The brutal assault on a ZUF cadre at Noney some days ago by troops of the Assam Rifles posted there has once again brought to the fore the uneasy excuse of the State of the inevitability of resorting to extraordinary means to meet extraordinary circumstances. It has also once again exposed the dilemma of ordinary men and women in conflict situation who face affronts on their sense of liberty and dignity from either side of the conflict. On the one hand there are all the bans and intimidations faced by them from an ever multiplying number of non-State players in this increasingly absurd conflict theatre. Those on the ground, exposed to the dangers that either side can wreak not just on others, but on their own personal welfare too, know it for certain there are so many who swear silently between their teeth at these intimidations, and some even wishing in their desperation for these extraordinary measures of the State, in the hope they would bring back a semblance of order to end the indignity of their daily living, forced to cower before everybody. Their desperation have even led them to appeal not just to the State, which unfortunately has abdicated all its responsibilities of protecting its citizens, engrossed as its authorities are in Mammon worship, and thereby also surrendered all the faith its citizens should normally repose in it, but often to those they once believed were the alternate governments. But even these `alternate` governments seem out of resource to control the proliferation of `laws` under their very noses, and hence today, in the true description of a lawless land, the `law` has come to be in any hand that holds a gun. In this complex maze of conflict scenario, it is not just the State which is losing its legitimacy but also the known challengers of the State which are no longer able to fill the vacuum of governance legitimacy left void by the non-performing State. The general feeling is, nobody is in control anymore.
But amidst this confusing state of affairs, when people have begun to feel that some law, even if draconian, may be better than no law, cowboy troopers walk in and turn the table yet again. This is exactly what the AR troopers did at Noney. According to reports, the ZUF captive was stripped and paraded in public, where he was tortured inhumanly. The commander of the rampaging soldiers apparently even threw a challenge to the womenfolk to come forward and rescue their captive saying there are 2000 soldiers behind him. Official reports said the ZUF man was involved in two ambushes, one on the troops of the Gurkhas, and another on the Noney AR unit. Indications therefore are, the soldiers were out seeking revenge, and they were encouraged to do this by their commander. The fact often not taken cognizance of is, for disciplined professional soldiers, this is against the law, even by the standards of the draconian AFSPA. The AFSPA is draconian as it gives too much unaccountable power to the Army in dealing with civil unrests, but even it specifies that it is not within the power to the soldiers to establish guilt of captives much less award penalties. They are supposed to hand over their captives to the police at the shortest time possible so that the law can take its due course. We do hope these law breakers get to be penalised under the relevant sections of the law.
The madness of this conflict can be better understood by a look at a more distant conflict theatre, Iraq and Syria where the ISIS has been on a savage rampage, instilling terror and dread in the hearts of ordinary men and women of the land. The West saw for some time Iran backed Shiite militias which emerged to counter ISIS was the salvation, but these militias too are now indulging in ISIS style brutality on the population bases of the ISIS, evoking equally revulsion of what is left of the sane world. Back in Manipur, in these uncertain and brutalised times, we can only hope a comprehensive resolution to the conflict situation, acceptable to all in a spirit of give and take, comes to be soon in place so that dignity is restored to ordinary lives once again.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam