Traversing Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD
- Part 2 -

Homen Thangjam *

Meanwhile, Manipur erupted into flames over the non-inclusion of Manipuri players in the Indian contingent for the 12th Asian Games 1994. India turned a blind eye to the Sepaktakraw team (all players were from Manipur) and a Manipuri boxer, ZV Jollyson Tangkhul. We staged a protest march at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on 1st October, denouncing the oversight.

There were around 20 students from Manipur, including two females. Tamo Ronel and Batilal Bhairawah (an SFI leader who later became the President of JNU Students Union) led from the front, shouting the lead slogans. Being a novice at a protest march, we simply made noise instead of replying to the slogans. For example, when they called "Awaaz Do", we thought it was "About Turn" and shouted the same!

Saikhom Ronel
Saikhom Ronel

The Long March

Students' turnout at the election and the protest rally revealed the dying nature of the organisation. Then and there, at the Parliament Street Police Station, after the rally, we decided to conduct a survey and identify why students were no longer interested in participating in the activities of MSAD. In the nearly one-month-long exercise, we travelled all over Delhi, adopting the snowball method to locate students hailing from Manipur.

School students were excluded. We travelled by DTC buses using our bus pass and often walked hungry for miles on the biting-cold wintry nights. Friends like Khetrimayum Kennedy of Kakching offered us chapatis pilfered from the Kirorimal Hostel mess. Later, he became the President of MSAD. And friends like Pamchuila offered us special meals at Vijay Nagar. One time we took shelter at 11 Windsor Place, Janpath, the All India Head Office of the Students Federation of India (SFI), cold and hungry, covering ourselves with window curtains.

One of the minor complaints from the students was constant fund drive from them for organisational activities. Therefore, we tried our best not to collect money from students as far as possible except for membership fees. Manipur Bhawan became our hunting ground for donations from the visiting VIPs. Based on the survey database, we bought Indian postal postcards, printed the names and addresses of the students, informed them about the activities of MSAD through the postal service, and invited them to MSAD functions.

Table 5: Members of MSAD Rejuvenation Committee, 1994

Sl. No. Name Remarks/Present Occupation
1. (L) Khaidem Munindro Martyred in 2009
2. Thingbaijam Nitai Associate Professor, Imphal College
3. Dhiren A. Sadokpam Editor-in-Chief of The Frontier Manipur
4. (L) Thingnam Kishan MCS; killed by NSCN-IM in 2009
5. Babloo Loitongbam Founder & Director of Human Rights Alert, Manipur
6. Khumukcham Sushil Businessman
7. Laishram Phillip Counsellor, ART Centre, RIMS
8. (L) Sorokhaibam Herojit Natural death

By early January 1994, a Rejuvenation Committee was formed to revive MSAD (see Table 5). Tamo Nitai's residence at Okhla Gao literally became the MSAD office in South Delhi and 327 Mansarowar Hostel, Delhi University for the rest of Delhi. The official inmates of 327 Mansarowar Hostel were Dhiren A. Sadokpam, (L) Thingnam Kishan and Wungresiso Valui from Tuinem, Ukhrul (today, a Reverend based in the USA). However, this room virtually became "Manipur House" given the number of PIGS - permanent illegal guests (on a lighter note) and political activists from all over India and even the world visiting the room.

We believe history is created from small rooms. These were dedicated elders who stood for MSAD and the welfare of Manipuri students in Delhi. Tamo Dhiren continued to be an advisor to MSAD and a mentor to the students throughout his stay in Delhi (1990-2009). He was also one of the founding members of the Manipur Research Forum, Delhi. One only needs to ask Naochi, Tamo's younger sister, to get her perspective of those days and find out how their rented rooms became the second Manipur Bhawan!

Wakching Gee Nong

The Rejuvenation Committee of 1994 recommended hosting a mega cultural program to bring together the disparate Manipuri students. "Wakching Gee Nong" was the outcome. The idea behind the cultural show was to make a new beginning for MSAD, just like the auspicious Wakching rain of January-February that softens the wintry dry-parched earth and rejuvenates it without flooding. However, we were worried about the expenses and did not want to hold the event in an empty hall.

