Manipur: The land of Keibu Keioiba, Thabaton and the cannibalistic democracy
- Part 1 -

Puyam Rakesh Singh *

Kabui-Kei-Oiba at MDU Hall by Children Theatre Workshop :: April 9 2012
Kabui-Kei-Oiba at MDU Hall by Children Theatre Workshop in April 2012 :: Pix - Tiken Thokcom

If there is any form of democracy in this land, that will be nothing less than cannibalism behind the mask of democracy. So as to please the ear of those who use democracy to exploit the system and the people for their vested and egoistic interests, the word 'democracy' has been added to create something called Cannibalistic Democracy.

Some of you talk about work culture in the state just because it sounds good but in reality you have failed to acknowledge the sincere attempts, hard work, sacrifices and sufferings of the poor families and their costly investment on education. Their failed many times because they failed to turn up with bundles of bribe money to buy or bargain for the government jobs. Again, you are encouraging the youths to take up enterprises as the government cannot provide jobs to all the educated population of the state.

You have established proper roads, electricity, water supply, internet broadband, freedom of movement within Manipur, banking and financial services and international market access for the people of the state. The poor and needy ones have flourished doing small time business while those from the families of the Ministers/MLAs and their henchmen have suffered a lot because the system has been favouring the poor. Isn't it so?

In such an environment where there is little regard for the value of hard work and merit, the costly investments made by the poor families on education are becoming liability affecting the economic well-being of the whole family. The game we are playing today is the real game of cannibalism and your mask cannot hide the bloody teeth forever. One has to think about paying bribe for his son or daughter as there is limited jobs available in the fixed price showroom where merit or competency is like a discount or an offer. The fear of losing the opportunity to others pressed hard many souls. We yielded to the pressure and we are taking part in the game but as different players or stakeholders.

This culture of cannibalism flourishes as more and more people buy jobs for their children and, as a result, crimes increase in our society. But nobody wants to take the responsibility of these crimes and think they are just following the fashion trend of the time or consider themselves as the victims. In fact, many of us are creating the situation consciously or unconsciously. But how many of us are taking the situation as our own making? The best policy of the wapal (bamboo grove) is to bend with the wind. A Chinese proverb says: "The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind". As a socially accepted and politically correct standard, you bend, I bend and we bend with the wind. Will you bend even when you have no water to drink?

The Barak River and Imphal River basins are important sources of water for the people of Manipur. With the passage of time, the lakes and wetlands in Imphal Valley areas have vanished and some are dying gradually. The sediments brought by the rivers and the urban sewage and other organic matters are also helping in quickening the process. The depth of the lakes in Manipur needs proper attention today. Manipur is like a bowl of water with the valley as the deepest part of the bowl where the lakes and other water bodies have been harvesting the rain water for our needs.

What will happen when the depth of the Loktak Lake is further reduced? The Khordak River will continue to drain water out of the lake into Manipur River that falls into Chindwin River of Myanmar. Before the water reaches the Indian Ocean, the Chindwin River joins the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) River. The Ithai Barrage was constructed to regulate the flow of the water from the lake for hydro power generation and caused the submergence of a large tract of agricultural and farm land. This continues to haunt the people of Manipur. Surprisingly, the construction of this barrage also found its place in the puya. The dredging of the rivers, streams, canals and lakes are very important for storing water and associated resources in the state.

Manipur does not have perennial source of water from the Himalayan Glaciers and rainfall is the main source of water that feeds the river system. When there is less rainfall or late rainfall, the rivers dry up forcing many people to face the scarcity of water. The Government of Manipur should take some projects for constructing water reservoirs in the form of artificial lakes or large ponds (Laija Iyok Kom or Iyok Pat) for storing million cubic metres of water. The rivers can feed many such reservoirs if they are constructed in strategic areas where the river water is channelled into these Iyok Koms. These Iyok Koms/Pats can also be maintained as recreation centres to create jobs and earn some revenue. Most importantly, the Iyok Koms will also serve as habitations for the indigenous fish varieties and other aquatic plants and vegetables.

Manipur can use the lakes and wetland ecosystem to improve income generation of the people by encouraging organic farming of vegetables in and around the wetlands where they have access to organic manures. These vegetable items can be profitably exported to developed countries where there is huge demand for such products. Many of the food items and vegetables in East and Southeast Asia are also consumed by the people of Manipur and this can create agricultural market in these countries for the farmers in the state. Some of our elected members and officials should visit Inle Lake in Myanmar and other similar wetland ecosystems in Southeast Asian countries that are important sources of organically grown vegetables.

The draining of water by the Khordak River is important to keep Loktak Lake as a fresh water lake. It also allows many fish varieties from Chindwin-Ayeyerwaddy Rivers to migrate to Manipur. This has been severely affected by the Ithai Barrage. The Government should think of minimising this ecological disturbance. The leakage in the Manipur Bowl is natural and not inimical to our interests. The river water of Manipur passes through Myanmar and Bangladesh before falling into the Indian Ocean. The small civilisation we see today in Manipur is directly or indirectly connected to these river basins. And we should not forget 'Tutenglon'.

