Public meeting held

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IMPHAL, Mar 26: A public meeting on “Indo-Manipur Conflict and People’s Participation in resolving the conflict” was held today at the Lamdong Leikai community hall, Kwakeithel Heinoukhongnembi.

The meeting was attended by Moirangthem Mani Meetei, social worker as chief guest, Pebam Ongbi Mema, president, Lamdong Leikai Yaifa Thourang and Nishaband Nupi Marup, as president while Leirenjam Gojendro, former president of All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) and Thokchom Ongbi Ramani, general secretary of Nupi Samaj attended as the guest of honour.

Th. Manihar, president Mapi Council and Bijoy Kakchingtabam, former president of All Manipur Working Journalist Union (AMWJU) spoke during the meeting as resource persons.

Speaking at the meeting Th. Manihar stated that before the Indian nation had formed its constitution, Manipur had already established its own constitution called the ‘Manipur Constitution’.

He further maintained that the first democratic election was held in 1948 in Manipur, which was supposed to bring a democratic form of government in Manipur.

Citing the decade long talks between the NSCN and central government, he also maintained that peace talk between the various UG groups of the state and the government could not bring a fast solution to the present conflict in the state. He further maintained that India is only trying to lure the people of Manipur using peace talks with UG groups.

Maintaining plebiscite as the need of the hour in the state, he further maintained that even though the present conflict has been there in the state for a long time, it is the common people who have been suffering from the conflict and as such it should be put upon the common people to decide on their own fate.

He added that it is high time that the common people decide whether they would like to live as a free nation or as Indians.

Articles

Satanic Verses: Manipur Chapter
By Amar Yumnam
Manipur is now a land where all the hazards of mis-governance are coming into the open in all the possible colours. It has been pretty long that the powers that be have been working and behaving with a manual of magical misbehaviour. This manual gave them a temporal aura of untouchability and freedom from the bondage of regulations, and the practitioners (read the Very Important Persons of the land) thought that this was going to be permanent. Well such unnatural and untruths can never be a perennial feature in any society whatsoever unless of course it is hell. In fact, the hazards of misdeeds are catching up from within.

Recent Instances: There are two recent instances associated with the highest symbol of democratic polity of the land. One was the instance when the house of the representatives realise that the bureaucracy did not bother to sit through the proceedings when relevant issues were being debated in the forum where they were mandatory to be present (whether real debate occurs in the house or not is a different issue altogether). The second instance is the case where an office assistant thought it fit to pass on a chit by himself when the Head of the People of Manipur was making a statement in the house. These are sure indicators of the rot within the administration of the land lock, stock and barrel. These are just external signs of the cumulative decline of the quality of governance.

The degradations are becoming so systemic that we do not have to confine to the house of legislature alone in search of the examples. I would like to pick up two examples again of incidents recently happened in the public domain. These are the spontaneous outcomes in the sense that they are occurring because of the cumulative and habituated behaviour of the men in government and also the men in uniforms, and are instances where the humane intentions have been usurped by the spontaneous outbursts dictated by the cumulative behaviour. To this extent these are absolutely dangerous events at the societal level. The first instance I have in this genre is the incident where the security escorts of a Very Important Person (forget the fact that he is an elected person) had the guts in open public space to bash up someone for not giving side to overtake in a crowded area and not heeding to the most arrogant horns and sirens honked from the vehicles of the escorts and that of the Very Important Person. The second example is the latest one in which the son of another Very Important Person shot death another youth. While I do feel sad for the deceased, I have every sympathy for the accused as well. This a clear case of the lessons learnt from the daily demonstrations of the manifest social behaviour of the family members of the Very Important Persons getting better of the sane intentions of an individual.

Satanic Behaviour: While the rot in governance is now open with systemic indicators coming out into the open, we have been commenting on the quality, or rather lack of it, of governance for a pretty number of times. Today, I would rather attempt to present my take on the implications of the last two instances.

