohol and other forms of drugs to play the part of bandh keepers on one hand while another crop take out fancy cameras and zip by on the roads with ‘PRESS’ tickers pasted in their vehicles, all for photos that they would then upload on various social networking sites. The fall out of such actions are borne by the real media working on the ground who has to brave both the police and the protestors on the road and tell the story as they unfold. Where earlier, the media have been given free pass to move about from spot to spot, the last two agitations so far have been too dismissive of media personnel on the ground going so far to the extent of inebriated people asking for media ID cards. In this scenario, the news of the indefinite bandh over the Satyabhama case being kept under ‘suspension’ assumes a conflicting reaction given that a break in agitations psychologically takes off the edge on one hand while the other is the quiet relief that media will now have the room to pass.