Reproducing a Face to Face with Rishang Keishing

Witoubou, Newmai News Network *

Rishang Keishing
Rishang Keishing

Rishang Keishing talked about his personal life to Witoubou, Editor of Newmai News Network (NNN). This interview was already published several years ago. Please note that some parts have been removed from the original text to be more relevant to the occasion. We are reproducing it today as part of our tribute to the departed leader.

Witoubou: What has been the driving force behind your colourful innings in politics?
Rishang: The main driving force behind my activities is the Holy Scripture from the Bible. Jesus Christ ‘tells’ his followers that people should love one another as He ‘loves’ us. We have to serve our fellow beings with love because serving others is serving God.

Witoubou: What has been your greatest achievement as a public leader?
Rishang: In spite of many hurdles and opposition from various quarters, the poor people from the rural areas have great love and affection for me. I feel that this is my greatest treasure and achievement. They want to listen and hear whatever I say. So, I think this is another achievement of mine. I consider this is a sort of consolation for me.

Witoubou: Who has inspired you the most?
Rishang: In 1945, I was in Calcutta. That was the time when many leaders including Jaya Prakash Narayan were in jail. And these leaders were Socialists and they were for the poor and the have-nots. These leaders inspired me the most. That was the reason I got attracted to the Socialist Party at that time.

Witoubou: You were also at one time associated with Jawaharlal Nehru. Don't you rate him?
Rishang: Yes, after coming to Parliament, I came in contact with Nehru, Maulana Azad, and other prominent leaders. When I looked at them, all of them were transparent and there was a keen desire from core of their hearts to sacrifice for the country. These leaders never had thought for themselves and their vested interests.

Nobody talked of corruption or entertained thoughts of corruption. Fortunately, this had a profound effect on me and this has remained forever in my thought and mentality. This remains as a driving force in my activities in public life.

Witoubou: Tell me your transit point from Socialist Party to the Congress Party (Indian National Congress).
Rishang: When I went to Jawaharlal Nehru and told him that I wanted to identify my nationalism with the Congress Party, Nehru held my hand and said, 'Come and join'. Nehru then said to his colleagues, 'Let him remain as an associate member of the Congress Party'. In 1980, Indira Gandhi asked me to lead the Manipur Government.

Witoubou: Did you at any point of time tell your long association with Nehru-Gandhi ‘dynasty’ to Sonia Gandhi?
Rishang: Yes, I have told her about my close association with Nehru and Indira Gandhi sometimes back in New Delhi. I told her how I joined the Congress Party and how the political atmosphere was at that time.

Witoubou: So, these made you to remain loyal to the Congress party but your opinions had also been ignored by your colleagues, wasn't it?
Rishang: Well, whatever may be the case; I will never allow anybody to destroy the Congress party. Even if they don't want to listen to me or accept my opinions, I would not mind. But I will not allow anyone to break the Congress party. I remained a Congressman alone twice. One was during Yangmasho Shaiza's time and the other was during Radhabinod Koijam’s time. I was all alone – a lone opposition MLA and a lone Congressman in the Assembly.

Witoubou: Well, who is your political mentor?
Rishang: I would consider Jaya Prakash Narayan and Pandit Nehru. They would remain as my mentors.

Witoubou: Had not you been in politics, what field of life you might have trodden?
Rishang: I find it hard to say. But I'm sure I would be serving people in one way or the other.

Witoubou: …you were a humble school teacher?
Rishang: When I had just passed Matriculation, one Dr Cook asked me to finish my graduation. He also told me that he would sent me to America to do my graduation and come back to serve as school teacher at Jorhat in Assam. But I did not follow Dr. Cook's request. After my graduation I went to Ukhrul to become the first graduate headmaster in Ukhrul area in a Junior School in 1949. Then in 1952 I fought the elections for the Lok Sabha seat. That was how I joined politics.

Witoubou: Kindly define politics in your own version.
Rishang: Politics is a game of sacrifice. Politics is service to the whole people. There should not be any narrow outlook when you are in politics. Politics becomes dangerous when you think of your own family, your own clan, your own community. So, we should avoid thinking in narrow terms.

Witoubou: Do you think that there have been threats to your life from some angles?
Rishang: Yes, I have many adversaries. If anybody comes face to face to confront me, then I will try to convince him. But if I know anybody is trying to harm me then I pray to God to take care of me.

Witoubou: Have you at any point of time harboured the thought to become the President of India?
Rishang: No, I have never harboured such things.

Witoubou: Suggest a panacea to check the ethics of today's politics.
Rishang: Today, you speak something and do something else. Actually, speaking and working should go hand in hand. Only then things will improve. Honesty and sincerity should come to the fore in every politics.

Witoubou: But in politics, it is said that an honest and a humble man is not a good politician. To be in politics one has to be shrewd and cunning.
Rishang: That may be true in one way but….

Witoubou: Well, tell me your daily routine.
Rishang: I normally get up at 5 am. Sometime I want to go for a morning walk around my compound but the visitors are already full in my house. I sleep at 11 pm everyday. I sleep only for six hours.

Witoubou: Any sort of meditation?
Rishang: I regularly read the Holy Bible before I go to sleep and in the morning. That is my meditation.

Witoubou: You are 80 plus now but you still have the look of a 50 year old young man, so your food habit must be the factor?
Rishang: I'm a small-eater. I eat very little. If there is meat curry, I just take one small piece of it with little rice. I'm a non-vegetarian, but I mostly eat vegetables. But I eat enough fruits. I eat lots of bananas. I have liked bananas from my childhood. Fruits are a major part of my food. Daily I must eat not less than five bananas. Morning and evening I eat bananas. I am fond of it. I think these bananas also keep me healthy.

Witoubou: Any drinks or that sort…?
Rishang: I don't smoke or drink. I never take wine. I don't chew tobacco or pans. I avoid all these things.

* Witoubou, Newmai News Network (NNN) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 05, 2017.

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