After the violent incident at Andro in October, in this column in the same month it called for timely action by the state police failing which unlicensed arms can be used and violence spread to other ACs even to the extent of causing death. This has come true though the suggestion to deposit licensed arms has been ordered.
In October, violence and threat was heard in three for four ACs but now it has been reported from many ACs including those in the Imphal Municipal area where the presence of security forces is very high. Violence or threat has been reported in Andro, Heirok, Khurai, Wangkhei, Mayang Imphal, Wangjing Tentha, Sagolband, Keisamthong, Keirao, Singjamei, etc. If immediate action after the incident at Andro was taken and the perpetrators booked and penalised, the spread could have been limited. Penal provisions for wrong doings have two fold intent, penalising the individual for the wrongdoing and a warning to others not to commit wrongdoings.
Even in Heirok, after the first one or two violent incidents if the police had taken action, things would not have deteriorated leading to death. The misconception that taking action may aggravate law and order problems is a travesty of truth and is an attempt to thwart any allegations of biasness. What was the police doing when houses were vandalised and property destroyed; people attacked at their homes and so on and so forth?
The state and the police are there to protect the life and property of the public. And as they have utterly failed to perform their duty, the police stationed at Heirok should be set to task for their negligence of duties or was there political interference enabling them to look askance doing nothing? If the perpetrators of the earlier incidents were taken into custody and the law put in motion, others would not have been emboldened to resort to more violence.
The saying “a stitch in time saves nine” comes true. Who will compensate for the death and the injured and those who have lost homes and property? Should not the state be held responsible for their inaction? Will not the principle of vicarious liability apply?
Does the state wake up only when there is death? If the CrPC 144 imposed there was enforced properly such violence would not have occurred. Neither was the restriction order enforced nor steps taken to apprehend the culprits leading the perpetrators resorting to more violence. Only after death was curfew imposed but battle lines have been drawn and due to the curfew, there is a semblance of peace, but violence may erupt anytime as anger is palpable and the police are seen as highly biased. Such perception will make the police ineffective in performing their duties. The wounds are too deep to heal though time is a great healer.
In the earlier incidents there were reports of empty cases of AK rifles being found at the crime scene and therefore the police should have immediately swung into action to apprehend the culprits and the arms.
During the curfew, the police must conduct house to house searches to confiscate such illegal arms and even legal arms and book the culprits. None should be spared while conducting the combing operation; high and low all which have been seen to be carrying such arms or are likely to have used them must be covered. With such ineptness, the talk of community policing seems funny as the public have
lost faith in the police and few will cooperate with them.
The incidents in Heirok seems systematic as seen by the effort through the social media to show that TOM TV had misreported using edited footage and only when the channel filed a police case were these taken down. But many have downloaded and the case filed if investigated properly can dig out the culprits and take them to task. Such misadventure needs to be stopped so that real facts are placed before the public and not mischievous concocted ones. The threat of violence in the IMC areas comes as a bit of a surprise as the security presence is very high and it does no good to the reputation of the police. It is true that police cannot be everywhere but with technology like CCTV, etc it would be easier to identify the culprits and bring them to task.
One fails to understand the mentality of the perpetrators; as in politics there is no permanent friend or enemy; it is a question of convenience. The followers of those candidates who fight and kill each other may find their leaders join hands in the future but those who had suffered will never forget the violence perpetrated to them. So why resort to violence? Is it to show that they are more faithful than others to skim benefits later on?
One incident which is very concerning is the one at Keirao AC where some elders and club members called an individual to apologise for hacking down a party flag which was allegedly hoisted with his consent at his homestead land. What role has the villagers and the club members in this matter? If the landowner does not want the flag to continue flying he can take it down or destroy it. Such busy bodies are a threat to the society and they should be booked for intimidation.
The police must at this juncture show that rule of law is supreme or less the force will be seen as pliable and biased. The ECI must be kept informed and should take action against the OCs where such incidents occur and no action was taken.
The IMC has an order that bills cannot be pasted on public space and at one time a drive was conducted to penalise those who had pasted bills. But where are the IMC authorities now? The public walls are full of election posters and even the overhead footbridge is not spared. Lines are stringed with numerous flags fluttering on the median of the road which distract the drivers and can cause accidents. Bamboo poles are erected to fly flags. These are a nuisance and it makes the city untidy and makes visitors to believe that rule of law was never imposed in the state.
Political party workers must be advised that flags and symbols on public places is a strict no no, and even at private places prior permission of the landowner must be taken and none should be forced to accept it. No political party must assume that as they come in a group they can intimidate and forced sticking of bills which can lead to conflict and maybe to violence. The IMC must immediately order the taking down of all the posters stuck at public places and if it fails to do so, ECI can be informed to do the needful. Posters and flags are not synonymous with votes.
Another gimmickry is the so called “Ningthamgi Khudol” gifting blankets away and pray will the cost be included in the election expenses account. As these events were publicised there are video recordings of all such events and ECI can be informed about these malpractices. Another is the padayatra creating havoc on the traffic. Why stop the traffic when they can do so in a single file and allow smooth flow of traffic. The tendency to stop traffic by their volunteers can lead to road rage and violence. And who will vote for him when people suffer on account of him?
Elections must be held in a free and fair manner in peaceful conditions and there should be a level playing field which is why the limit of spending is laid down. The best part is that new entrants are the one who is driving the pitch much ahead while seasoned politicians have yet to fully start their campaign. They must have a reason for doing so and these new entrants have a thing to learn from their seniors. Perhaps the aspiring candidates try to drum up support to get the party tickets and it is a pain in the ears to listen to known corrupt individuals exhorting for a clean administration. They pile their money through illegal means and talk about being straight!
It is to reiterate that the police must be allowed to function without bias and take action on any threat or violence in the run up to the election. The OCs must be held responsible for any failure to act in time leading to more violence. The DM and the SP also have a responsibility to ensure that firm action is taken against wrongdoers irrespective of their party affiliation. With Omicron detected in Manipur while giving permit for meetings, etc it should be subject to conditions and if any of the conditions were violated, action should be taken and no further permission be granted. Irresponsible people must not be allowed to play with fire.
(The views expressed are personal)