TWO state security force personnel sustaining injuries when unknown militants ambushed the security convoy of deputy chief minister Gaikhangam on Wednesday, when the latter was en-route to his native village in Tamenglong district, suggests that the Manipur assembly elections will be far from being a peaceful, not to speak of being a free and fair democratic exercise as envisioned the Election Commission of India. Home to various insurgent groups, most of the attacks carried out by these outfits in Manipur often make security teams as their targets though VIPs too are not immune from experiencing such life threatening acts, as was evident from the ambush laid on then MLA Wungnaoshang Keishing in April 2011 in an Ukhrul district area that left as many as seven persons, including six security personnel, dead and few others injured and shots fired towards the chopper in which chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and others had gone to the same district to attend a public function in October 2016, to name a few. The attack on the chief minister is believed to have been planned by a particular outfit whose top leader was barred from entering his native village after none other than Ibobi marshalled the state security forces to barricade all routes that the said leader might take to reach his chosen destination. In recent times, the June 2015 ambush on a convoy of Dogra Regiment in Chandel district remain the deadliest of all attacks as it claimed the lives of 18 personnel.
The Chandel tragedy that befell Army personnel on 4 June could qualify as the mother of all ambushes — not in terms of casualties but the heat generated thereafter across the country and remarks from immediate international neighbours. Internally, questions were raised on whether the Dogra troops, who were on their way home, might have been in a hurry to move out of Manipur and they let their guard down, whether there was any intelligence failure or did the troops violated standard operational procedures like, for instance, why 35 troopers were packed in a single truck. In the aftermath of the Indian Army’s revenge strike on rebel camps deep inside Myanmar, officials in Islamabad were quick to remind India not to treat Pakistan like Myanmar even as the latter denied that any such attack had occurred inside its territory. Though these earlier attacks were apolitical and seem to have been carried out to showcase prowess of the assaulting groups, the entrap of the deputy CM’s convoy appears to ring out a clear message that expecting the upcoming polls in the state to be a free and fair one will be wishful thinking. The latest attack also raises security concern that has been hovering above the head of the state authority, given the context of continuing economic blockade by the UNC, which too has been marked by offensives against both security forces and transport operators, and the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend an election rally of BJP on February 25. The ambush is certain to give those at the helm of affairs a serious heartache to ensure that the people’s representatives are elected through the ballot and not by bullets.