A tall man

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Once upon a time, there walked among us a tall man of indomitable spirit and courage. Fearless and a firm determination marked his demeanour and character, while a fiery spirit runs in his blood. He had relentlessly fought for a dignified life and existence for the people of Manipur. He started the genre of investigative journalism in the state. He is none other than the firebrand editor of Lamyanba journal Nongmeikapam Sanajaoba popularly known as simply NK or Tamo NK. He fearlessly investigated and exposed the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats in the monthly journal Lamyanba published by the erstwhile Pan Manipur Youth League, and challenged the powers that be with his every breath. He was jailed several times but he continued to write within the four walls of his solitary cell which was smuggled out through sympathizers for publication in the journal. We observe his birth anniversary every December 30 to celebrate the precious gift of a selfless individual among us. Besides journalism, he tirelessly worked for cultural integration and communal harmony in Manipur, a state inhabited by diverse communities of all hue. He travelled the valley and hills of Manipur with the likes of revered Maharajkumar Priyobarta (MKPB) and Gangmumei Kamei with the singular agenda of fostering greater ties and cultural integration among the various communities. As a mission for inculcating the spirit of service and discipline among the youths he founded the Manipur State Scouts Union. He helped establish the Pan Manipur Youth League (PANMYL), a pan nationalist movement of the Manipuris. It was in fact PANMYL which started the publication Lamyanba in the late sixties and NK Sanajaoba was its first editor. And he kept coming back to being editor of Lamyanba after serving his time in different jails. As he continued to write from inside the jail he had frequent confrontations with jail authorities. He also fought for jail reformation and the rights of the prisoners. The daily allowance for the prisoners in 1970 was just Rs 2.50, while in other states of India the allowance was Rs 7.50.

On NK Sanajaoba’s persistent insistence, the allowance was ultimately increased to Rs 4. He was also a founder and member of the first central committee of the now proscribed United National Liberation Front, which became known only in the later years through the writings of a former colleague. Yet he was known to the common people as the fearless editor of Lamyanba journal and founder of Scouts movement. A man of many facets, he was also a trade union leader and he was instrumental in founding the Loktak Project Labour Union. He was also sometime a reporter as well as news reader of the All India Radio Imphal. He discovered his flair for writing during his college days. His depiction of the last moments of a tormented girl named Rose about to commit suicide after being raped by Indian army personnel in Ukhrul would always be remembered. It was a class apart in narration crossing the limits of journalistic writing into the domain of pure literature. And it was only a sample of his writing flavor. His popular column ‘Yukhal Marumda’ is a serial exposure of the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. In those days, it is being said NK Sanajaoba’s eyes and ears are everywhere, and there are no secrets which could not be extracted by him. Such was the quality of the person. He was feared and respected by bureaucrats, and he would not be threatened. His fury for truth grows with every threat on his person including jail-time. Many have tried to follow in his footsteps of investigative journalism, but his footsteps were so gigantic and stride most unwavering. We find solace and consolation in the fact that we are so lucky to have walked the valley and the hills of Manipur during his time.

IFP Editorial. Leader Writer: Irengbam Arun

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