Slow strangulation

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The incident three days ago in which a bomb was place outside the residence of the editor of Impact TV is more than just unfortunate. It is a challenge, and indeed an attempt to muffle the voice of freedom. Nothing can spell out the nature of the tragedy more loudly than the fact that this is not the first time such an atrocity has happened to the press, or to any other profession. Everybody in the state knows this has become routine. The media has on so many occasions before has had to resort to leaving its editorial spaces blank in protest, stage public demonstrations and even go off the stands for prolonged period, denting their businesses and even threatening the very continuance of many of them. For a few months after every one of these incidents, there had seemed to be a consensus reached that the media would be allowed to function freely and be the mirror of the society as it is expected to be. But the pattern has been for things to relapse into the original oppressive condition. One is reminded of a song by an iconic band of the 1970s and 1980s, Simon & Garfunkel, which reminded the audience irreverently of the unseen and unarticulated, but nonetheless inevitable tragedy that “changes after changes, we remain more or less the same”. Manipur’s tragedy is very much this too. The much eulogised changes government heads claim have remained only semblances, otherwise, nothing has changed very much. The place’s work culture, especially in government offices, has not changed and most of the government offices are half empty anytime of the day because their staff “had just gone out for tea” or else “had a social function to attend”. Corruption too has remained where it always was, and if there has been any change at all, it is in the nature of it getting more endemic and bigger in magnitude. The story is the same with regards to the law and order situation. Despite loud claims, it has not improved. There are times of surface calm but the undercurrents of potential explosive violence have never been resolved comprehensively, making life never too secure for anybody.

The perpetrators of the bomb threat on the Impact TV editor are not known yet. In all likelihood they will remain obscure. Unlike in the cases of such threats to government officials and business organisations, it is unlikely to be related to extortion intents. More likely, it probably had to do with news and views expressed through the medium, but even this will remain uncertain unless the attackers spelled it out. Now that the issue has become so public, in most likelihood, this too will not happen. The case thus is probably destined to be reduced to just another statistic in the increasing number unsolved crimes of intimidation. It would probably also seem there have been no losses spiritually, judging by the resistance put up this time. But this is a vain claim, for the cumulative effect of these routine micro aggressions has been a collective long term intimidation of the society by and large. The way people build their houses with their verandas and windows fortified with steel, the general fear of the night, widespread suspicion of strangers, introverted social outlooks etc., are all symptoms of an induced mass cowering. Nobody wants to speak out individually against what they see as unjust and wrong. They can only be brave while in a crowd.

Something needs to be done. The responsibility for initiating a corrective action must rest squarely on the state, and we must add, and very importantly too, on those waging war against the state as well. At least on this front, it must be said the state has been more straightforward. Its stand against all waging war against it is clear. It is however those fighting the state who have contributed to this dangerous ambiguity within which any gang can justify their action in the name of the revolution. It is therefore the responsibility of the established leaders and organisations of the insurrection in the land to clear the air of this uncertainty, and take care of those usurping their rhetoric and slogans to get away with blue murders and daylight robberies. If nothing is done, let there be no doubt that the fabled inner strength of the communities of this land will fade away beyond retrieval.

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