Irabot Day: Time to contemplate
Indeed September 30 is one of the most important days to the entire population of Manipur for it was on this day Hijam Irabot took birth. Since many years back, we have been observing September 30 as the Irabot Day and the whole month of September as Irabot Month for again it was on September 26 Irabot breathed his last. No doubt, Irabot truly deserves such honour and fame. Hijam Irabot, popularly and most fittingly named Lamyanba (meaning pioneer) Irabot is the only qualified leader of the mass in the entire history of Manipur. No other personality can stand up to the towering figure of Irabot. Just as much as the name of Irabot is dear to the common people, his personality is one subject that constantly draws attention of social scientists, historians, revolutionaries, poets and journalists alike. Irabot earned his martyrdom fighting against the twin scourges of foreign domination and internal oppression. In the entire galaxy of leaders and self-proclaimed leaders born on the soil of Manipur, Irabot stands out alone as the one and only leader who fought for the toiling, oppressed mass. He was a poet, a dramatist, a journalist and a revolutionary to the core. In the modern politics of Manipur, Irabot is a legend. The seat of power and privileged life entitled to Irabot in his capacity as a Member of the Manipur State Durbar could not tame his revolutionary zeal. Simply put, unlike his contemporary elites, he could not simply watch the sufferings of the mass sitting in the ivory tower of being a Durbar Member. It was not long before Irabot gave up his status and seat of power and antagonized the royal family with whom he had matrimonial relationship to take up the cause of oppressed mass. Irabot’s movement was multi-faceted in the fact that he was demanding a sovereign republic in place of a British controlled monarchy while leading the fight against exploitation of people in the name of religion (sic Hinduism). As aptly named Lamyanba Irabot, he was a pioneer in myriad fields.
It is a tragedy of Manipur that the once proud nation has not seen any true leader since the demise of Irabot. There is no denying of the fact that civil society organisations, student bodies and Meira Paibis have been fighting many contemporary socio-political and economic woes of the masses. But all these movements are temporal and lack proper vision and direction. More often than not, these movements originate from outburst of public angst against unpopular policies of the State and injustices done by different actors. At the moment, there is not a single leader who is dedicated to the cause of the masses. Many CSO leaders, if not all, are more than eager to join political parties, most preferably the ruling ones, as soon as they earn some popularity. There is no harm in joining electoral politics provided they stand firm by their principles but unfortunately this is not the case. But almost all contemporary politicians of the State, with the exception of a limited few, have no principle or ideology of their own. To put it bluntly, all of them are opportunists who are ever ready to jump back and forth from one party to another in search of greener pastures (sic political power). A politician can be seen holding a green flag in the morning and then a yellow one in the afternoon. Such is the character of our politicians. In the absence of any principle or ideology of their own, they have no idea of how to lead the State. In another word, there is no leader with any clear vision for the future of Manipur. In the absence any genuine leader, the Manipuri society is drifting without any rudder in the midst of political turmoil, social anarchy and economic underdevelopment. So observing the Irabot Day should not be limited to paying respects to the great leader. It is also the perfect opportunity of contemplating on what Manipur was in the past, where it is today and where it should be after some decades.