Upset with ethnic conflict, many may not celebrate Manipur's biggest societal fest
Hordes of Meitei civil bodies of the state also appealed to forgo the 'Ningol Chakkouba' festival that falls on November 15 taking into account the unstable state of affairs triggered by the violence
Owing to the unceasing ethnic strife besetting Manipur, 'Ningol Chakkouba', the biggest festival of Manipuri women, may not be celebrated in earnest as many individuals and local organisations in the state have decided not to celebrate the Chakkouba this year.
Hordes of Meitei civil bodies of the state also appealed to forgo the festival that falls on 15 November taking into account the unstable state of affairs triggered by the violence.
On Chakkouba day, an age-old festival, Meitei women, particularly the married ones, in their best traditional attires, move to their natal homes and enjoy multi-dishes with their parents and siblings. With simple gifts and blessings given by their parents and brothers, the Ningols (women) return home with high spirits.
Programmes like music concerts, Shumang Leela (courtyard theatre) and others are also organised on Chakkouba day.
The festival has encompassed other communities over the last few decades, standing as a testimony of love, unity and integration in the state.
In over five months long ethnic violence, more than 180 people were killed, 1108 were injured and around 60,000 were left homeless, forcing them to take shelter in relief camps. Thousands of houses and other properties have been destroyed since the ethnic conflict broke out on 3 May.
"Had there been no violence in our state we would have by now planned everything for the ensuing Ningol Chakkouba like the fish menu for the family feasting and the simple gift items to be given to our married daughters and beloved Ningols (women),” said Saikhom Ongbi Tombi Devi, a resident of Thangmeiband area in Imphal West district.
"When the bereaved families are weeping for their near and dear ones killed, injured and maimed in the perpetual conflict, when the people whose houses and properties were destroyed by miscreants are taking refuge at relief camps and when the people are bearing the brunt of the public unrest, there will be no happiness in Ningol Chakkouba. Hence, we have decided to forgo the festival this time,” she added.
Premjit Singh from Imphal East district said that he is not in the mood to celebrate Chakkouba and has resolved not to invite his sisters to celebrate the festival.
Keisham Ongbi Aruna, a former journalist from Konba Laishram Leikai in the same district, also said that she would not celebrate Chakkouba. "Chakkouba is the time of merriment and jovial for Manipuri women, but celebrating the day this time is not appropriate when many people are affected by the ongoing strife. Moreover, many civil bodies have also appealed to forgo the ensuing Chakkouba. Showing solidarity with the victims, we will not celebrate this time."
The World Meitei Council (WMC), one of the apex civil bodies of the Meiteis, keeping in mind the current situation gripping Manipur, has appealed to all members of the community living across the world to show solidarity with the victims of the conflict and not celebrate 'Ningol Chakouba' this year.
A WMC release said that ever since the Chahi Taret Khuntakpa, the Burmese invasion of Manipur from 1819 to 1826 (seven years of devastation), the Meiteis have not experienced such widespread destruction and devastation in the current strife.
This crisis resulted in the loss of many precious lives and the displacement of thousands of families, particularly in Churachandpur, Moreh in Tengnoupal and Kangpokpi districts and the adjacent surrounding areas along the hills, it said.
Following an appeal made by a local civil body of Kakching Khunou in Kakching district against celebrating Ningol Chakkouba and other festivals in the area, the locals have decided not to celebrate the festival.
At this point of time, it is vital to share the grief and pangs of the victims and not to indulge in any festivities, said S. Tomba, convenor of the organisation.
A Meira Paibi Lup (women vigilante group) leader of Wangoo area in Bishnupur district bordering the tribal-dominated Churachandpur district also appealed to all to refrain from celebrating Ningol Chakkouba in the state until normalcy is restored and the displaced people lead a settled life at their respective native places.
It is not the right time to celebrate Ningol Chakkouba when thousands are going through pain and suffering owing to the crisis, she said.