Festival of hope
AFTER years of distrust and strong undercurrent of ill-will against one another, the annual Shirui Lily festival in Ukhrul district, which has been raised to a state level extravaganza of cultural activities and tourism promotional event, is expected to be the much-needed platform for not only restoring the age-old relationships amongst the indigenous communities of Manipur but also building friendships with Nagaland. Manipur has a plethora of festivals such as Ningol Chakkouba, Kut and Lui-Ngai-Ni, which three major ethnic communities have been celebrating to signify camaraderie and uphold traditions and enhance cultural profiles. However, these grandiose events have mainly been confined to celebration of the community concerned as could be comprehended from the lack of participation by other indigenes. Thus, the five-day festival which is commencing from Monday and actually centring on the idea to showcase rarity as well as vulnerability of the fascinating Lily species, found nowhere else but only on the Shirui hills in Tangkhul-dominated Ukhrul district, assumes significance as cultural troupes and entertainers invited to participate in the festival include almost all tribes settling in Manipur and even neighbouring Nagaland. In case, the invitation reportedly sent to the Nagaland government is reciprocated then the Ukhrul event will certainly be the first such event ever held in Manipur with hearty involvement of a cultural delegation from the neighbouring state.
Similar to the high hopes that the Shirui Lily festival will pave the way towards remission of hostilities among the ethnic communities of Manipur and go down in history as both epochal and significant achievement for the N Biren government towards building the trust deficit, presence of Nagaland’s representatives at the event is bound to give the impression that the governments of the two neighbouring states are working to bury past animosities. Compared to the intense discord that had been the hallmark between the two states for the past many years, formation of the coalition government headed by the BJP has already scripted a history of sort when for the first time, since it attained statehood in 1963, a chief minister of Nagaland travelled to Manipur to meet his counterpart. The camaraderie between the two leaders was seen by many as ‘the ice-breaking meeting’, likely to have positive impact at building better ties in the future. Though the Naga peace process and inter-state boundary issues had been some of the causes for creating fissures amongst some sections of the two states, the duo’s seemingly keen endeavour to promote mutual interest is worth appreciation, if one recounts that visits by Nagaland chief ministers in the past had left a sour taste as their comments at public events were likened by many as driving wedges in Manipur, inhabited by communally sensitive people of different ethnic groups. For too long, the seeds of divide, sown by some individuals and organisations with vested interests, have been playing havoc with the daily existence of the people. As the people in the two states, as well as those settling in the hills and the valley of Manipur cannot exist without each other, time has come for those holding the rein of power to exercise their wisdom in burying the hatchet and transform the differences, if any, to cement the ties among the different communities.