The highways are the best places for experiencing the attitude and behaviour of the Very Important Persons of the land. For a long time we have had to bear with the arrogant horns, gestures and treatment of general public as insects by the security forces of the country. But as of today, the army has greatly improved while the highway highhandedness is now confined mostly with the Assam Rifles. It may be because of the dominating presence of the security forces that the highway highhandedness of the Very Important Persons was not very evident till recently. But with the increasing withdrawal of the security forces and the improved public behaviour of the army, the most visible highway highhandedness, arrogant public display of social behaviour and manifest treatment of general public as insects are now salient with the Very Important Persons.

Now the Very Important Persons are those who are given gun-touting escorts. The very presence and accompaniment of the Very Important Persons with them provides these escorts an air of above rules, regulations, and viewing anyone without escorts as mere social insects. In fact, the displayed behaviour of most of these escorts is but satanic. Look at their behaviour in busy places, in deserted areas, in social gatherings and what not, and one does not have to search for the Satan any more. Now as these Satans serve, in any case, as escorts of the Very Important Persons (perhaps Gods as they conceit it to themselves), the onus is definitely now on the latter to regulate the Satans and teach them behave socially.

But most unfortunately for all of us, this regulation and control of the Satans by the Gods (Very Important Persons) has not happened. On the contrary, the Gods have increasingly started copying the behaviour of the Satans. This is exactly what has happened to Manipur. The boys are not to be faulted. The girls are not to be blamed. They are just subjects of the cumulative social display of the Very Important Persons with their newly acquired satanic strengths. The fault lies with these Very Important Persons.

The Yaoshang factor
By Chitra Ahanthem
As another Yaoshang (holi) rolled off the calendar, one thing keeps coming back to mind: has the festival changed or is it my perception? As small children, the five day break for Holi meant only total fun: nagging parents for new tops, the brightest phaneks and joipar. We were three sisters and one brother and I had one other extra thing that I would ask every Holi: the fastest pitchkaari! There was no way that I would let the boys go scot-free after they put colour over me or did anything else to pester me or my sisters. On one memorable occasion, I dumped a pesky boy who would not leave us alone and pushed and shoved him in the road-side drain! The highlight of Yaoshang was of course going the rounds of houses in the neighbourhood for nakatheng but our parents would never allow us to cross neighbourhoods for this. If someone locked their house to stop us from entering and asking for nakatheng, it often meant that they would wake up the next day to find their vegetable patches uprooted or their clothes on the washing lines dumped in the pond or drain!

Much later, I would get to see another side of Holi: the devotional aspect. This was thanks to a documentary film being shot around the festival by a team that came down from Mumbai. As a logistical support person for the team doubling up as translator, it was an eye opener indeed to look on the festival from another perspective. Holi to the many old devotees and followers of Hinduism meant offering the best of spring to Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha. It meant celebrating their divine love. From this strand was looped the link of Holi as a social outlet for young people to get to know each other and even decide on marriage! Thabalchongba brought together young people together in its form of a community gathering. It offered them the opportunity of holding hands and talking with another in full glare of parents and elders! In a society where otherwise public displays of affection are considered taboo, Thabalchongba was the traditional yet modern way of a social check out for eligible young men and women. A young man who was interviewed for the film laughed his head off and recounted how he had eloped with his wife. “Their Thabalchongba took place circling a road and as her parents and elders got left behind around their house, we eloped as soon as we were at the furthest point from them!”, he said.

One other activity around Holi that cannot be left out is the Sports meets that are organized at the Leikai level. Many often describe them as being representative of the great love for sports that people of this state have. There may be some amount of truth is this assumption but it would be wrong to pitch Sports meets during the festival as some great ground for encouraging sports. Firstly, the activities are conducted in an almost casual manner: there are no clock timers for athletic activities; the judges are often the elders of the Leikai or young people while the participants are mostly people who do not do any athletic activity for the whole year. At the most, some would be people who do a bit of physical activity like going for jogging or to the gymnasium. For the Yaoshang sports meets to be actually an extension of grooming or encouraging sporting talents, there needs to be much more competitiveness. Perhaps organizing them on the lines of Municipal wards etc may help bring in some seriousness. While organizing sports meets have brought down the extent of small children standing by road-sides and stopping pedestrians and vehicles for Nakatheng, much needs to be done if they are to be vehicles for encouraging sporting talents. They remain confined to only young children or senior people in the locality since the in-between young people are on the roads in their vehicles zipping by.

