There are few acts as evil as the murder of a child. It is horrifying to think of criminals who would kill children to settle scores with their parents. But the killing of the seven-year-old daughter of Manipur’s minister, Mr Francis Ngajokpa, is a chilling reminder of the murky world in which many of India’s politicians find themselves. The fact that her captors killed the girl even after negotiating for a ransom suggests that they wanted to grievously hurt the family. It is sad that the police failed to rescue the girl eight days after her abduction, although the chief minister, Mr Okram Ibobi Singh, had promised to take the entire administration to task. This failure is, however, hardly surprising in a state where killings and kidnappings combine with ethnic insurgency to mock the rule of law. The saddest part is that politicians themselves have created a vicious world where money and crime reign supreme. Those who live by such evil means often fall victim to it as well. Only last month, a former minister from the state was arrested by the police for running a drug racket. Few in Manipur were surprised when he confessed that he needed the money to pay off loans he had incurred to fight elections.
Mr Singh’s government must do all it can to hunt down the girl’s killers. But, more important, it can no longer delay a hard strike at the evil nexus between criminals and politicians. The problem is that Manipur has had too many unstable coalition governments in the past few years. Mr Singh’s own government seems to be continuously under the shadow of an imminent collapse. This was evident in the sacking of three ministers just days before the girl’s tragedy stunned the state. The last thing that Mr Singh — or Manipur — needs in these uncertain times is another ethnic provocation. He nearly ignited the ethnic powder-keg by insinuating that the girl’s abductors belonged to the Kuki community. Neither his government nor ethnic politics can be more important than peace in the Imphal valley. It may not be enough to keep extending the curfew imposed in parts of the state in the wake of the discovery of the child’s body. The situation calls for a state of high alert and requires the Union and the state governments to work in tandem.