TODAY -

Journalistic Challenges in Reporting Chassad Incident

Paojakhup Guite *



Needless to say, Media is the fourth pillar of democracy, the other three pillars being Legislature, Executive and Judiciary (not in order of precedence). It is the most viable interface that connects the first three pillars with their stakeholders i.e. citizens. Therefore, its characteristic vitality lies in impartiality, representation, liberty and justice.

A misrepresentation of an incident could unleash a potential threat, even worse than the incident itself. The 16/3 incident of the Chassad inferno/conflagration is a case in point. A shocking sigh caught all and sundry to listen and watch the ISTV news channel, reporting that only around 10 houses were gutted down by fire.

This was so misleading that even the state CM was quoted as saying “khara khara.” This is a gross injustice, for the live report of the burning clearly indicated otherwise—the flame, billowing smoke and the areal extent. This is an un-called for.

In a similar vein, the so-called Impact TV Cable network could not muster the courage to tell the whole world who the real perpetrators were of the heinous crime. The news channel deliberately muzzled itself, compromising its credibility while it reported that the inferno was carried out by ‘unknown miscreants’.

Are these an appeasement tactic? It is the gospel truth that the incident happened in a broad daylight. Even while a smart mobile phone could capture gun-toting men donning in camouflage at the spot, where are your HD Resolution lens facing? Post-incident, there have been ample evidences coming up in the form of video clips and photos. These are substantive enough to lay bare the negligence of the media.

The Fallout

The adverse consequence of the misreporting and misrepresentation took a huge toll in the minds of the people. It resulted into collateral damages – both physical and emotional pains in the victims and the like. Subscribers of the news cables have taken a pledge to unsubscribe them until and unless a clarification is issued from the media houses.

As of now I write this piece the ISTV YouTube News channel dated 16th march (12 noon) that contained the Chassad burning incident has got a staggering 9.2k dislikes, with a meagre 674 likes. This is a huge cost to the media ethics. Applied Ethics would term it a murder of the media.

The Faultline

Land issue has always been the bone of contention. There have been enough claims from both sides. Tangkhuls trace their origin from there, while Kukis claim it to be their heritage from their forefathers who have settled there since time immemorial.

The faultline got into a total split with the untimely burning of the latter’s slashed forest fields by the former. This is more or less tantamount to the 1993’s “Quit Notice” served to the Kukis of Joupi village by the United Naga Council (UNC).

Traditionally or conventionally, a slashed field meant for shifting cultivation is burned in the Spring season, waiting for the slashed trees to get dried up fully and obtain maximum ashes on timely burning for fertilizers.

Defied the Quit Notice, over thousand innocent Kukis gave their lives and lakhs were rendered homeless. This time around, the neighbouring Sampui Tangkhul villagers, orchestrated by the outfit NSCN I-M group, torched the Chassad Kuki village. The village numbers close to two hundred and fifty households, sparing a little 10 to twenty households.

Failed State

State is defined by its varied machineries. Of late, Moreh, a commercial town of Manipur witnessed a flare-up between the people therein and the unwelcomed State police commando. To contain the disgruntled mobs, there was an endless supply line of forces. Reinforcement of police was round the clock.

Here, merely meets the need of the State. Ironically, the Chassad tragedy happened under the nose of the state police and the 42nd Assam Rifles. It is hapless to find both the forces lay supine. Here, loses confidence of its citizens. This laxity is dereliction of duty on their part.

A befitting punishment should be awarded to the concerned perpetrators and their such accomplices as the Commanding Officer of 42nd Assam Rifles, Superintendent of Police of Chassad Police Station and Officer-in-Charge for letting the Tankhul mob burn down. Failure to do the needful may be construed as the State Government is hands in glove with the perpetrators of this ghastly coward act.

The self-proclaimed mob justice based on lack of proper application of mind should be responded by putting the culprits behind bar. Relief and rehab measures for the victims won’t suffice. Anything less than this will be considered inaction on the part of state government and be refused by taking a refuge in Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

With this constitutional writ of Mandamus under Article 32, the Supreme Court can directly be approached, even circumventing the State High Court over the alleged inactions of the said two forces (the Police & the Assam Rifles) and the State Government. Article 32 is a Fundamental Right.

Kuki CSOs should hold firm their integrity and not easily be co-opted. This will come in handy for the Government of Manipur to restore the status quo. Otherwise, the Government will have its task out in ensuring a peaceful co-existence between the two beleaguered communities.

Origin Theories

Tangkhuls trace their origin to the Khangkhui Mangsor caves in Ukhrul district of Manipur. Undoubtedly, they are pioneers of Christianity in the state of Manipur. Conversely, forgetting their belief in the Biblical origin in the Eden garden, they preach around and posit their fellow-believer Kukis as refugees in Manipur. Their common belief of origin has been dumped for their own political mileage.

Historically, until the time the Kukis had arrived in their present areas, no entity hitherto existed as to rule and control over them. This is the heritage of the Kukis of today which nobody could claim ownership over their land.

Way Forward

Come what may, the Kukis shall strive hard, in the interest of justice, to stand their ground and not be bogged down by the irrelevant claims of the Tangkhuls. A peace loving Kuki community will hold fast unto its entrenched non-violence strategy. Else, an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind.

Peace could carve its own niche by involving all the three stakeholders-Kukis, Tangkhuls and State Government. The tri-partite negotiation should be consultative and not prescriptive.

The two tribal Christian communities should try to be on same page to give peace a chance. This will assuredly provide a low hanging fruit for our well-being, while the state government would merely play the second fiddle. This would be worth the while.

Therefore, the Chassad Wrongs have hold out the perpetrators’ hands in a clear sight. No media can hide the truth and no criminal be immune and lay scot-free. There is a great likelihood that those two prominent media houses in the state suffer adverse consequences.

Nevertheless, the aggrieved subscribers are always ready to roll back their resolve to cut their subscription, provided a genuine initiative is taken up to pacify them by the two TV cable networks.

Views expressed are personal.


* Paojakhup Guite wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer can be contacted agt guitepaojakhup9(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 20, 2020



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