As a local group in Manipur attempts to put a stop to the participation of transgender in performing rituals during Lai Haraoba festival of the Meitei community in Manipur, trans activist Santa Khurai told the Imphal Free Press that the festival is an educational platform and cultural space for Sanamahism - ancient religion of the Meitei community in Manipur. Lai Haraoba celebration is also an occasion for the diverse ethnic communities of the state to show solidarity to each other, the activist said.
Inat Yokhat Lup, a local group, has cautioned against participation of transgender in performing rituals during Lai Haraoba (merrymaking festival of Umanglai) celebration, saying it must stop immediately. The group stated that it is impossible to include transgender in Lai Haraoba festival celebration though the Supreme Court has directed for inclusion of transgender in the society,
Reacting to it, Santa Khurei told the Imphal Free Press that “ban on transgender in the festival is inappropriate and some civil society or organisations are targeting the minority group when they want to show their power over them”.
The transgender activist further pointed out that “when a transgender serves for the society as a doctor no one appreciates and when the community tries to bring an inclusive society, the community is targeted in order to suppress them”.
Santa also said that the ethnic communities of Manipur are a vulnerable society and to protect the ethnic community of Manipur, cooperation and mutual understanding among the various communities is highly necessary.
Transgender are also playing a major role in promoting Sanamahism, Santa said. Sanamahism is an ancient religion of a section of the Meitei community in Manipur.
The Inat Yokhat Lup group mentioned in a release signed by its general secretary Soibam Pibarel Moirangcha, that since time immemorial the Lai Haraoba festival of the Meitei community has been celebrated across the state with the believe to bring peace, prosperity, and development of the society.
The Lup stated that during the ritual ceremony of Lai Haraoba, Maibas and Maibies, including ‘Pena Khongba’ (those performing a traditional small one-stringed fiddle) perform ritual activities and the festival of Lai Haraoba is a festival of men and women highlighting the origin of life. During the festival there is no place for other gender apart from male and female, it stated.
Pointing out that despite the restriction on transgender during the festival, many transgender are found involved in the festival, the Lup stated that it will ban inclusion of transgender while performing the ritual activities of Lai Haraoba. It questioned as to “who authorised the transgender (Nupa Maibi) to perform ritual activities during the festival”.
The respective organising committee of Lai Haraoba should bear the consequences if any transgender (Nupa Maibi) are found performing ritual activities during the festival, it added.
It further appealed to the ‘Pena Khongba’ (Pena Khongbas have to be present during the performance of all the rituals) and ‘Tangkhul Saba’ not to use intoxicating elements while performing the ritual activities.