By Bobo Khuraijam
With all its wit and might the babus and the bheiyas were gearing up to celebrate. Having little to lose and yet nothing to gain, fishermen who have dwelled on the phumdis of Loktak lake aired their grievance coming out on the streets. As per the new rule, set by the Akhang Ahei(s) of the state, fishermen are not to be allowed to dwell in their phumdis, anymore. These fishermen, since the days of Moirang Kangleirol, have been dwelling in the phumdis. The present day Akhang Ahei(s) were not born that time. To tell you the truth, they must not have seen Loktak Lake properly. They must have seen it, typically like a tourist, from the photographs, from the calendars of DIPR; from a picnic trip to Sendra, or at the most they must have seen it from the aeroplane. We are told that aeroplanes before they land on the Tulihal turf, they take a nice golai at an arm’s length with Thangjing range, just above the Loktak.
THE ASSIGNMENT: They (Akhang Ahei) were assigned to do the ‘thinking’ as well as the ‘doing’, they came for their mundane official visit, termed ‘field visit’ on their official vehicles to the lake. After spending a few flickering moments, after going through a soporific study of the ‘field’, they returned to their official offices. Heavy with information(s) and wrapped up with knowledge(s) and powered by the office, they took official decision. The decision: fishermen dwelling on the phumdis must be evicted..Err!!!…phumdis floating on the Loktak Lake must be cleared out, they are junks, floating and dirtying the lake. In the eyes of these Akhang –Ahe(s), the five leikais who dwell on the floating biomass are nothing but mosquitoes which are to be eliminated. Well, we affirmed, that the decision taken by the officialdom has got to do a lot with the information they digested before sitting their entrance. Their vision is to preserve the lake by dividing it into this and that zone. To preserve something by ruining the livelihood of hundreds of families is wisdom worth prescribing in the text books of the children; particularly to those children whose parents have been indulging in the noble profession of cheat and lie, who has been feeding their children with money earned by khadrak and nothing but khadrak only. The amount of money spent in buying an official chair could be much higher than the commercial value of the phumdis. The unfathomable cord of the umbilical between the Loktak and its native fishermen, the insight of the organality they share with each other will be hard to understand. No matter a thousands birth the authority may take. As a token of benevolence the fishermen are allowed to fish in some specified area. And for that they have to take permission from the almighty authority. As a symbol of scholarly idiocy any kind of research work is to be done with the kind permission of the authority. Is not it true that this land of ours belongs to the then Kings and Lords who were the supreme of all Supremes, who were the ultimate of everything? The leaves should rustle with the permission of the authority. The grass should take permission to be green. The sky cannot be blue without any permission either. That is the only reason why the resented fishermen had come down to street to protest against the decision taken by the sarkar. They were dealt with an iron fist; their temporary settlement in a community hall was ransacked, cooked foods were destroyed by leader boots of the cops. They were forced to go back to their village. Never bother to think that they would be welcomed by their empty homes, where the gloomy sky would be their only roof, the dark horizon would be their protective wall.
DESTINATION: The tourism festival started with this as a backdrop. Rightly called the Sangai Festival, the rumbling from the south of the capital was comfortably swept under the carpet. True to its colour, the festival started with a bang and also ended with a bang. Is it not a wonder that the psychos who infiltrated a thunder bolt amidst tight security ring did not take DC Paarmit. The fire brigade vehicle which came to douse a food stall caught in fire did not take permission to dump its front wheel inside the earth, just after crossing the entrance. Permissions apart, the name and the emblem of the festival is SANGAI which has little to do with the Loktak Lake, with the floating phumdis, with the floating park; as per the official thinking and doing. Good enough, we saw video actors canvassing the event through the local television network. Inviting us; yes, the local population to become tourist in their own courtyard, unlike the neighbouring state who endorses their tourism destination and events on satellites channels and other mass media which caters to people far and wide. The gyan of the Akhang Ahei(s) and the lousing of the Thikadaarship did not permit them from doing that. A few foreign stalls selling cheap products at unreasonable prices are not enough. For the first time we heard the local police being polite: police ki maigei dagi ningsingjari. They kept a halt of their usual show of strength of beating up anyone who appeared up on the stage. Of course, the cultural evening is a delightful destination despite the chill. We pray the organizers to have a thorough screening of the content of the items. One such item took us beyond the frontier of human imagination; by staging a ‘save Sangai’ campaign, torturing us with conceptual blunder. At the backdrop of the stage was the motif of the dancing deer, which again did not, reminded to any of us of the Loktak, the Phumdis and the Fishermen? You have to take permission from the authority for that. Time did not wait when Manipur celebrates.
FOOTNOTE: every time very-very important person coming from Delhi is greeted with empty streets, except for the staged mobilization of public. Leipung Ningthou calls it, “ahaangba atiyada khusem gi leichil na leitengba”.