Even as the ethnic strife refuses to go away, Manipur governor and chief minister including some ministers continue to roll out its routine messages and greetings on occasions of festivals and important days to the general population as if nothing is happening around. It is more than six months since May 3 when violence broke out in the state and still continues with bandhs and blockades, sporadic incidents of shooting and clashes between armed groups whether militants or miscreants and village volunteers whatsoever.
Well, one may argue that it is quite normal for the head of state and the head of government to give out messages to the general population. Or when the festivals or days are not of so much significance, nobody bothers to take seriously the said VVIP messages. But when the said festivals are of prime importance and when the general population is in mourning such greetings and messages, however routine, becomes sour and unkind.
There is the matter of missing cases, of dead bodies crying for last rites, thousands of displaced families taking shelter in relief camps without any clue of when they are returning to their home and hearth. When these are pending, they have no ear for messages other than of peace and normalcy returning to their lives to their homes and to their schools and books.
It began around with Kut festival for the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people which is celebrated during the harvesting season in many areas under different names. Every community and tribe has had its own traditional festivals since times immemorial. In the hills, despite the conversion to Christianity people are once again re-living the traditional festivals and rites which are often misunderstood with indigenous assertion of past value systems.
Yet, we earnestly feel that past traditions and cultural rites could co-exist with the newer Christian values. Kut became a state level festival and it began to be celebrated on every November 1 where other communities also joined in the festivities. On the night of Kut, ministers and MLAs usually have a fun time dancing away the worries with gay abandon. The young usually paint Imphal or whichever town red on the occasion of Kut. But this year it was given a pass due to the ethnic strife. The MLAs and bureaucrats who used to dance together stood still on either side of the fence. Yet, the routine message from the VVIPs came and there was heartburn everywhere.
Then again, Diwali and Ningol Chakouba came. Diwali is one of the biggest festivals of India and people celebrate its lights particularly in North India. People lit up their homes with candles or colourful blinking lights while young people celebrated by bursting crackers on the particular day. In Manipur, it was not a question of whether one is a Hindu or not, just celebration of the light.
Of course, Manipur Vaishnavites celebrate it and others join it. It is about the lights and festivities. Shops would be decorated with diyas, colourful candles and twinkling lights as the young and middle-aged dressed in all finery would swarm the streets. As the years go on, the lights spread to the periphery areas of the main market and homes decked with twinkling lights, all over. This time, after stirring debates in social media it was decided to celebrate Diwali this year in view of the clashes. Yet, there were the routine messages.
Ningol Chakouba is one of the important festivals for the Meiteis and one need not elaborate on it. For the daughters and sisters, it was a painful feeling never experienced before as the community decided to forego it this year in view of the clashes. But then, the VVIPs came out with their usual messages as if they are unmindful of the suffering and shock all around. Have a heart, please!