Germs, Diseases and the Burning of Newspaper

The other day, the BJP Manipur Pradesh Yuva Morcha burned copies of the Poknapham daily to protest against the ‘satirical’ criticism of their master and in the process it has not only shown its true colour but also the ways of a diseased society that we live in

Germs cause diseases. We cannot see them but that’s how they create the mess inside our body. In a society, there are also germs that exist in various forms that cause similar ailments at a societal level. Like we become conscious of them when we are sick, yesterday we saw its manifestation of a lowly pathetic disease from the burning of copies of a Meiteilol newspaper for publishing a column that a group of germs apparently do not like.

The invisibility of these germs is evident from their existence itself in the first place. Self-labelled as the BJP Manipur Pradesh Yuva Morcha, it must be the last group that enjoys any sort of legitimacy but thanks to the mobilisation at the so-called national level, now it can even make news even if it is at the local level. First of all, the frontal organisations of Indian political parties exist as best as a farce in Manipur. It is an open secret, for example, in the world of college and university politics, the likes of ABVPs or NSUIs exist only on papers while in their absence, we have the AMSUs and DESAMs. 
However, nothing is fair in politics and governance as far as we are concerned.

Everything was alright till the Saturday morning, then came the weekly column of Vox Populi in the day’s edition of Poknapham. Shortly, it’s a satirical column and is hugely popular that it has been released as a collection in a book in a couple of editions so far. Yesterday, in its weekly onslaught, it took on the charge and counter-charge of political parties regarding the controversial Framework Agreement and called Modi names. That’s where the germs exploded.

Yes, this kind of backlash occurs throughout the world. The case of Charlie Hebdo magazine, which has so far attracted the attention of extremists twice in 2011 and 2015, is one of the best examples. Right-wing politics, intolerance and stupidity are some of the keywords that we can find in common between the attackers and our germs. See one of the responses to the attack on the French weekly magazine: (Courtesy: Counter-Terrorism for Emergency Responders by Robert A. Burke)   

The name, BJP Manipur Pradesh Yuva Morcha, reeks of Hindu nationalists while it is completely barren of local sensibilities. For starters, it is highly doubtable that they have a stand on the Indo-Naga peace deal except to go by the decision taken by New Delhi. This applies to their opponents also—all of them who swore by the Indian political establishment. If they cannot laugh at the joke, then they need to be informed of the cold facts. And it is also a fact that their stupidity might hinder them from seeing the big picture.

These guys are also much more than a pitiable front of a national political party. Their very existence is based on servility and sycophancy that the party at state level survives on. Servility, because there is no question of pan-Indian domination though it’s our political reality as we survive economically on freebies from New Delhi; and sycophancy, because despite their defeatist mentality, they would never lose any chance for self-aggrandisement.

Their existence also owes to the mobilisation of the right-wing BJP across India. Albeit they deserve some recognition—the NSUIs and Youth Congress did not create any pathogenic disturbances despite the Congress being in power for 15 long years before the BJP stole the spotlight literally, again thanks to the master at the Centre. Remember the Congress won more votes in the last election. It’s another story how the stooges, just like the groups such as the BJP Manipur Pradesh Yuva Morcha, have also been able to build successful niche businesses. (PS: Don’t say anything about the governor and the university VC).

For all that matters, their legitimacy hinges on the political position, howsoever ridiculous, they have taken. In other words, if we go by their conformity there are due processes to sort out the problem. For instance, regulating bodies like the Press Council of India has enough provisions for dealing with such issues and what’s more, there are also local bodies like the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union that can help air their grievances albeit as we can see it’s more of a bootlicking and kneejerk reaction of the youth party than anything else. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s grievances.

People in the media re already in a very tight position. Ours is a conflict zone and the messengers are always caught between the gun and the barbed wire. All along, media has been affected by both the state and nonstate actors. There had been cases when editors were greeted with grenades and armed assaults, when media houses were closed down over trifle issues yet grave in nature as those involved, as always, gun and bomb threats, and when on countless days like today, all the newspapers in the state carried a blank editorial. And the last thing those in the media would want is interference from a fringe group whose motives are seriously questionable. 

At the end of the day, we are a sick society and the least we can do is to take precautionary measures. It will be unwise to create more rooms for germs. Lastly, the issue is the clandestine Framework Agreement, and some infantile reactionary groups should not be allowed to create distraction.

[Note: In protest against the germ attack and according to a resolution taken by the Editors’ Guild Manipur, all the newspapers in Manipur carry a blank editorial today, 20 Nov]



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