Nong­pok Thong Hangba: The Rev­e­la­tion of Puya – Shivachan­dra Ra­jku­mar

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Shivachan­dra Ra­jku­mar

In the gal­axy of lu­mi­nar­ies and par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from all over South East Asia that packed into the Con­fer­ence Hall of the Pan Pa­cific Ho­tel, Yan­gon in early Novem­ber 2017, Shri N.Biren, the Chief Min­is­ter of Ma­nipur thun­dered from his podium "Un­less the bor­der be­tween Myan­mar and In­dia opens at Tammu there will not be a deeper mean­ing of Act East Pol­icy."

He con­tin­ued "Act East Pol­icy should roll on only when there is peo­ple to peo­ple con­tact on both sides of the bor­der. Ma­nipuris and Myan­mar shared joys and sor­row for over two thou­sand years as good neigh­bours, and peo­ple of Ma­nipur should be in­stru­men­tal in strength­en­ing the bi­lat­eral ties of In­dia and Myan­mar which to­gether are try­ing to find great eco­nomic growth in the Asi­atic map.” He at­tended the cer­e­mony as the Chief Guest in the two-day In­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence named 'In­dia-Myan­mar Re­la­tions: Way For­ward', Par­lia­men­tar­ian from Sa­gaing Di­vi­sion and other parts of Myan­mar also par­tic­i­pated in the func­tion.

Later the Chief Min­is­ter in­vited Man­dalay women Foot­ball team to have a friendly ex­hi­bi­tion match with Ma­nipuri women 11 dur­ing the San­gai Fes­ti­val in Novem­ber 2017. As an­tic­i­pa­tion to ac­tu­al­iza­tion of the agenda in the agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries of hav­ing press in­ter­ac­tion at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, Chief Min­is­ter also in­vited mem­bers of Myan­mar Press Coun­cil to Ma­nipur dur­ing the San­gai Fes­ti­val to have in­ter­ac­tion with the In­dian press team. The Prime Min­is­ter mooted this idea of hav­ing good re­la­tions among the press fra­ter­nity of In­dia and Myan­mar.

Ear­lier in Septem­ber 2017, Shri Biren sent a del­e­ga­tion of Act East Pol­icy Com­mit­tee to Yan­gon to join the en­tourage of the Hon'ble Prime Min­is­ter's visit to Myan­mar. His sole in­ten­tion had been to ex­ert pres­sure on the open­ing of the bor­der sooner than later. The Hon'ble Prime Min­is­ter

em­pha­siz­ing the need for proper road im­prove­ment on the In­dian Ma­nipur side had an­nounced the benev­o­lent sanc­tion of whoop­ing 16,000 thou­sand crores in the ma­jes­tic func­tion held in Yan­gon.

Later on Jan­uary 3, 2018, the Union Cabi­net chaired by the Prime Min­is­ter Shri Naren­dra Modi has ap­proved the Agree­ment be­tween In­dia and Myan­mar on Land Bor­der Cross­ing. In an­tic­i­pa­tion to this Shri Biren sent a large con­tin­gent com­prises of 58 mem­bers to Man­dalay and Sa­gaing State in Jan­uary 2018 where friendly women foot­ball ex­hi­bi­tion matches be­tween Ma­nipur and Man­dalay, Sa­gaing Di­vi­sion have ex­hib­ited pomp and gai­ety.

The con­tin­gent be­sides hav­ing round of in­ter­ac­tions with sec­tions of busi­ness del­e­gates of Myan­mar side also called on the Chief Min­is­ter of Man­dalay and Sa­gaing States and briefed them the ur­gency of the bor­der open­ing and ex­erted pres­sure to take it up in the in­ter­est of both coun­tries. Then in one fine morn­ing on Au­gust 1st, 2018 the news of open­ing bor­der on 8th Au­gust 2018 came and of course the news was a sur­prise gift to the peo­ple of Ma­nipur and rest of the North East.