And that brings us to another critical area: are the five days of Holi worth it? The practice of going around for monetary collections for Thbalchingba, chaak-chaanaba, sumang leela, etc often means that majority of shops and business establishments remain closed. Passenger vehicles stay off the road and people who make a living from daily labour or selling vegetables etc suffer the most. Not much gets done during the five-day break.

End-point:
Eleven people died in separate incidents during this year’ five day Yaoshang break. Would it be total co-incidence that some thing or the other keeps happening every Yaoshang five day break (when the media is in sleep-mode too)? Some years ago, the first spate of killing non-migrant workers took place during this period. The Heirok firing and its immediate after effects took place during the same said period. Is there a Yaoshang curse over the state? There can be no real answer to this but it is high time indeed that people started taking a re-look at what whether Yaoshang needs to be around like a social and cultural curfew that stops life in its tracks.

The Colourful Rhythm of Sporting March
By Sanasam Umananda
March marches solemnly amidst pulsating drums and dazzling colours. Nature and man cooperate to enchant Manipur in this month with the seasonal red flowers against the back-drop of red sunshine made redder by “Abir” with the rhythm of drums. After months of chill and benumbing coldness, Nature’s warmth starts to give greetings to the weary people for the coming voluptuous spring. Human flesh as also other creature’s enjoy the warmth of March with the bliss of existence after ridding themselves of the icy hands of winter.

But the fragrance of March sent out by the blossoming citrus fruit-trees cannot be ignored by any romantic soul. The energy-giving aroma, making everybody young, pervades the March atmosphere which is another hallmark of spring. Mornings are cold disbelieving one that noontime is reserves sweating heats. Night time repeats the same story – the difference being the non-extraction of sweat by solar heats but by Thabal Chongba, a group dance with muscle building skips in the moonlight.
Manipur deserves to be a proud land with the richest seasons and merriest people. In mid-March which can rightfully be dubbed as the “Sports Week: synchronising with the Yaoshang every year, budding sports stars get themselves initiated into the enthralling world of sports. Every leikai organises sports, totalling about 10,000 (am I exaggerating a bit) in number in the whole of Manipur in mini sports-fields.

The face of Yaoshang has thus changed tremendously with the advent of sports identifying the Yaoshang festival. Many years ago Yaoshang devoted itself to Holis, “Abir Khels” and Thabal Chongbas. Those were the times when egalitarianism reigned Manipuri society and material prosperity was not considered to be the end-all and be-all of life. Cheerfulness and radiance sat on the beaming faces of not-very-rich and not-very-poor denizens of this pleasant land. Jealousy, prejudice and avarice lay low in the social psyche. Goodwill and vibrant camaraderie with a sense of fell-feeling and mutual help pervaded the social atmosphere. But time refuses to be kept in a standstill. It is an every continuing process. Good or bad, we are passengers in the ship of time. The nostalgic feeling of the good old days is forced to be kept aside and fix our eyes on the differing present. Willingly or unwillingly we have to obey the dictates of time. But the present which experiences a lost innocence may fail to charm many. It may even be the target of heavy criticism by “eulogisers of the past”. But the present has also many favourable aspects. Inspite of a joyless existence from the new awareness of “time-value” with a fast life necessitating non-allocation of time to gossip sequel to the recent urbanisation but without accompanying industrialisation, Manipuri young men are reaching unprecedented heights in sports, performing arts, films, science, engineering and technical skill, medical and surgical expertise and above all literature. With their globalised thinking they seem to be citizens of the world. But this globalisation and urbanisation is associated with the unrest in the socio-politico-economic life of the people. There is a restlessness in the living pattern and erosion in inter-personal relationship of a bewildered populace in Manipur now. Nobody should dare to declare it “cherishable ideal.”

This emerging choice of a joyless existence caused by the machinations of a materialist-oriented modernity only offers ample field to invite critics, penitents of the lost ecstasy of innocent existence raised their banner of revolt with a new meaning.

“What is this life, if full of care
We have no time to stop and stare”

Viewed from this angle, the “March” of yore had more quality and mesmeric power. People were outdoors with gay abandon amidst the sound of drums along with wet and dry vermillion.