Regarding the first issue, one member shouted, "Thabak thokladi peisa thokpanine" (literally, "Money shall pour in when events occur"). Regarding the second issue, which could lead to an embarrassing situation, the Committee suggested organising a get-together during which proposal for "Wakching Gee Nong" could be discussed.

Nevertheless, we were advised to maintain secrecy about the cultural program until the get-together becomes a reality. One elder announced, "If we want students' participation, they should be given certain responsibilities. Make them feel MSAD belongs to them not solely to the office bearers. Make them feel the idea about any event emanates from them".

Thus started another round of Delhi tour! We spoke to the senior students, especially the ladies, to mobilise students for a get-together. The onus of deciding the site, menu, guest and even contributory amount was left to them. Ultimately, we headed for a picnic to Suraj Kund, Faridabad, on 11th December 1994. The proposal for a cultural program was warmly received. We assured that it would be a free show.

Suraj Kund Picnickers
Suraj Kund Picnickers

MSAD organised "Wakching Gee Nong" on the 12th February 1995 at the MSW Auditorium, Delhi University. Soram Noni Kumar, who holds a Master's degree in Fine Arts and working in Delhi, designed the event's poster. Keeping up with our words, we did not collect any money from the students.

We mobilised funds from Delhi-visiting Ministers, MLAs, officers and well-wishers. Out of our belief, just as the elder had predicted, donations poured in from the audience in appreciation of the show.

Wakching Gee Nong
Wakching Gee Nong

Tamo Babloo compered and, in his soothing voice, pleaded with the student fraternity to be supportive of MSAD. Tamo Ronel, in his Welcome cum Keynote Address spelt out the rationale for organising the show and why MSAD needed students' participation. Former MP Ningthoukhongjam Tombi Singh, the Guest of Honour, delivered a moving speech.

The artists of Manipur Jagoi Marup enthralled the jam-packed crowd. Smitten by the performance, Chief Guest of the function, Prof. Indira Goswamy invited the Marup for another show at Delhi University.

In proposing the Vote of Thanks, yours truly expressed MSAD's gratitude to MC Meetei and Tamo Kokpi for their critical roles in bringing the Marup to perform at a concession rate. I was rebuked for greeting the gathering "Hi Guys" in my unbridled euphoria!

 Hi Guys  Vote of Thanks
'Hi Guys' Vote of Thanks

The annual Thabal Chongba was held on 26th February 2014. Now I smile at recalling how Shri Meijinlung Kamson, former MP of Lok Sabha, formally introduced the cultural event to the crowd. He announced the prizes we had instituted, such as Thabal Lakpa (best male dancer) and Thabal Queen (best female dancer), and declared, "Thabal Houdokchare", opening the ground to the eager dancers, to which the maddening crowd erupted in claps and whistles. He would lead the dance for a round or two.

For the first time, there was a full orchestra. Mahesh was on the keyboard, and Chongtham Chitraranjan @ Johny was the flautist cum guitarist (Dayal Singh College; currently Lecturer in Manipur) and (L) Mangshatabam Alberto also played the guitars. The Thabal music accompanied by the dance almost shook the South Avenue Ground that night. However, the prizes had to be scrapped in subsequent Thabal events as we received complaints from parents of the winners for awarding their wards with the undesirous titles!

 All decked up for the Thabal
All decked up for the Thabal

Although school students were not MSAD members, we helped them during times of misfortunes. For example, we visited CSKM School at Mehrauli to resolve a fight between Manipuri students and others. We put up a help desk for admission seekers at Manipur Bhawan during this time. And the best part was saving some corpus funds for the organisation.

The last event we organised was the Martyrs Day Observation on 13th August, in which Shri Meijinlung Kamson was the Chief Guest. It was a momentous program because Tamo Ronel was accosted by the Manipur Bhawan security guards for singing Chaikhre Ngashi Nang-gi Loubukta (literally, "Today on your fields is sprinkled the blood of your sons") during the function.

