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E-Pao! Feature - Natwar Thakkar And Nagaland Gandhi Ashram

Dr. Kalam at Bunglon
The Other Epilogue

By: H. Lienzamang Gangte *



As the three IAF helicopters touchdown at the makeshift helipad at Kangathei, each member of the more than 3000 strong crowd were pinching themselves to ascertain that the event was real. That His Excellency, Dr. A P J Kalam was dropping in on their humble village located in the Henglep Sub-Division of Churachandpur district.

Members of the gathering have come from far and wide to witness this landmark occasion and pay tribute to the president. Of course, it is not every day that the Head of the State visits a school that too a privately run, located in the god-forsaken tribal belt of Manipur.

It was indeed a historic instance. To make the event more auspicious, the visit collides with the thirtieth anniversary of the Bunglon High School (BHS).

For those who came in late and can't remain but flabbergasted by His Excellency's visit to a place as nondescript as Bunglon, here's the lowdown of it all.

As a consequence of a personal presentation submitted to the President's Secretariat by Gin Gangte, Headmaster of the BHS, the latter was granted an audience with Dr. A P J Kalam on the 12th April 2006.


His Excellency addressing the peoples at Bunglon High School

The punch line of the presentation that 'Krishnamiurthy may be more popular than Christopher in Silicon Valley today, but we should not forget that there are manifold tribal students who haven't had a chance to see computer with their own eyes' probably strikes the right chord with the president.

In the course of the fateful one-on-one, the topics of discussion ranges from computer literacy in the hills of Manipur to the prospect of pineapple trade in Bunglon, and the ways and means to effect pineapple production on a more massive and technically advanced scale.

Just as the 20 minutes schedule was ending, Mr. Gangte bids the president to pay a visit to Bunglon sometime in 2007 as it would be celebrating its Golden Jubilee. The president decently declined the invitation with his trademark matter of fact-ness but promises to include Bunglon as a stop in his itinerary whenever he visits Manipur.

On the 16th the president fulfilled his promise to Mr. Gangte and the villagers of Bunglon.

Now, the big question is does it create any difference?

To what end has such a landmark visitation come to? Was it a mere 45 minutes indulgence from the most celebrated VIP of the land? To be more precise, the camaraderie that has developed between Bunglon and Rashtrpati Bhavan has raise myriads of questions which have no clear answers.

The president's visit was preceded by one of the busiest week for many departments of the state government. The two out of the four blocks of the BHS were white-washed and re-dressed rather suddenly.

The power line to it was supplanted by brand new main line even as the transformer gets replaced by a new 'second-hand' one. The BHS, which has been in action for the past thirty years, suddenly attracts the charity of the powers that be.

It was a week when the denizens of Bunglon had to suffer an over-dose of 'concern' from the state officials who all were till then the proverbial spooks. The ZEOs, the DCs, the SPs, the IGs- you name them, they were there at Bunglon. The PWD went on an overdrive- working till as late as 11 o'clock into the night.

Their mission- impromptu black-topping of the road between Bunglon and Moirang. It is pertinent to clarify here that the inter-district road that connects the top two districts passes through Moirang which is just 4 kms. away from Bunglon. The PHED installs new pipelines as if water management is the new mantra.

Yes, welcome to Ibobi's Manipur ruled over by ever agitating pressure groups under and over the ground to herald the two Ps- progress and peace.

Dr. Kalam was greeted by the most atypical bandh ever called in Manipur's recent history. Given its credentials as a bandh-ful state, it was anything but suspiciously below the par it has attained over the years.

5 am to 2 pm says the Bandh-ing students conglomerate after their brainstorming at Imphal. Where's the zest for those 48 hours varieties? Why only a 7 hour?

The intent to scuttle the president's visit and the amount of success achieved thereof is lamentable.

Far from being an exposition of a unified stand against State's atrocities, it redefines and re-aligns loyalties in that, in the present case, all roads leading to Bunglon were blocked just long enough to prevent the commoners from attending the public gathering addressed by the president.

This was popularly viewed as a case of sour grapes attitude by the tribal populace. Of the three engagements that the president has in Manipur, two relates to private set-ups in the tribal zones of the state. In fact, there was a talk about a high level effort to prematurely abort the president's visit to Bunglon citing law and order problem.

With no factual validation, such talks can only be treated at its designated level- conspiracy theories. But one thing that stands as a self-evident truth is there is a sudden sap of attention visible as one moves from Imphal to the hill areas.

During the presidential address, every incentive and succor was made directly from the Rashtrapati Bhavan- be it the computer centre or the construction of school building or the funding for a science laboratory. To viewers, it came forth as a telling comment on the mettle of the state government.

There was neither delegation nor authorization allotted to the state government as far as the grants and endowments are concerned. Either the president finds confidence wanting in the Chief Minister and the Governor, who shares the dais with him that day, or he personally desires to see the whole deal to its end out of sincerity is amply debatable.

But on hindsight, there are plethoras of instigations to doubt that it was a clear case of both. The unjustified act on the part of the state government in barring all groups from submitting any kind of representation to His Excellency was also negatively remarkable.

In cash or kind, the president made it known that he would god-father the BHS to the tune of 10-15 lacs. of rupees within the next 6 months. True to his colour, His Excellency was lively in his repartee with the students.

As Dr. Kalam left Bunglon for Mizoram, he left behind a helipad, a half white-washed school building with new mainline routed to a new 'second-hand' transformer and a black-topped road that might last for the next couple of weeks- all courtesy the charitable spirit of the government of Manipur.

Paramount above all niceties, he will remain embedded in the history of the fifty-house village of Bunglon to whom he had fulfilled his promise.

Related Links:

  • Check the gallery pictures for this historic trip here.

* H. Lienzamang Gangte contributes regularly to e-pao.net . The writer can be contacted at gingangte@yahoo.com . This article was webcasted on November 15th, 2006


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