The Na­tion­wide Pop­u­lar Pro-Democ­racy Protests also known as the 8-8-88 Upris­ings, or the Peo­ple Power Up­ris­ing, the Peo­ple's Democ­racy Move­ment and the 1988 Up­ris­ing, were a se­ries of na­tion­wide protests, marches and civil un­rest in Burma (Myan­mar) that peaked in Au­gust 1988. Key events oc­curred on 8 Au­gust 1988. It is on this day a horde of pro-democ­racy pro­tag­o­nists of Myan­mar in­tel­lec­tu­als and stu­dents crossed over the Moreh Tammu bor­der seek­ing asy­lum in the soil of Ma­nipur in In­dia thus be­gun the saga of rev­o­lu­tion against the Mil­i­tary Junta. The open­ing of bor­der on this day must def­i­nitely have a deeper rel­e­vance.

Myan­mar Govern­ment chose the 8th Au­gust 2018 to open it's land -route to In­dia in a grand of­fi­cial cer­e­mony. Mr U Aye Lwin, Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary un­der Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and pop­u­la­tion led the team from Myan­mar side while in Ma­nipur side the team com­prises of R.K. Shivachan­dra, Con­vener of Act East Pol­icy, Ma­nipur and Nan­dan Singh Bhairosa, Con­sul Gen­eral of In­dia took part in the his­toric mo­ment. The his­tory of Ma­nipur be­fore the ad­vent of the British had been a story of a strug­gle for supremacy be­tween the peo­ple of Burma known to the Ma­nipuris as Awa after the Ava dy­nasty that ruled Burma from Man­dalay in up­per Myan­mar. In the fluc­tu­at­ing for­tunes be­tween the two sides, the Burmese had shown the might and thrust­ing power of the famed Ma­nipuri Cavalry who, armed with the deadly Aram­bais, forced the Burmese to re­treat.

When the Burmese took their re­venge and oc­cu­pied Ma­nipur, they re­turned home with mem­bers of these famed horse­men and they formed the ad­vance thrust when king Alung­paya at­tacked Thai­land in Chi­ang­mai. The British, ea­ger to save their in­ter­est from grow­ing French in­flu­ence in the Bay of Ben­gal, saw an ally in Ma­nipur. Thus was born the Ma­nipur Levy un­der the charge of Ma­haraja Gamb­hir Singh, which drove the Burmese away.

But the Ma­nipuris, who were taken as war cap­tives to meet the Burmese re­quire­ments of skilled ar­ti­sans, sol­diers and schol­ars set­tled down in and around Man­dalay and be­came part of the mo­saic of Burmese peo­ple, treated a one and equal. Now all these have merely be­come the story of the past and the ha­tred, an­i­mos­ity and all hos­til­i­ties have been swept away by the pow­er­ful force of time, the great­est healer. Since then the Ma­nipuris have been sep­a­rated with­out a link hav­ing bar­ri­caded by a po­lit­i­cal wall.

Myan­mar is a close neigh­bour yet it is a dis­tant coun­try to the Ma­nipuris. Be­yond Tammu it is not known and it still re­mains mys­tery for Myan­mar au­thor­i­ties does not al­low trav­eller to cross be­yond Tammu. In re­cent years Myan­mar au­thor­i­ties al­low In­dian na­tion­als to travel in­side Myan­mar on a spe­cial per­mit which has to be ob­tained from Myan­mar Ho­tel and Tourism Min­istry.

The pro­ce­dure took about a fort­night and the file had to pass by the pres­i­dent of Myan­mar's ta­ble. It was also made manda­tory to hire a govern­ment of­fi­cial to ac­com­pany the vis­i­tor through­out wher­ever the vis­i­tor goes. This needs to be taken up by a reg­is­tered travel agent in Myan­mar. The whole cost hap­pens to be very ex­pen­sive af­fairs. The easiest route had been to catch a flight to Kolkata and ob­tain a visa from Myan­mar con­sulate than to board a flight via Bangkok and to Yan­gon ul­ti­mately. Kolkata- Yan­gon direct flight op­er­ates twice a week only so many trav­els

Myan­mar is a close neigh­bour yet it is a dis­tant coun­try to the Ma­nipuris.

via Bangkok to save time. This is the same case for the per­son liv­ing in Tammu who wish to visit Im­phal of­fi­cially in the early days.

