Dark Diwali and Fasting Chakkouba The very many ugly firsts

So many ugly firsts and five/ten/fifteen/twenty years down the line 2023 will certainly be remembered as the year of the longest and possibly the ugliest ethnic clash ever witnessed in the history of Manipur. The charred remains of places which once used to be called home by many, the thousands of displaced people, the ‘untraceable bodies’ not to speak of those who have been tortured and killed, will undoubtedly be associated with 2023 and apart from these, the year will also go down as the ‘Dark Diwali’ and ‘Fasting Ningol Chakkouba’ day.  For the first time, ever since the annual Fish Mela was organised and introduced by the State Government on the eve of every Ningol Chakkouba, this year saw no such mela. In short, there will be no Ningol Chakkouba this year and this should say something profound about the Meitei society joining hands to demonstrate solidarity with the thousands who have been rendered homeless and who have come to identify the different relief centres as their homes since May 3 evening. To many and rightfully so, Ningol Chakkouba is something much more than just a day for married sisters and aunts to return to their natal home to share a meal so meaningfully worked out and prepared by their brothers and fathers and the beauty of the day should be lived to know its real essence. In short it is a day in which filial ties between the brothers and married sisters are reinforced. This is also the day for children of siblings to get to know each other better and it is this memory which will be carried into the years when the children themselves grow up to be senior citizens of the land. But the reality is such that many would not be in a position to observe the said day and hence the better sense of the Meitei society as a whole to forgo the day in solidarity with those who have been reduced to the status of refugees in their own native place, the bereaved families who have lost their near and dear ones in the mad and violent clash as well as to show to the world that the Meiteis have it in them as a people to show solidarity with each other. Yet at the same time there are some who have struck the position that the nemesis of Manipur should not be given the opportunity to gloss over the suffering of the people and hence Ningol Chakkouba should be celebrated in all its splendour at the different relief centres set up across the length and breadth of Manipur. Both sides need to be lauded for the intention with which their respective stand has been taken.
A ’Dark Diwali’ set to precede a ’Fasting Ningol Chakkouba’ and clearly the message that has been rung out should not get lost to the Government. Down the years Diwali celebration had undergone a sea change in Manipur and there was a time when people used to throng Paona Keithel, Thangal Keithel, BT Road and MG Avenue, to take in the breath taking lights that were put on display. Volunteers from the Scout and Guides regulating the movement of people out to witness the fireworks at these places were a common sight. It was also a day for shops selling sweet meats to do brisk business. Each and every leikai and leirak used to be lit with candles put up on the terraces and verandahs of each and every single house. All these were however given the quiet go by at Imphal in 2023 and the reason why a Dark Diwali greeted every Imphalite on November 13 must be clear to the Government. The same thing is set to follow on  Ningol Chakkouba and save for some feasts that may be arranged at the different relief centres, no household will observe the day as voluntarily decided by the people. All reflection of how the ongoing clash has impacted on the lives of the people and it is flabbergasting to note that not a single tangible move has been forthcoming from the side of the Government to tackle the crisis, apart from the ban on the internet. This is Manipur and it says something tragic that this is how the Meiteis have preferred to overlook their most important and significant day. May God bless Manipur.