A masked robber has been keeping Mizoram residents on their toes due to his unique attacks. The accused, a 24-year-old Emmanual Lalbiakzauva was arrested on February 21, 2023, for the alleged vandalisation of an ATM booth among other charges.
The Mizoram Police wrote in a statement, “After diligent and thorough investigation and meticulous follow-up, Emmanuel Lalbiakzauva (24) s/o P.C Chhuahkhama (L) of Bawngthah (Present Address – Ramhlun North) was arrested yesterday by members of Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Aizawl Police in connection with Aizawl PS case dated 18.02.2022 u/s 3 Explosive Substances Act r/w 4 PDPP Act r/w 436 IPC.”
According to the Mizoram Police, Lalbiakzauva vandalised an SBI ATM Booth at Republic Venglai with explosives during the early hours of February 18 while trying to loot an SBI ATM Booth at Saikhamakawn on the early morning of February 21. A case was registered under section 427/457/380/511 of the IPC Act and r/w 3 of the PDPP Act.
The accused had also attempted to loot Apex Bank ATM at Bethlehem Veng, just before vandalising the SBI ATM at Republic Veng.
When the police arrested him, they seized several pieces of clothing and other items, including his bike, black spray paints and a few gelatin sticks.
What makes Lalbiakzauva’s actions unique is that while he attacked these ATM booths, he did not steal a single rupee. A mask was retrieved among his possessions where it was written, “I don’t want to hurt anybody,” “Justice 4 Poor People,” “Hard work is nothing under a corrupt government,” “Save Mizoram,” “Corrupt Politician is High-Class Robber,” “We all are Christian.”
In his confession to the police, Lalbiakzauva said he had sought a loan at the SBI bank which was denied to him. It is believed that he acted out of anger and frustration.
Laltlanzova,* a senior journalist from Mizoram commented on the issue saying, “The words written on the mask of the ATM bomber make one think further. I do not support his actions 100% but it brings to question, will the population of frustrated youth keep increasing? It is time for our state leaders to wake up.”
Comments on the official Instagram page of the Mizoram Police account challenged the law enforcers. One Instagram user wrote, “He bombed the ATM but he does not need the money. You have done a good job by catching him but will you have the guts to capture those who have stolen public money?”
Hriata Sailo, a citizen activist commented on the incident saying, “Amidst the whirlpool of opinions, what caught my attention was how well he had planned the robbery and, at the same time, how poorly he had executed it with his choice of tools – explosives! It begs the question: Was his mission truly centred around money, or did he do it to spread a message? After delving deeper to understand the motive behind it, and examining the words written on the mask recovered from the crime scene. It looks as though he may have anticipated his arrest.”
He further commented saying, “Well, the quote “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” seems to be the best fitting description of how our politicians govern our state. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this quote hanging in a fancy frame in their offices. Despite this, some still argue that corruption is not linked to the failures and successes of certain individuals. The irony lies in the fact this very party(MNF) emerged from a lineage of insurgents who took up arms to fight against the corrupt and apathetic government of Assam. His attempt to rob an ATM was unsuccessful, but there still exist people who successfully rob us even in broad daylight. The only distinction between him and them is that he is paying the price for his actions, whereas they remain untouched.”
However, while many people spoke in support of the masked vandal, believing he acted out of frustration against the corrupt government, some citizens believed that his act was not to be justified as many people are suffering the same fate.
Liantluanga,* a student, commented on the condition of anonymity saying, “There are many of us who are trying to paint a good picture of the ATM bomber and it seems like the larger public is influenced by his excuse. Before he bombed the ATM, he also stole a bike, which shows that he may be a wicked person. It seems to be that we are using poverty as an excuse for committing crimes. There are many breastfeeding mothers who seek a livelihood while carrying their children on their backs. He was a young man who has hands and legs and an able body. Why did he seek the wrong path? He may have even committed other crimes before he stole the bike.”
The government’s flagship Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP) has unemployment as one of its core focus points. In the SEDP’s official description, it is written, “the main aim of this economic policy is to have a self-sufficient economy (Green Revolution) as well as creating employment for all.” Employment creation and welfare aids are given in the eighth point among the policy’s core focus points. However, unemployment rates in the state remain high.
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A Times of India report on February 27, 2023, highlights the high rate of male deaths in the state. In the report, an activist is quoted saying, “With unemployment high, sheer frustrations due to having nothing to do resulted in the men resorting abuse of drugs and alcohol.”
According to data presented by the Economics and Statistics Department, 8101 people died in the state in 2021, out of which 5,156 were men and 2, 945 were women.
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