E-Pao! Travel - What ails tourism in Manipur?

What ails tourism in Manipur?

By: Oinam Anand/The Sangai Express *

Noted poet laureate of Manipur late Dr Kamal had once said (in his famous novel 'Madhabi'), "the trees that grew in the valley of Manipur could not overgrow and surpass the height of the surrounding hills while the breeze that sweeps in the seas and oceans could not reach the valley of Manipur".

Well Dr Kamal was born in 1899 and had lived in the early part of the 20th century. He had written that he had seen Manipur during those days of colonial rule under British empire.

Manipur in those days was a landlocked State, an excluded area, left to manage their own affairs with only such interference on the part of the British in their political capacity as may be considered important on their point of view.

Today the trees that grow in valley of Manipur overtake the height of the hills surrounding and cast their shadows in the outside world. Dingku, Kunjarani, Sanamacha, Surjalata, Mary Kom, Damodar Swamy, Ratan Thiyam, the list of names is endless. Again, on the other part of what Dr Kamal had written, the gates of the west as well as that of the East have been wide open and the breeze that blows on the seven seas across the globe has also reached this land and Manipur is more a landlocked State or an excluded area in this century.

When the project of Trans-Asian Railway Network and Trans-Asian Highways projects are completed and become a reality, Manipur will be a great tourist spot because this 'Jewel of India', 'Little Paradise on Earth' has more tourism potential than Kashmir or Kerala and even more than those of Switzerland or Hawaii.

Nested in the sylvan lap of nature, Manipur is a place on Earth where the mother nature has poured all its blessings in the form of beauty.

The favourable climate, neither too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter keeps the vegetation green all the season.

And above this the Loktak Lake, the unique fresh water lake in the world, Elvis Eldi Eldi (Sangai) the only deer found in the floating park of the Keibul Lamjao, Shri Shri Govindajee Temple in Imphal, the INA Memorial Complex at Moirang, the already existed tourist spot are the cynosures of all eyes who come as a tourist here.

Again Manipur was also one of the last battle front of the second world war where hundreds and thousands of the warring parties had laid down their lives. So this State secures a special place in the hearts of the Japanese and British. To them coming to Manipur is a pilgrimage to a sacred place, a remembrance of the heroic deeds of their forefathers.

When the rich tradition of our culture, dance and music are exposed to the world more and more, when the spirits of our sports-person scale more and more heights in the arenas of the world, the rest of the world begins to look in queer and wants to explore more of the people here. And, why not, the worsts are yet to tell, the recent trend of violence, the turmoil, the imposition of curfews, kidnapping of foreign nationals and the problems of HIV/AIDS in the State when has caught the attention of the foreign media are more than enough for the outsiders to have an on the spot knowledge of the happenings here.

When an outsider, say a foreigner on board a plane on his maiden visit to Manipur happens to peep down from the glass windows of the plane some minutes before landing at the Tulihal Airport, on seeing the green hills that adorn as a crown on the forehead of a beautiful lady and the meandering river in the valley, the beautiful necklace on the neck of the lady, the heart of the visiting foreigner will be melted and elated with joy.

But when all of a sudden the securities at the airport check the foreigner and board him back to the same flight because the visitor has no valid entry permit, what will be the impression in the mind of the visitor then? Who are the real losers? Such things had happened many times before. Many foreign tourists on their way to Imphal were sent back from Calcutta, Guwahati, Dimapur and even from Imphal because of this restricted area permit.

Not so long ago, an American who came here to know more about the United Friendship Organisation (UFO), to study their activities was sent back because of this restriction. Many Japanese who came here to pay homage to the memorials of their forefathers had to cut short their programmes because of the validity of their entry permits.

Has this restriction helped the Manipuris in guarding their political and economical rights? If the means do not justify the ends then what is the importance of the continuance of the restriction which pose severe blow on the tourism industry of the State and Manipur is still missing in the tourism map of India as well as of the world. It is a question which needs to be answered.

Kashmir, which is infested by terrorism for the past few decades has not imposed restricted area permit to the foreign tourists. Whether the tourist abandoned the valley for the security of their lives is another matter but the door of tourism is always kept open in that State and the Centre is always ready to provide additional security for the tourists.

Manipur and Kashmir were independent States before merging to India. For the Kashmiris there is a special provision in the Constitution to safeguard some of their pre-merger status (in Article 370). But that very provision only help the Kashmiris a nostalgic remembrance of their past. If Article 370 perpetuated the emotional distance of the Kashmir valley from India, then the Restricted Area Permit has made Imphal more alien to the Indian mainstream and hitherto to the outside world.

Manipur still remains as an 'excluded area' in this 21st century also because of imposing such restrictions and the charming tag (or title) of 'Jewel of India' or 'Little paradise on Earth' has become an unfortunate euphemism for the Manipuris.

* This article was published at The Sangai Express by Oinam Anand.
Oinam Anand writes regularly at The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 09, 2005.

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