Now the bar­rier no longer ex­ists and what the PUYA, the old scrip­ture of Ma­nipuri pre­dicts thou­sands of years be­fore has come to dawn. I had been to Myan­mar on many oc­ca­sions in the last twenty years. Trav­el­ling into Myan­mar is akin to a jour­ney to the past. For the Ma­nipuris, it is rather a jour­ney through the pages of his­tory.

Right from Kham­pat down to the river stream of Chin Win that Ma­nipuris called Ningthi Turel, has all em­bed­ded with the un­for­get­table his­to­ries of Ma­nipur. The Mighty River that flows 15 miles per hour will re­veal a lot of tales as you cruise down the river. Some­times when the twi­light sank into dark­ness and as it en­gulfs over the river you would soon lose your­self think­ing how our fore­fa­thers had for­ayed here with their mighty war­riors.

As we set foot in Man­dalay we will be wel­comed by the hos­pitable Ma­nipuris and there be­gins to un­fold chap­ters of the his­tory. The Mi­eties in Yan­gon who stood the test of time for cen­turies have some­thing to tell you too. For all these rea­sons vis­it­ing Myan­mar is much more than a tourist. Yes, so many mem­o­ries to cap­ture in the brain and in­ter­ac­tion to be made eye­ball to eye­ball with the peo­ple who mi­grated to Myan­mar and bade adieu to their lov­ing moth­er­land some 300 years ago, long time down to the mem­ory lane.

As­samese have a melan­cholic past and a deep root in Myan­mar too. The Tai Ahom in up­per As­sam are the de­scen­dants of the eth­nic Tai peo­ple who fol­lowed a Tai prince named Sukaphaa in his mi­gra­tion from what is now the fron­tier re­gions be­tween Myan­mar and Yun­nan Prov­ince in south­west China Into the Brahma­pu­tra val­ley in 1228. Sukaphaa and his fol­low­ers es­tab­lished the Ahom king­dom (1228–1826), which con­trolled the Brahma­pu­tra Val­ley and the ter­ri­tory of mod­ern As­sam un­til the British gained con­trol of the re­gion through the Treaty of Yand­abo after their 1826 vic­tory in the First An­glo-Burmese War.

Tai group in In­dia, with a pop­u­la­tion of nearly 4 mil­lion in As­sam, and are the ma­jor­ity eth­nic group in the Up­per As­sam Di­vi­sion. Be­cause of all these rea­sons As­samese have a strong de­sire to visit Myan­mar via Ma­nipur to trace back the miss­ing link with the Tai peo­ple of the Shan state. There are also many As­samese who have been taken as war cap­tives around the same time of seven years dev­as­ta­tion (1819-1826) of Ma­nipur. How­ever, the pop­u­la­tion had been re­duced to a mea­gre num­ber fol­low­ing mass as­sim­i­la­tion into the fold of Myan­marese.

Nu­mer­ous Naga tribes spread through­out the north-west­ern hills of Myan­mar. Most of the Naga are from the Chin State. But the fes­ti­val place falls in the Sa­gaing Di­vi­sion, next to the Chin State. The places where the Naga in­habit are Khamti, Lashe, La­hel, and Nanyun in the Sa­gaing Di­vi­sion. There are 64 clans of the Naga tribe. An­other as­pect of this fes­ti­val is a re­union of rel­a­tives, who are away from home.

They wor­ship their deities by sac­ri­fic­ing an­i­mals. The fes­ti­val is usu­ally in Jan­uary, for this year it will be held on the 15th of Jan­uary, 2019. To visit this fes­ti­val, one has to travel from Kalewa from that point we need to sail up­stream in Chind­win River via Homema­lin to reach Hta­man­thi. From this point one can travel to Lashe by car again.

