E-Pao! Opinion - Moreh Mayhem

Moreh Mayhem
The role of the media, SF and public leaders

By: Donn Morgan Kipgen *

On the 9th day of June, 2007, an outrageous bloody incident took place which should not have taken place in the first instance. The state’s premier commercial town of Moreh lay prostrated as a result of shockingly irresponsible communalised killing of civilians and counter-response between alleged UNLF and KNA cadres.

Even though the open ethnic-based turf-wars (read: tax monies) between the valley - and hill-based militant outfits in and around Moreh money-making border town have been existing for a long long time, one could hardly deduced or presumed that the two revolutionary outfits resorted to virtual massacre of innocent civilians to get their messages of supremacy.

Under such volatile circumstances, it should be the unofficial responsibilities of both rival militant groups concerned to prevent hostile communal violence. They must have to make crystal clear that an armed stand-off in any war of Area-Domination should not be viewed as ethnic enmity nor be given a communal tone even if there exist an ethnic based ‘State of war’.

All the innocent victims of ethnic clashes in Manipur had all been citizens of Manipur and not Burmans or Chinese. Unfortunately, insurgency movements in Manipur have been openly based strictly on ethnic line.

Never in the history of genuine insurgency movement has there been so many underground militant outfits of so many ethnic groups in so few a time period in so small a nation-state like Manipur.

And nowhere on mother’s good earth has there been so many bloody ethnic wars waged so openly by so many rival UG outfits in so small a territory by so many different ethnic groups led by so few a cadre strength, respectively. With an average of 100 armed UG militants per one outfit, the bigger outfits would have around 300 to 400 regular combat cadres with 200 to 250 OG armed activists, the dream of unity, respect, alliance and peace enforcement is the first casualty itself.

Lack of communication and brotherly trust, religious-divide, socio-political division and caste system virtually make it impossible to sincerely bring together all the leaders of all ethnic groups of Manipur under one common banner. Fort Kangla should be avoided, lest history repeats itself.

But then, it is in the hands of UG militants and public leaders with the help of all student union leaders to make good thing happen and to revive trustworthy communal harmony if so really desired. When four or more ‘recognised’ ethnic groups of different caste or creed (mentally influenced by separatist ideology fuelled with clash of interests) exist in one small single state socio-politically dominated by one particular ethnic group, something’s going to give; sooner than later.

As per Murphy’s Law, it did, it does and will happen in one way or other at some time period. It is a readymade recipe for socio-political disaster if crooked minds are mixed with fire-arms and lethal weapons.

That’s exactly what had happened at Moreh.

It was quite interestingly ironical that the 9th June, 2007, Moreh mayhem started less than 36 hours after the political visit made by four MLAs. Nothing could have happened so personally if those political observers acted responsibly.

In what officially appeared to be a signing of peace accord by respected town authority members and the MLA observers as witnesses, things suddenly turned into a formal declaration of ethnic war. Well, how or why should one trust the loyalty, sincerity and credibility of any MLA who blazed his way into the Assembly with guns and roses: in fact, political leaders are masters of using violence, threats, armed attacks, extremism, communal investigations and making mountains of false promises.

Well, politicians are politicians - men without honours. However, it was the roles of the State law enforcement agencies and the media which justifiably came under fire. These unfortunate law enforcement and media coverage episodes could have caused more bloodbath but the more learned citizens of Manipur are much the wiser than it was a decade ago.

The astounding absence of visual media coverage of the first victims party and the lack of balance news coverage by the local media really hurt the sentiments of the CHIKIMS which understandably raised nasty questions. It is worth mentioning that the massacre of five innocent Kukis, including a church leader, on the morning of 9th June arguably started the retaliatory killing of five Meitei labourers (and not 6 or 10 as reported).

The full visual coverage of indirectly inciting remarks made by political and local leaders should not have been aired. When the bereaved family members asked a tearful question as to why their innocent loved ones be so brutally killed ‘without any provocation’, there was none to answer the similar questions asked by the first five victims’ family on that fateful morning.

Had not five innocent Kukis been summarily executed earlier that morning, the five Meitei labourers could have been still alive. Whereas, the retaliatory victims’ family been given Rs 20,000 each with a promise of ex-gratia payments, the near and dear ones and relatives of the first five Kuki victims were given barrage of rubber bullets, tear gases, toxic bombs, rifle butts and boots by the Moreh police and rampaging IRB personnel without any hostile provocative action by the Kuki women, aggrieved as they were over the past few months of uncertain gloomy existence.

