It has always been a war of perceptions right from the beginning of the ethnic strife or before it actually began on May 3. The state government sponsored War on Drugs was more of a media campaign than the real work on the ground in the vast poppy fields in the hinterland of the hills.
Flashing images of law enforcement agencies destroying poppy fields in some areas repeated over and over again in the social media, different agencies competing with each other over drug seizures and poppy destruction, announcement of monetary awards for the large scale seizures, pledges by different tribe organisations and collectives supporting the campaign and what not. Troves of tribal delegations would visit the Chief Minister’s bungalow and pledge support for the campaign and declaring their areas as a ‘Drug and Poppy Free Zone.’
Not only the Nagas but Kuki (now Kuki-Zo) MLAs would also come dragging delegations to take part in the pledge during the height of the campaign and before clashes started. Despite the campaign, there was hesitation on the part of the state government to pursue a logical conclusion of the infamous Lunkhosei Zou case.
Somehow, Zou got himself acquitted by the court while a few of his minions were convicted for possession of a huge quantity of drugs. Only when the Supreme Court pulled up the state government for not appealing against the acquittal as demanded by some anti-drug groups, the government filed an appeal. Interestingly, the state did not take into confidence the various anti-drug groups working in the state besides the Meira Paibis and there were times when it seemed the government forces did not want the CSOs joining in alongside.
While the state and its law enforcing agencies had reservations against the anti-drug groups for taking law into their hands, the groups also do not always trust the state agencies of doing their job honestly. Well, what was really caught in the dragnet was only the tip of the iceberg while the bigger chunks slipped through. Nothing is transparent in the narcotics business as made out to be and it is about who is controlling or managing the perceptions.
Now also, the war is being fought in perceptions with conflicting propaganda flooding the social media networks besides the conventional media. Except for a few incidents of encounters or attacks or ambushes nothing extraordinary is happening on the ground while on the other hand, everybody seems to have upped the ante of propaganda. The war of propaganda is being fought more in the media than in the streets and in the international forums seeking support.
With war raging in Israel, the attention of international media has shifted. But the PR busybodies are not keeping quiet; the war between Myanmar junta and armed resistance groups is the new frontier of propaganda. Suddenly, media attention is drawn to the Myanmar frontier with both Myanmar refugees and Junta forces spilling over the border. The silent and swift operations by government of India and Assam Rifles in extracting the Myanmar soldiers from Mizoram and transplanting them to Myanmar through Moreh in friendly territories beyond was a gesture not to be forgotten by the ruling Myanmar junta as it battles both resistance and people's militia groups in multiple fronts.
Meanwhile, the commandeering of Moreh border area from the clutches of Kuki militant groups by state forces and the detection of several Myanmar illegals in and around Moreh embarrassing Assam Rifles was overshadowed by cries of several Kuki bodies alleging human rights violations and media images of the heroic rescue of state force reinforcement by Assam Rifles.
In the Manipur sector of the Indo-Myanmar border, the once sluggish border patrols were intensified and strengthened as the anti-junta forces turned their attention to armed valley groups taking shelter in Myanmar territory. And the national media focus shifted to the Myanmar front. Well played, we should say.