But one only wishes to see its return which is not going to be time also decrees evolution as its indispensable associate. So the best that we can do is to rightly evolve with the evolution. The ideal human evolution should be an all-round development in life-giving romance goodwill, science, technology, fellow feeling and spiritual and material opulence.

Anyway, the present is our reality. It is concerned with the “living-life” which is most important. Reality is not a bed-fellow of nostalgia nor does it surrender to idealism. It goes its way straight.

Well, the present is our concern. March has come only to go away after a few days. Now the greatest virtue of March now is its contribution to sports in Manipur. This is a silver lining in the otherwise dark clouds of Manipur. Yaoshang sports is the seed of future national and international sports-starts of Manipur. The recent gold medals of Manipur in the National Games inspire us and give tremendous self-confidence and self-esteem. Our thanks go to March for this. Adieu March! See you again next year.

Modes of Story-Telling
in Cinema
by Joshy Joseph
I know and you know that there can be several stories and the modes of telling them can outnumber the stories we tell.
I happen to practice a mode of story telling in cinema at this point of my life where fiction is married to non-fiction or non-fiction proposes but the fiction wriggles out etc….etc……Believe me, this happened in my life not out of any aesthetic deliberation, in which I indulge at times, but only when my family life is absolutely in the family way. So, this mode of expression in cinema happened out of an existential compulsion to keep a marriage going.

Let me give names to the characters and add a little blur in my narrative to confuse the paparazzi. Teresa was born and brought up in a village surrounded by backwaters in Kerala, exactly like the protagonist film-maker Nelson. The father of Teresa and the mother of Nelson were followers of a rebel priest practicing Liberation Theology at the coastal villages of Kochi. Nelson by then was in Mumbai working as a commentator after an outright rejection at the Film Institute of India, Pune. Teresa loved his voice, enjoyed his sense of humor and married him. It was an arranged marriage.

They wandered at night through the banks of the prawns cultivating fields at Teresa’s village. Nelson was catching the fire flies by the swift movements of his hands like a sword fighter using his left and right hands. Teresa was collecting the fire flies caught by Nelson in an empty match-box. As Nelson was targetting a big fire fly and swirled his right hand in the darkness, a sudden scream numbed both of them which echoed through the prawns fields. The village poet smoking a bidi and taking a stroll for inspiration was hit right on his face. In a surrealist mode of smoking, Kerala Dinesh Bidi resembles fire flies at night in some coastal villages.

The magical realism of Teresa’s village charged the failed film-maker immensely. He asked the village poet to associate with him for the script of his first feature film – ‘TABLE MANNERS’ – and instantly started narrating it – story of a book worm priest, timid, withdrawn, a feather-like soul, who was always reading and brooding. Unknowingly and by accident the priest tasted a piece of crane meat masala prepared in an indigenous Toddy Parlour from a nearby island in the backwaters. Nelson was getting into a mode of oral tradition of story telling which all the film-makers invariably practice before actually making the film. About the nuances of a story, where a puritan soul by and by getting addicted to a masala taste and becoming lively to all the cooking smells and frying sounds in his parish…… But Teresa was visibly getting uncomfortable and wanting to get back home. The story session could not be continued.

After some years of their marriage, by then having a son and even getting some National Awards for his documentaries, Nelson was occasionally trying the story on others after drinks. At that time he was chosen for a script-writing workshop to be conducted by Jean-claude-carriere, the script writer of the legendary film-maker Louis Bunuel. Carrier had appreciated the story of the priest in his letter to Nelson. And the story session was resumed………….. By then Nelson had mastered the mode of oral film-making to near perfection. Only the beaten poet was missing. As the story session progressed with his six year old son and Teresa, Nelson noticed the cloud formation again on Teresa’s face.

“Are you unhappy because of the story ? An innocent priest getting addicted to a taste from a forbidden source which may hurt the sentiments of the church ? – Nelson asked.

“You know that we met each other through a rebel priest. Who cares about a church that ousted him and dumped the Bible. But you too dumped the Bible ” . She told Nelson.

