Guns, jungle and insanity

The blast at Pandon in the Minuthong area in Imphal this evening which has taken such a ghastly toll of 15 dead (and possibly rising) and 24 injured, should leave no doubt that insurgency in the state is entering a new and ugly phase. Maybe it had entered this phase a lot earlier, but the general longing that the unrest in the land has not stirred too far away from the logic of its genesis, made many reluctant to admit that such is the nature of the degeneration. For the logic of the genesis is shared by a great section of the population, and under the circumstance, disowning insurgency unconditionally, would have meant denying that this reality of a shared angst too is illusory. But now the story is turning a new and bitter chapter, and who can ever deny this. Any remnant of the belief that insurgency still is a manifestation of this shared sense of a tragic destiny is now being erased and discredited as wishful thinking.

Today's incident obviously will be another nail in the coffin of what is (or was) a political movement, even if a violent one, in its spiral into madness and terrorism. It would also give moral legitimacy to the state (it already has legal legitimacy) to resort to fighting fire with fire. Legitimacy or the lack of it notwithstanding, the inevitable casualty would be the sanity of this already brutalised society. No dispute about this, no ideology, except the manically insane would have anything to defend such an indiscriminate attack. Since the bomb exploded outside the residential complex of police commandos, it cannot be said the attack was altogether target-less, but the vagueness of target made anybody, including the perfectly innocent prone to becoming casualties, and indeed, the majority of those killed and injured were innocent non-combatants. If at all a target was intended, it was like firing into a crowd in the hope that it would hit a uniformed personnel. Those who have perpetrated it should have the courage to own up. But if past precedents such as ISCKON, massacre of migrant labours etc, are any evidence, we doubt this will ever happen.

Beyond the immediate, (or because of the immediate), the larger issue of searching for a lasting resolution to the conflict in Manipur and the northeast region is also likely to be lost sight of. The outrage that resulted out of today's mindless attack would have added to the accumulated public fury over similar acts in near and not so near past, giving it the potential to cancel out altogether whatever political space insurgency once enjoyed. At this moment, we would probably say this is a deserved and earned fate. But would this be in the larger interest of lasting peace? Or would it amount to deferring all peace prospects to the future? We tend to think this would be the case. The conflict must end, but with the qualification that it must be in the spirit of a happy ending that as children we all learnt from fairy tales "and they lived happily ever after". Meitei grandmother's tales have a similar but more psychologically illustrative refrain "uttka waiga sinnakhare". A prosaic translation of this would be something like, "the rice husks have all turned to ashes". Rice husks which have the quality of burning very slowly are used in family hearths to keep the fire un-extinguished without consuming precious wood fuel in the days of yore when fire making was not easy. Its turning to ashes, imply all potential energy has been spent and there is nothing left to burn. In other words the story has come to a logical conclusion, and there is nothing left to be told. In the interest of the land and welfare of its people, we want the story of insurgency to end this way too so that all of us can with confidence say "uttka waiga sinnakhare" and move no to the next story. All the angst and sense of being history's victim must be consumed to the fullest as in the grandmother's tale. If all of the rice husks have not turned to ashes, in all likelihood, within the core of the remaining rice husks, there would still be the ember of a fire, waiting to be rekindled into a full blaze at some later date, or era if you like. We hence say without reservation that the madness of acts of terror such as the one this evening must end, or must be put to an end. The law must be invoked appropriately and adequately to meet this challenge, but let it never be forgotten, beyond the immediate there is a story that must be brought to a logical conclusion.

News report:

India bombing 'kills at least 17'

At least 17 people have been killed and 20 injured in a bombing in the north-east Indian city of Imphal, police say.
A bomb in an auto rickshaw went off near a police base in the city, which is the capital of Manipur state. Police say most of the dead are civilians.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. It comes two days after a suspected militant grenade attack outside the chief minister's home.
Correspondents say Manipur is home to about a dozen rebel groups.
Some are fighting for the state's independence, others for autonomous tribal homelands.
The explosion ripped through a busy market area near an oil depot in central Imphal, where many people were eating in food stalls.
"It was a gory sight... bodies spattered in blood," said local journalist Yumnan Rupachandra.
Doctors say the death toll may rise as many of those injured are in a serious condition.
The blast went off not far from the residence of the Manipur Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, where an explosion occurred on Sunday in which no one was killed or injured.
A separatist group, the People's Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak, claimed responsibility for that explosion.
Intelligence officials say they do not rule out the involvement of another Manipuri rebel group, the Kanglei Yana Kana Lup, which recently attacked "corrupt" officials and beat up students suspected of cheating in examinations.
But they say the police commandos appeared to be the main target, as many of them eat in the local food stalls outside their headquarters.

About 700 armed PREPAK rebels have carried out regular attacks in the state, including firing a shell at the chief minister's fortified home last month.

India wants to seal border with Myanmar after blast

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - India needs to seal its border with Myanmar to stop separatist rebels carrying out regular attacks in the northeast, officials said on Wednesday, a day after a powerful blast killed 17 people in Manipur.

Police said a bomb on a bicycle blew up in Imphal, the state capital, late on Tuesday. At least 40 people were wounded in the attack that police believe was revenge for security forces killing at least eight rebels last month.

Police suspect the separatist People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) in Manipur, a state which has suffered separatist and tribal insurgencies for the past 60 years in the troubled northeast region.

The rebels escaped across a largely unguarded border to their camps in neighbouring Myanmar, police said.

Manipur shares a long porous border with Myanmar of around 370 km and security officials want the entire stretch to be barbed-wired to stop smuggling of weapons and explosives.

Ringed by China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, India's northeast is home to more than 200 tribes and has been racked by separatist revolts since India gained independence from Britain in 1947.

"We want the centre (federal government) to fence the border, we cannot let them (PREPAK) escape after the incident," Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh told Reuters on Wednesday.
The rebel group wants to throw non-Manipuris out of the state and demands statehood, which India says is not possible.

About 700 armed PREPAK rebels have carried out regular attacks in the state, including firing a shell at the chief minister's fortified home last month.

"It definitely is a cause for concern at a time when violence in other parts of the region seems to be declining," C. Uday Bhaskar, a strategic analyst said.

In Imphal, police cordoned off the blast site, near a commando training facility and forensic experts were examining pieces of metal to find out what caused the powerful blast.

"Our plan is to fence the border and step up foot patrolling along the border, otherwise it will be difficult to control the situation," a senior intelligence officer said from Imphal.

India says around 3,000 rebels, live and train in the camps inside the jungles of Kabaw Valley of Myanmar's Sagaing Division.

"We know where militants have their camps across the border, but we can't go inside Myanmar chasing them," said a senior military commander who requested not to be named.

India has a pact with Myanmar to share intelligence, but officials said it was not enough to stop the insurgency.

Militant groups accuse New Delhi of plundering the region's mineral and forest resources but investing little in return.



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