 Shri Meijinlung Kamson on MSAD's Martyrs Day
Shri Meijinlung Kamson on MSAD's Martyrs Day

For the following term (1994-95), yours truly decided to stand for the post of President. But then, Mutum Nicky also aspired for the same position. Elders advised a coin toss to determine the winner. As it sounded childish, plus being bosom friends, I favoured Nicky to stand for President and chose to stand for the post of General Secretary.

The ensuing election was highly competitive, and student participation was tremendous. Itomba and MC Meetei led the opposing team. The latter continued to extend support to our endeavours. For example, on 13th August 1997, he was instrumental in organising a massive rally under the banner of "Solidarity Committee on the Ethnic and Territorial Integrity of Manipur". He represented the main organiser of the event MIFC (Manipur International Youth Centre). Bipin Yumnam was the President, and MSAD provided assistance by mobilising the student community.

Our young team was victorious. It was a compact group. The eldest were Nicky, Roshan, Charuchandra Haomom, RK Mahesh from Zakir Husain College and me. All of us were in BA final year. Then, there were Thaonaojam Arun from Zakir Husain College (franchise owner of Dell in Manipur) and Usham Satyajit from Ramjas College (Currently Editor, Peoples' Chronicle) who were the official MSAD photographers. We divided MSAD into Central Zone, South Zone, Zone and JMI Zone for efficient functioning.

Table 6: MSAD Office-bearers, 1994-95

Sl. No. Name Designation College Remarks/Present Occupation
1. Mutum Nicky Singh President Ramjas Advocate
2. S. Gautamani Devi Vice President Miranda House Resigned; post remained vacant
3. Homen Thangjam General Secretary ARSD Faculty, IGNTU-RCM
4. Thingnam Roshan Joint Secretary Venkateshwara Manager, SAA, Imphal East
5. Ksh. Imokanta Singh Culture Secretary Zakir Husain MFS
6. Charuchandra Haomom Finance Secretary Ramjas Lecturer
7. (L) Tombstone Publicity Secretary Ramjas Natural death
8. RK Mahesh In-charge Central Zone Zakir Husain Lecturer
9. H. Balaram Singh In-charge North Zone Hindu MPS
10. Tonjam Naobi In-charge JMI JMI Private Banker
11. L. Rishikanta In-charge South Zone Zakir Husain Pastor

The good thing about MSAD, led by the youth, was its widening base. It could reach the South Campus and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Moreover, the Kuki Students Organisation agreed to work with us (thanks to Mang), and so did UNIKAKS (United Kakching Students). Our good friend Disinrei Kamei, a student of Ramjas College, hailing from Noney, contributed a lot to our functioning. Presently he runs a private school in Noney.

Similarly, Samom Ibjen (my college classmate, currently District and Session Judge, Senapati District) was with us through thick and thin. Then there was Konsam Imo from JMI, a resident of Khurai Konsam Leikai, presently an advocate. In his typical quiet nature, he helped us. Wahengbam Sana (currently a trader) and Khangengbam Surchand (now a businessman), both from Kumbi studying in Dayal Singh College, livened up the atmosphere with their colourful attires and ceaseless humour. Hanjabam Chandra Sharma, a student of Ramjas from Wahengbam Leikai, is another friend whom we can never forget for his timeless support.

By this time, there was increasing calls to link up MSAD with Manipur based organisations urging us to take up political issues. We politely declined the invitation. However, we assured them of extending cooperation. We were afraid of alienating the students once more. Maintaining the autonomy of MSAD free from external influence was our goal. Nevertheless, we voiced our concern on issues that affected Manipur or the Northeast through rallies and demonstrations.

To be continued.....

(Written on 18th February 2022, on the occasion of 50 Years of MSAD, the Golden Jubilee Celebration

The author thanks Bobo Khuraijam, film maker (national awardee), for editing this article

* Homen Thangjam wrote this article in February 2022 for MSAD Golden Jubilee Celebration
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Makhan village
He can be reached at homenth(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 14 2022 and updated for minor edits on Sep 15.

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