“Me ? Bible ?
Again, an abrupt end to the story session. Teresa opened the Bible and started reading from the old testament – chapter five of Zechariah, sub-titled as ‘Flying scroll’.

“ Again I looked up and saw a flying scroll. And he said to me, “what do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll.” Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. I have sent it out says the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name; and it shall abide in that house and consume it, both timber and stones.”

Teresa convinced Nelson that ‘Flying Scroll’ means, Feature film reels, flying from one theatre to another, selling dreams through the stories they tell. “This is a sin. If you practice it, a curse will fall on our son and family. I will not allow it to abide in our house and consume it, both timber and stones” she said firmly.

“Then what about documentaries ?”

“They tell the truth, not the feature films.”

“But, you know documentaries don’t reach people the way fiction does. And the truth can also be told through stories or telling the truth adopts story telling modes even when I deal with reality. How can you send Anand Patwardhan to heaven and Louis Bunuel to hell just like that ?”

An aesthetic deliberation began at home finally, which incidentally was kicked off as a story session on a priest. Nelson was then taken to several healing sessions for deliverance from the sin of story telling. He was completely cured. Later, he made another film on Manipur – ‘IMAGINARY LINE’ – by miraculously managing the finances from the public exchequer. The new mode of story telling in his cinema created a gender determination problem between fiction and non-fiction. It confused Teresa and thoroughly confused the divine councilors. Even the Censor Board went into coma and passed the film uncut.

In a sequence at Imphal Air-port where the military personnel outnumber the ordinary citizens, Nelson’s Character comments –
“<vÉ®ú +Énù¨ÉÒ Eò¨É, ʨÉʱÉ]ÅõÒ VªÉÉnùÉ ½èþ *"
( Here we have more military than the people !)

-which happens to summarise the naked political reality of the entire North-East today. In the next sequence where the protagonist is being stopped and interrogated by the military, the question being asked is-
"+É{É ¨ÉÊhÉ{ÉÚ®ú ¨Éå ÊEòºÉʱÉB +ɪÉÉ ?"
( Why are you in Manipur ?)
“To shoot”

-the film-maker answered.
“Do you have the permission to shoot?”

– the soldier asked in return which as well states obliquely that – -“ who else is having the permission to shoot other than us ?”

By now we know that the state shoots only for the cause of peace there and the Armed Forces are specially empowered to shoot any one, (through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) of course, for the cause of peace. Nelson discovered several virtues in practicing this mode of cinema.

No. I – This is disowned equally by the establishment of fiction and non-fiction cinemas and thus enjoys the freedom of the blurred borders.

No. II- Need not particularly be answerable to ground realities when cornered by censor board or by a critic and can always jump into the convenient court of fiction.

No. III- Need not bother about the cumbersome conventions of story telling cinema.

Within this idiomatic flexibility, Nelson even scripted down his own idiotic life story in the guise of a documentary . To begin with, he even prepared a seminar paper on this premise and was planning to beat a writer- a fellow panelist – to maintain the leit-motif intact in the narrative, although the backdrop was shifted from Kochi to Kolkata. The ritual of beating a poet could generate some more capital in the media and rejuvenate it from a depression it suffered after the super hit theatre of capital punishment performance conferred to Dhananjoy Chatterjee in the city of Joy Goswami.

The trouble started again in the form of another priest. While reviewing Nelson’s film, ‘IMAGINARY LINE’, Fr. Gaston Roberge used a new coinage to categorise it – ‘A Faction Film’ (Fact + Fiction = Faction). After going through the review and noticing the word ‘Fiction’ in it, Teresa started praying for the deliverance of, Fr. Gaston Roberge for encouraging a half –sin . She also asked Nelson not to fool around anymore with their life story in the disguise of non-fiction.

Forgive me for cheating the readers of this article and posing as a film scholar on the subject of ‘Modes of story telling in cinema.’ In actuality, I am groping for one and genuinely looking for a clue from my readers. I want to help my dear friend Nelson who is presently lost in the oblivion and is facing a ‘fatwa’ for telling, his one and only story, like a true artist. I want to help him by suggesting a clean and quaint mode, for him to tell the stories – by him and on him.

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