The Sa­gaing Re­gion Govern­ment has re­cently re­quested the Ma­nipur Govern­ment to par­tic­i­pate in the event with her colour­ful peo­ple. I hope the open­ing this event will def­i­nitely of­fer a joy­ous mo­ment for the Na­gas to in­ter­act with those cousins seg­re­gated by a po­lit­i­cal bound­ary.

Myan­mar has rea­sons to be happy about more than any­one else. Myan­mar is a Bud­dhist coun­try and prac­tised by 89% of the coun­try's pop­u­la­tion. It is the most reli­gious Bud­dhist coun­try in terms of the pro­por­tion of monks in the pop­u­la­tion and pro­por­tion of in­come spent on re­li­gion. Ev­ery year hun­dreds of thou­sands of Bud­dhist travel to Bod­hgaya via Yan­gon. How­ever trav­el­ling to Bod­hgaya is still a very costly af­fair and the jour­ney ex­penses can be coughed up by some wealthy sec­tion only. How­ever the pil­grim­age tour al­ways re­mains manda­tory and ev­ery­one trav­els with all their avail­able ways and means.

The bor­der open­ing will script a new saga in the pil­grim­age cir­cle. Now Im­phal in Ma­nipur of­fers a new route to Bod­hgaya on a shoe­string bud­get, that is unimag­in­able com­pared to the trip via Yan­gon. A large mag­ni­tude of pil­grim will now swamp over to Im­phal and find a dif­fer­ent route to Bod­hgaya and other great ci­ties of In­dia ei­ther by Air or land.

Ma­nipur is now do­ing away with the in­fa­mous ref­er­ence 'Land-lock' but proudly em­bark­ing on a 'land- link' ven­ture with In­dia's only cor­ri­dor to South Asia. The new ven­ture comes in a flash-flood way. This will make ev­ery­one busy. This needs to be noted down that ev­ery for­eign vis­i­tor or In­dian tourist vis­it­ing Ma­nipur to fur­ther their jour­ney in Myan­mar or any other South East Asia desti­na­tions would de­mand a Ma­nipuri tour guide.

Hence the need for pro­duc­ing more tour guides who should be pro­fes­sional while deal­ing with the vis­i­tors. Num­bers of Ho­tels and Home-stays need to be in­creased and traf­fic con­ges­tion will be more. Ev­ery sin­gle vis­i­tor will spend min­i­mum three hun­dred dol­lars within their short­est so­journ in Ma­nipur and it should be pre­sum­ably more in case he pro­long stay in Ma­nipur. This will boost the so­cio-econ­omy of the peo­ple to a great ex­tent.

But ....... are we ready to ac­cept the re­spon­si­bil­ity ahead? The nev­erend­ing BANDH cul­ture in the hills that treated for­eign vis­i­tors like their worse en­e­mies and gen­eral strike in the val­ley that of­ten kicks the poor masses be­low the belt would sim­ply whisk­away the for­tune track some­day, I am sim­ply wor­ried. Per­haps Mi­zo­ram may be an­other route. The peo­ple of Ma­nipur should evoke them­selves more of an In­ter­na­tional Cit­i­zen rather than danc­ing with howl­ing war cry in our own dark co­coon. It is very easy to go along with the stu­pid­ity but hard to deal with the men who proud of hav­ing it.

The river of Act East Pol­icy is flow­ing down by your cor­ri­dor from Hills to the val­ley and it is the peo­ple of Ma­nipur that should first get the ben­e­fit. And we need to live hap­pily for we share the wa­ter of the same pond. Mar­garet At­wood says The Eskimos have 52 words for snow be­cause it is so spe­cial to them; there ought to be as many for love. Some­times I tend to ask within why we fail to know each other at least for the sake of love and broth­er­hood. And, I be­lieve we should change our­selves for the sake of pros­per­ity. Let Hu­man­ity pre­vails in the land that God took to dance.

Shri N.Biren, the Chief Min­is­ter of Ma­nipur.

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