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Public memory is very short. Everyone knows it. Politicians take advantage of it. Criminals take advantage of it. This character of humans is a blessing for all wrongdoers. Had public memory been sharp, we won’t have seen corrupt politicians getting elected again and again. Indian voters would have found reasons to throw back freebies and cash on the face of politicians, who come begging for votes the previous night of voting day. Sometimes public memory is made even shorter by fresh events. The new event wipes out the memory of the past event, benefiting a section in the society while hitting others. Governments are sometimes alleged to have created new sensational scenes to avoid public criticism for a particular embarrassing incident. Coincidental happenings too save the authorities or public figures the embarrassments.

The case in this point is the Tura episode surrounding so-called illegal confinement and following assault on 12 girls allegedly involved in flesh trade. There are unanswered questions even after two enquiry reports were made public. Presumably, both the inquiries gave clean chit to authorities while putting blame on a particular policeman, who ‘confessed’ that no higher-up is involved in the case. When media reported about women activists busting a ‘prostitution’ racket on May 1, nobody had in the wildest dream thought that the vigilantes would land up in Tura jail a week later. The events unfolded so fast that at least three separate probes have been launched by different government agencies within a span of four days. The urgency shown by government itself meant there was something amiss in the whole episode, not to speak about the two following deaths – Balsan Marak arrested for assaulting the girls died in judicial custody while a auto driver, brother of a policeman who allegedly beat up Balsan, was brutally killed a few days later. There is definitely more that what meets the eye in the whole episode revolving around prostitution.

As the heat of criticism on police and administration was increasing, a series of kidnappings and following ‘successful’ rescue operations by police, rather rescued the police. The authorities also successfully overthrew allegations of these rescue operations being staged. And, to their help, public memory is short. The chronology of the events related to the girls assault incident has already vanished from public memory. Will truth come out one day or what the inquiry reports have said is the truth is still uncertain.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 18)

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