It took two full days for the Manipur government to act and finally crack the whip and gain area domination at Mount Koubru, following the announcement of blocking of all entry points by some Kuki groups and vested interests in assertion of its claim over the mountain range. By then, a concrete culvert on the road leading to the Koubru peak had been demolished and the chowkidar shed of Koubru Leikha was set on fire by some miscreants while a huge public outcry had emerged in the valley. Villagers blocked the state police including top officials from entering the area for two days, while social media was abuzz with posts having communal overtones and dismay over government inaction. According to a recent Facebook post from the Chief Minister N Biren Singh, four persons suspected to be involved in the demolition and arson have been picked up. He also promised that none of the guilty will be spared. We must say, much water had flowed under the bridge by then and a situation of hurt sentiments and herd anger, which may spiral out of control, had begun to take shape.
The claim of a few Kuki chiefs over Mt Koubru had been there for quite some time now. However, it became fully charged after the state government announced its intent to declare an area measuring about two hectares as a protected site under the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976 in public interest. Till today, the people of Manipur regard Mt Koubru as one of the most sacred mountains in the state. Every year, a week after Cheiraoba (Manipur New Year), on the first Friday, people go on pilgrimages to the Koubru Peak, which is around 2,802 metres high. A special attraction at the peak is the sacred pond Lai Pukhree, a massive rectangular boulder and the cliff of the Koubru. In short, Mt Koubru is the epicenter of all mythology, tradition and belief of human creation on the Earth in the Manipuri world-view. The government intent was of declaring both Mt Koubru and Mt Thangjing as protected sites. As per provisions of the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976 a period of two months or sixty days was given for raising any objection. And it came in the form of a call for no temple or church or mosque at the site from group formed by the said vested interests.
Nowhere in the government notification, is an intent of constructing a religious structure mentioned. Manipur has several protected sites, including Kangla notified under Sub-Section (1) of Section 4 of the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976 and there is no religious connotation whatsoever in the move but rather of protecting it for the cause of preservation and conservation. As per the Act, no new structures except for fencing and public utilities are allowed in a protected site and the intent is solely based on conservation and preservation of the important site for the sake of posterity. As we said before, there simply should not be such a thing as ‘ancestral land’ in a composite state like ours and anybody who flags such terms always have an ulterior agenda. They should rather be questioning themselves on what they have done so far for conservation and upkeep of the land they are claiming to own. The last straw became the blocking of all entry points to the holy site of Mt Koubru. And what did the state government do? It was kept on hold for two days by the so-called owners of Mt Koubru at the foothills. Such inaction is unforgivable. It is required of the state to act resolutely at all times to assert the rule of law without fear or favour.