Kangla Upkeep

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Many comments have been made on how the government should proceed in the upkeep of the Kangla from various quarters, including the media. Although without explicitly stating it, it does appear some of these suggestions have been heard, but much more needs to be done yet, therefore this editorial again. Without a doubt, the Kangla will prove to be an invaluable lung of the ever increasing congestion of Imphal city. Even today, it is becoming almost surreal to walk into the green acres of the Kanga from the dusty, noisy, traffic-jammed confusion that the streets of Imphal have become. There are signs that efforts are being made to facelift the complex, but the question is whether the efforts are enough. The answer, in our opinion is clearly in the negative. Somebody who walks into the Kangla with the hope of understanding a vital chapter from the pages of the place’s history, invariably ends up lost. As for instance, there are no signs to suggest which route he should take for a comprehensive tour of the complex. There are also no indications what monuments the visitor would be passing by on each of the routes.

Normally, a visitor by instinct heads straight for the central durbar square guarded by the two newly re-installed Kangla-Sha. From there, he is as a loss again which way to head. If he headed north towards Slim’s cottage and other monuments along it, the visitor would have to return by the same route to the Kangla-sha to take the other route to the Govindaji temple ruins and the former Army hospital which has since been converted into the Kangla museum. The most economical route hence would be for the visitor to take a left turn at the first crossroads before reaching the Kangla auditorium, walk to the former residential complex of British officers, take a turn east toward the Slim cottage, turn left again towards the inner moat and the Kangla-sha, from there head to the Govindaji ruins and further down to the Kangla museum. They can then return and exit by the way the entered. But the visitor would either have to have a very strong navigator’s instinct or else be familiar with the layout of the Kangla to be able to decide the best possible tour map on the complex. There are absolutely no signs to suggest what the best way to cover the complex is, without missing out on important and interesting places to see.

Again, chances are, even those familiar with the Kangla’s topographical plan would not be able to identify many of the structures within. There are a number of enchanting and sometimes quaint cottages within the complex. Quite obviously they would be of extreme touristic interest, especially to foreign tourists drawn to the Kangla for its World War-II relics, and these interests would be multiplied manifolds if there were signs, preferably stone plaques besides these monuments, declaring briefly their history and antiquity. But nothing like this has been done yet. What a visitor gets to see is that many of these structures have been converted to government offices, some relevant, such as the archaeology department or environment and ecology department. But there is also the jarring presence of electricity department dumps, crowded with huge piles of electric poles, tonnes of power cables, innumerable electric transformer machines etc. Why and how has the Kangla been allowed to be used like this is beyond easy comprehension?

After seeing all this, it is difficult not to wonder if the occupation of the Kangla for nearly a century by troops, undesirable though it was for many reasons, did not have its good points as well. If this was not so, just as the complex is being used as a dumping ground by the electricity department now, in all likelihood, left up to the civil government’s whims from the beginning, the Kangla may have been already divided up into shop plots, or at best turned into a complex of Type-IV and Type-III government housing complex, in the manner and style of the Langol housing complex. That would have been tragic indeed. The Kangla was spared of such a fate, but let it not end here. It must be imaginatively developed further. Apart from the complex as a priceless relic of an ancient former kingdom, it could, and in our opinion should, also be developed in a complimentary fashion into a park of indigenous trees. There are many of them growing inside already, and the government should make it a point to allow only indigenous trees rather than exotic ones to be planted, if at all new trees need to be planted. Unfortunately, there are some evidences of the latter inclination already.

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