Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal disclosed that Editors’ Guild of India had not initiated to compile a report voluntarily; they had been invited by the Indian Army to conduct the assessment. This disclosure raises pertinent questions about the Army’s involvement and intentions behind such a request.
By Dr Marc Nongmsaithem
In the heart of India’s Northeastern region, Manipur stands as a land of breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, and a complex history marred by ethnic strife. In recent days, the spotlight has once again fallen upon this state, as a fact-finding report released by the Editors Guild of India (EGI) has sparked a legal battle and ignited a nationwide debate on the role of the armed forces in Manipur.
EGI’s “Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Media’s Reportage of the Ethnic Violence in Manipur” has thrown into sharp relief the challenges faced by media outlets during periods of ethnic violence. It bravely called out vernacular media for exhibiting biased tendencies, and raised concerns over the internet ban imposed in the state, which, it argued, forced media organizations to rely on a one-sided narrative. The report rightly emphasized the need for balanced and impartial reporting, a cornerstone of responsible journalism.
However, this report’s release also led to a barrage of FIRs against EGI’s executive members, including its President Seema Mustafa and the fact-finding team members. The allegations ranged from criminal conspiracy to defamation and the dissemination of false information, centering on an erroneous picture caption that was subsequently corrected. The situation escalated when Manipur’s Chief Minister accused EGI of sowing discord, further endangering the freedom of speech and personal liberty of journalists.
The matter reached the Supreme Court, which provided temporary protection from arrest to the accused. But in a surprising revelation, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal disclosed that EGI had not initiated the report voluntarily; they had been invited by the Indian Army to conduct the assessment. This disclosure raises pertinent questions about the Army’s involvement and intentions behind such a request.
The role of the armed forces in Manipur has long been a subject of controversy. It is crucial that any fact-finding team, especially when linked to the military, remains impartial and accountable. The purpose of such a team should be to provide an objective assessment, not to control the media or disseminate propaganda. Transparency and credibility must be upheld throughout the process.
Moreover, this controversy has shed light on the pressing issue of illicit cannabis and poppy plantations in the region. Despite the Army’s active role in combating drug trafficking, these illegal plantations seem to flourish unchecked. The question arises: Is the buffer zone maintained by the Armed Forces inadvertently or intentionally protecting these illegal activities, thereby fueling the ongoing ethnic strife?
To find answers to these troubling questions and foster lasting peace and stability in Manipur, we need a comprehensive fact-finding team that can delve into the activities of the armed forces in the region. This team should examine their involvement, or lack thereof, in addressing critical issues like illegal drug cultivation. It should also seek to rebuild trust between communities and security forces and promote cooperation between the army and state forces.
Peace in Manipur is not a distant dream but a real possibility, contingent upon a thorough understanding of the root causes of conflict. The unchecked cultivation of illegal cannabis and poppy, and the role of the armed forces in safeguarding or eradicating these activities, demand our immediate attention. Manipur deserves better than a cycle of conflict and accusations. It deserves transparency, accountability, and a chance at lasting peace.
(Dr Marc Nongmaithem is an informed/concerned citizen who loves to write on issues of public importance. The opinion expressed here are the writer’s own and does not represent the views of TFM )