Crisis brings out the best and the worst in everybody. The worst crises especially, have always been of peculiar interest of study universally. There cannot be any other reason behind the phenomenal success of cinematic representation of such a crisis as the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic that tells of a real life tragedy in which a luxury trans-Atlantic ocean liner in the early 20th Century, dubbed as unsinkable, sank with its 1500 passengers and crew after an iceberg hit. What do people do in times of extreme life threatening crises, has always been an intriguing question indeed. In the Titanic situation, it was a dead end where escaping death was near impossible, hence the question of how people caught in such traps react becomes all the more desperate and fascinating. There have been several depiction of the Titanic tragedy on celluloid though the century since it sank, but we refer here to the Leonardo-Kate starrer in particular. These and so many more in the genre explore and try to answer this question. It is only to be expected that the human reactions in these times of extreme distress would be widely different. Some, even the most ordinary men and women, often become heroic. Others, even those with the noble titles, become cowardly and treacherous. Some surrender to God, others simply panic and give up, still others take the fight to the last. These are situations that strip everybody of their external veneers and expose what lie behind the disguises they put on for society to appreciate.
Manipur has never been short of crises, the most immediate of these being those that emanate out of the tragic ethnic equations plaguing the state, but not the least from periodic visits of deadly pandemics. Everybody in some way or the other has been touched by these scourges. Even the lowly paid, overworked, professional media fraternity has not been spared but by and large, have been often heroic in meeting an extremely trying time, arguably even the most difficult in its history. In the past editors have been kidnapped, number of journalists shot dead, several more faced death threats, there were also bans on newspapers and journals… by people who are morally capable of unscrupulously carrying out their threats without trials. The fraternity`™s predicament had virtually nothing to do with any fault of theirs. In most of the cases, they have been fallouts of the faction frictions amongst an increasing criminalized section of the insurgency movement in recent times. That an insurrection is not the same thing as everyday crime is a well acknowledged fact the world over. This is also why the prescription for solution to any insurrection has never been, and cannot be, solely the use of raw force. One of the objections to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, in Manipur and the northeast, is for the failure to draw such a distinction in invoking the Act. Hence, among many others, this tendency towards criminalization of insurgency, regardless of whether this is happening in only a section, is bound to steadily erode this critique of the draconian act. In fact, in the minds of many, not just of policy mandarins and the top brass of the uniformed forces, but of ordinary men and women engrossed in their everyday struggle to eke out a living, this eroding process has already begun.
But all that is another story, although we hope those who would be directly affected, which virtually would include all of us, take note of it seriously, and reflect in earnest on corrective measures. For it is only as long as an insurrection stirs clear of criminalization, hope for an honourable solution would remain in sight. As of now, the media can afford to savour in some of its hard earned reputation at least in this matter. It has on many occasions been able to overcome petty rivalries and career insecurities in the face of major common crises and defended its freedom and independence courageously. If the community`™s response had been fragmented, probably a few of them would have been left to fend for themselves against what would probably have become for them too formidable an adversary. Having realized the strength in unity, it must now think of a structural, constitutional, mechanism under which the Editors Forum and the All Manipur Working Journalists`™ Union can come under one roof. It is unlikely the interests of editors and their subordinate colleagues will always confluence, but there are times when they do, as so many of these crises we sketched. We would be happy to see an overhaul of the AMWJU constitution so as to affect a structural reform suitable in meeting present contingencies.