The school/college syllabus on ecological balance, environmental degradation and climate change cannot stop many educated section of the people to dump their garbage and urban wastes into the Nambul River that affects the water resources and storing capacity of the Loktak Lake. Shall we teach our children to pollute the rivers for positive results? We should think of increasing the water storing capacity of the Manipur Bowl and minimise the effects of the necessary leakage. Though we cannot block the leakage as river system demands free flow of the water across the surface of the earth, retaining enough water for Manipur is necessary.

But a shallow bowl will make the leakage hole disproportionately large causing Manipur Bowl to loss more and more water with the passage of time. Or, it will affect the landscape of the low lying areas and flood the agricultural and settlement areas. Do we need another Chingnunghoot mission? The crisis will increase further with the siltation of the lake and wetlands. The best means is to dredge water bodies such as rivers, lakes, public ponds and construct more reservoirs to store more and more million cubic metres of water within the state's territorial surface. This message is not for preparation for end times. It is a necessity if Manipur has to flourish for thousands more years to come and to ensure that majority of us has access to water throughout the year. Also, it can supply more fish as protein-rich food.

Before we think of constructing such reservoirs in different parts of the state, we have to deal with another major leakage problem in the state that has been plaguing us for decades. This leakage problem is not a necessary evil like the river system. It is the mother of all negative leakages in our land. Let me have the opportunity to introduce the popular Manipuri folk tale of Keibu Keioiba here for our understanding of the subject. This interesting tale can provide us some of the important characters for our discussion but with different roles and plots. Let us take Keibu Keioiba, Thabaton, Crow, stream/brook and the bamboo tube to analyse their roles and functions to set the parameters. However, the characters may have different roles in the scenarios unlike in the folk tale. For an informative discourse, let's think of three different scenarios where these characters and objects represent our present day socio-economic and political interactions.

Thabaton, a beautiful maiden was abducted from her house by Keibu Keioiba when her seven brothers were away from home. Keioiba was a black magician, traditional healer or medicine man who turned himself into a tiger man. This ferocious being was dreaded by one and all including his wife. He abducted Thabaton and made a plan to keep her safe as his wife in his jungle hide-out. Thabaton was to behave according to the wishes of Keioiba if she wished to stay alive. Dealing with the despot who can kill her anytime was not an easy task. She was to follow Keioiba's commands in this scenario. She has no right to question Keioiba's actions and check the behaviours of the despot. Keioiba wants her to cook good meals and supply her with food items and water from the brook with the help of a bamboo tube. In other words, Thabaton's life was entirely dependent on Keioiba's goodwill and sympathy. This is not a good scenario for Thabaton.

In our next scenario, Thabaton exercised her right to select Keioiba as her life partner among many contenders. She has a say in many affairs but the Keioiba managed the family affairs with greater control. A contract was entered into between the two individuals at the time of marriage for good conduct, cooperation and responsibility. She has given the bamboo tube to Keioiba for fetching water and also to deliver her the essential commodities and items for running the family and prosperity. However, Keioiba is a reckless being who does not care about time, his actions, words and conducts. He has failed to live up to the expectation of Thabaton if not the terms of the contract. Moreover, he has another wife and family to take care of who brought truckloads of dowry and has many well-established relatives. Therefore, he gives over 80 percent of his attention to them.

Thabaton has been suffering but she keeps cool to give more chances to Keioiba to mend his ways. Sometimes, Keioiba went away with the bamboo tube with the promise of delivering water for cooking but he came back empty handed. As a result, Thabaton spent some nights without food and stayed thirsty for hours. The wicked husband had his meal in his second wife's kitchen. She was concerned about her future if there was to be a divorce and she also worried about the fate of the children. This consideration has been exploited by Keioiba as her weakness to misbehave and live according to his terms. At present, Thabaton is waiting for the time to heal her estranged husband.

The third scenario is not in favour of Keioiba. Here Thabaton is a well-informed and educated woman who knows her rights and duties well. She is careful about the terms of the contract she entered into when she chose Keioiba as her husband. At the same time, she does not breach the terms herself despite many such opportunities. She demands accountability of Keioiba's actions so that he does not go astray and swindle greater amount of the water (read as resources) for his vested interests. She is willing to listen to Keioiba's excuses but she makes sure that the bamboo tube has no hole in its bottom before Keioiba set off for the task. Even when the tube has a hole or a crack, she wants it properly mended so that she gets plenty of water from the brook daily for the family's consumption. The Crow also joins the husband and wife to detect any defect in the tube before Keioiba steps outside the gate (Konthong).

To be continued..

*Puyam Rakesh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 04, 2015.

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