Are we being bullied with the same old story (fake news), again ?


 Chief Minister N Biren Singh at Chief Minister-gi Hakshelgi Tengbang (CMHT) cards distributed to journalists :: 22nd July 2019
Chief Minister N Biren Singh at Chief Minister-gi Hakshelgi Tengbang (CMHT) cards distribution in July 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The unfolding political drama in the last few days has bamboozled everyone it's difficult to tell who was bluffing and who wasn't. The perception war, played out in open with the help of local media and social media, is won hands down by CM so far. However, given the absence of any substantive verifiable information in one way or the other, the uncertainty remains unresolved. Don't we, common people, deserve a relook at the facts (or fakes?) floating around for public consumption?

What do we know so far?

There are two diametrically opposite news playing out in public:
a) a more conservative and well guarded report (Poknapham news) which says 'a final settlement shall be reached after central observers visited Manipur and had consultative meetings with all stakeholders' and
b) a more vocal and vociferous reports (ISTV, Sangai Express, Thoudang, Kangleipakki Meira, etc.) which say 'the political uncertainty in Manipur is over and CM Biren will continue to serve as CM, as per the wishes of BJP high command and a central observer team shall visit Manipur very soon to oversee a cabinet reshuffle.'

What are the sources of information?

No one is sure about the source of information both groups quote 'reliable source(s)' but, surprisingly, have completely contradictory interpretation. One source says everything is settled and the other says nothing is settled. Yet, the clever tweaking of media with massive back-up by professional social media handlers, it's a forgone conclusion in public eye that the CM has won hands-down in the ongoing perception war.

The larger question, however, was why has the BJP failed to give a clear message? Or, have we been seduced to misread by a battery of professional propaganda machineries, as often done in the recent past?

The 'settled group' seemed to have relied on a single source of information, perhaps based on the guarded wisdom of CM, with a clever tinge of authentication by quoting an official from Delhi Manipur Bhavan (the official however since denied having said anything on the issue, privately).

The widely quoted 'The Hindu' newspaper column, if one retraces the source and timing of publication, one would have noticed it was webcasted around 4 am on Wednesday, 4th October 2019, and her information was based on the 1st round of discussion of 2nd October. If everything was settled in the 1st round of sitting, why was there another meeting in late night of 4th October? Something is not adding up here.

What is happening around? Our state media had extensively quoted the Hindu report of 4th October, which in itself was primarily based on the 1st meeting, but never bothered to mention the outcome of 2nd meeting of 4th October. Cherry picking of information to suit one's desired narrative is perhaps the worst kind of journalism, especially for those who are supposed to unearth the truth.

The question, therefore, is why some media houses are always in-sync with propaganda machineries? If in fact breaking news on local media were based only on Hindu newspaper report, then there is a serious problem of misreading the content.

Signs of a failed state?

An invincibility aura of ruling elite has artificially been created, backed-up to the hilt by a few media houses, giving the perfect platform to discredit those who vouch a different point of view. Those who question inefficiency in the system voice are being sidelined/belittled in some way or other.

What if, as claimed by a few, the information shared to general public turned out to be untrue and the disinformation campaign succeeded in hitting its target die-hard BJP MLAs? It would be like commuting a life-sentence, after serving the term.

The most successful political strategy in history of mankind 'Divide and Rule' still has its resonance in Manipur. The long silence but politically correct stand of BJP high command is being exploited to the hilt, with the help of cacophonic media, to demoralise and kills the spirit of those who espouse different political perspectives.

The long silence of BJP party is turned into a victory parade by the friendly media, creating doubts in the minds of MLAs and general public. Luring MLAs with loyalty bonuses, perhaps in the form of cash and kind, is the next inevitable step. It is extremely unfortunate that state's polity has come to such a pass.

Today, the state has moved into an un-charted territory of political uncertainty the system, which is supposed to be sacrosanct and neutral, is now being manipulated and mismanaged to suit the narratives of a few. It is a real danger!

The happenings in the US (President Trump asking other countries to investigate his political opponents), if one were to draw a parallel, is no different than what we are witnessing in our tiny state Manipur. The difference is that, being the most powerful nation in the world, the fall-back system is so strong in the US even the most powerful man on earth is facing an impeachment enquiry.

If wishes were horses, our systems wouldn't be singing the same tune everywhere. We have a long, long way to go! The slow and steady degeneration of every system in the state, manifested in mushrooming dysfunctional institutions and administrations, is a sure sign of a doomed state.

No matter who sits on the throne or who rots in jail, if the system starts to falter the end will not be too far. When that happens, there will be no discrimination between dissident and supporter, between opponent and ruler we all (Manipuri) will be the losers.

The onus lies with the king

The problem lies with our mindset we have become so indifferent and despondent that we all have become a simple statistical number, just one number in a billion Indian! The overwhelming feeling of helplessness among people needs to be transformed into a 'positive energy.' This could happen only when there is responsive system that accepts the things as they are, not being judgemental with a preconceived idea loaded with an ideological baggage.

The "infighting" within the government is not a big deal, but the manner in which it is being managed definitely is. As long as the general public perception of 'if this could happen even to the sitting MLAs of ruling party, then what could happen to a common people' exists, it's highly unlikely to have any common man stood up for a common good.

The more telling part, however, is the 'medium' through which common people are supposed to educate, inform and transform, with some exceptions, are sailing with the wind. Should media chose to lose its neutrality, either through coercion or through persuasion, then the objectivity will be lost forever. Unlike other mainstream media houses of the country, there is little chance of retracing quick healing steps, as existential crisis looms large lest the patronage of party in helm.

If we were to recall history, it was invariably the leader, who had always taken the first step, perhaps the most risky one, on every issue in the larger interest of his/her people. Our own Jananeta Irabot, not so long ago, gave up everything for welfare of his people. If the present systems need to be changed, the leaders would have to take the first step first and walk the extra mile.

The onus, therefore, lies with the king!

The writer can be contacted at sanalik(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on Ocotber 09, 2019 .

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