The element of trust was lost there and then. At that confusing time period when the police and IRB jawans went berserk against innocent Kuki women, an orderly exodus of 518 Manipuri citizens somehow managed to find their way through both the highly protected border gates of Indo-Burma border without official arrangement. It seemed that five retaliatory non-resident victims did not receive the message on time. Forget about the heavily bribed Burmese border guards and its military officers who indulged in unlawful activities, the state police, IRB and AR personnel knowingly allowed such open Breach of National Security of highest degree.

None of the 518 displaced Manipuris who were given a well-arranged shelter at Namphalong had been officially questioned by the Burmese military intelligence as required, nor verified and debriefed either by Indian authorities as mandatory. Perhaps this type of dereliction of duty and open breach of national security right under the noses of both civil and armed authorities in and around Moreh on regular basis invitingly allowed such bloody things to come to pass; it would happened again if the law of the land is not enforced.

It is very unfortunate that all the victims of this particular Moreh Mayhem were dubbed as ‘UG militants’ by both the warring sides. On the other hand, a reliable press-release stated that there had occurred a mass exodus of Manipuris for the first time since the epic 7-years Devastation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Twisting of historical facts, like an indiscriminate killing, can become a very bad habit. A couple of months ago, over 700 innocent Kuki villagers were forced to flee across the Burmese border only to be detained as undesirable refugees during the infamous Khengjoi area Land-mining and human shield episodes. The very same armed elements’ stand-off resulted in thousands of Hmars and other CHIKIM refugees pouring into the warm hands of Mizoram state authorities.

On these both crime against humanity cases, the Government of Manipur refused to acknowledge the miserable incidents as it did during the Sajik Tampak stand-off. Well, who cares for the dirty Children of the Lesser Gods! It is the fault of the CHIKIMS socio-political and student union leaders for neglecting the very miserable cause of their own people when no money nor prospective votes are there to be gained.

In this particular Moreh mayhem there are two incidents which were most disturbing to say the least. The first being the openly repeated allegations by several NGOs that the AR sided with one particular Kuki UG outfit, KNA. It sounds baffling since such allegations were also openly made by other Kuki UG outfits, even after the signing of the so-called Suspension of (what?) Operations (SoO).

One of the most glaring facts is the very fact that ever since the signing of the SoO, the AR has conducted surprise ‘inspection-raids’ against each and every signatory UG group except the KNA. The AR has officially so far arrested, shot dead or attacked cadres of all CHIKIM UG outfits, despite the SoO, save one particular UG outfit. This unnerving activity has demeaned the image of the AR, which understandably invited much malicious and unsubstantiated allegations.

The other most disturbing incident was the bizarre killing of one 3rd IRB jawan, Rn J Lhungdim, in what appeared to be a victim of ‘friendly-fire’ while retaliating to random long range hostile fires. During the 1991 Gulf-war, 35 US soldiers were killed by friendly-fire in the dark alleys of Iraqi towns, in direct face to face exchange of firings.

However, the IRB victim jawan had received just one single high velocity automatic rifle round which entered into the armpit and neatly exited on the other side of his armpit with unbelievably straight trajectory. That magical freak shot could not come from hostile firings since it did not even graze either of his arms. Even a sniper round could not have caused such astoundingly straight trajectory and the real origin of that mysterious round came from the flank and not from the source of hostile firings coming from the opposite direction.

The bizarre nature of the lethal round’s trajectory and the very neat exit point suggested that the unlucky jawan was shot death probably by SLR or AK round fired from one or two feet distance while the victim was probably aiming and firing towards hostile position while laying or in prone position in a dark night, thereby exposing both his armpits.

How on earth could a UG militant creep in so near the deceased, fired off a single point blank shot and escaped unnoticed amongst 20 to 30 IRB jawans taking positions all around nearby like a Phantom? Well, it’s the duty of the CO, caroner and IO to settle that most incredible manner of bizarre death.

To fight and die are their bounden duty, but it ought to be happened in acceptable manner.

* Donn Morgan Kipgen is a regular columnist for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted for on June 25th, 2007.

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