Why do people organise functions in remembrance of heroes and icons? It is a way of celebrating their heroism and commitment to the nation and society besides the legacy so that future generations may inculcate the values they cherished in their glorious lives. We have our heroes like Tikendrajit, Paona Brajabashi, Thangal General, Gambhir Singh and scores of other lesser known heroes which we remember every year in mundane functions with glorious tributes and offering of flowers.
Even the remembrance of the heroes of Anglo-Manipur War was started by Pan Manipur Youth League as Patriots Day on August 13 in 1968, till it was appropriated by the state government in 1972. With that the essence and ethos was lost forever. Except for the routine tributes, nothing more is done and everything about inculcating the valor and commitment of our heroes is forgotten. It became a waste of precious time and public money.
The 1891 Battle of Khongjom was a defining moment in the history of Manipur which heralded the beginning of colonial rule in an independent kingdom which was once a minor regional power at the crossroads of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The Meiteis were a martial race and they are known and feared for their valour in battle. It was one of the fiercest battles fought in hand to hand combat in this part of the world.
The British forces attacked from three sides and powerful legions were sent from Kohima, Tamu and Silchar. The hero of the battle was Major Paona Brajabashi whose name is being epitomised by the Manipuris for his bravery and patriotism even in ballads which came to be known as Khongjom Parva. It is said even the British were awed by his bravery and love for Manipur, his motherland. It was the spirit of independence and a race which refused to cow down to colonialism of any kind. Every year, on April 23, the whole state of Manipur pays homage to those great warriors at the Khongjom War Memorial Complex.
Today, we celebrate our national icons that had excelled in various fields of which there is no dearth. In the field of art and culture we are indeed proud to have world renowned personalities like Aribam Syam Sharma, Ratan Thiyam and the late Kanhailal. Syam Sharma and Ratan Thiyam are living icons. What have we, as a people, done to celebrate these icons respected the world over?
The government is a bureaucratic machine without imagination and devoted to the box-like thinking machine left by their predecessors and it is the right thinking people to find ways. We have upcoming stars like filmmakers Haobam Pawan Kumar and Meena Longjam. We have world class achievers in the coveted field of science and technology and scientific teams at the national and international level.
In the field of sports, we have iconic achievers and sportspersons who have reached the pinnacle of their talent and hundreds more in the pipeline. Besides jobs and some monetary incentives, what more are we doing to create an amiable atmosphere to churn out more and live up to the tag India’s powerhouse in sports. The other day, a sporting icon who started a revolution in body-building and athletics Mr Maipak passed away. We are left disappointed in the way he was given a farewell. Is this way we are going to celebrate our other icons?