TODAY -

Lamka's Dark Light House

Ninglun Hanghal *



Lights were switched off and para- military forces were rushed into Lamka and sheltered in 'Light House' when the town suddenly erupted in violence on June 24 in 1997. Light House- a popular cinema hall in Churachandpur district became forever dark since then. No cinema, no entertainment, no concerts, no public activity anymore. The once upon a time a popular joint the most happening place - Light House now remain lifeless the only life being the suspicious eyes and cautious movements of the security forces stationed there.

Light House situated at Sielmat junction along Teddim Road an important road junction happens to be strategic location. During the violent communal / ethnic clash in 1997, this particular junction where Light house stands tall, was a key location where the communal / ethnic line was drawn. Since then, this particular location was infamously known in local parlance as "LOC" - line of control, by both the warring ethnic groups on the two sides of the town north and south.

Thus light house became a strategic point for administration and the security forces to remain stationed there. And there seems no move to transfer the forces; rather the place seems to be permanent arrangement for a military base camp. On any incident or events of law and order situation or a perceived arising of law and order problem, additional forces such as police would be placed in this Light House junction

Even as peace returns in town now, unfortunately this 'LOC' continues to remain as a 'border line' a diving line for the people inhabiting Churachandpur district. Till today it continues to be referred as an 'LOC' and serves as 'geographical, social and political dividing line' between people inhabiting the north and south of Lamka and the whole district at large.

For instance a bandh called by groups based in the south would be effective till this "light house junction" while a strike called by groups who are based in the northern part seems to extend till this "LOC".

It may-be recalled that beginning in June 1997 the entire district came to standstill due to the violent clash between two groups the Zomis and Kukis. Hundreds of lives lost, thousands of homes turned into ashes and thousands displaced. For more than a year the district went through it darkest time.

After more than twenty years after the 97 crisis, Lamka town and the district at large limp back to normalcy. Unfortunately though, besides other impacts and after-effects of the communal crisis, the two key entertainments center the Churachandpur Cinema hall and Light House remained closed. There could be other reasons too why most cinema halls across Manipur shuts down. But for Lamka it is a different picture. The violent communal/ethnic conflict had forced these two halls to shutter down.

Post 97, Churachandpur cinema hall in new bazaar has turned into a market. This is not a bad thing either as the market place occupies an important public space. But for Light House it no longer came back to life. It rather turned into a dark 'military camp'.

Apart from end of communal crisis in Lamka and the district at large, rebel groups too have been under suspension of operations and are in the process of dialogue now. The district at large too have undergone a massive change in terms of violence that have considerable came down in the last decades.

The question is whether the security forces camped in Light House still needed to be stationed there? Much as it is a key administrative convenience and location it is also an important key public place that needed to be revived. Entertainment or cinema screenings may not necessarily be crucial at this point in time, but its lost charm should be brought back. The space could well be turned into a hub of economic activity, a center of public activity which the town needed the most.

It requires urgent attention that this particular 'Light House' and the road junction, if not seriously reviewed will continue to serves as a strategic communal divide, which it has already done. Though peace and normalcy in sense of practical violence have not been witnessed for decades in Lamka , psychological divide is so very evident in this "line of control' that is visibly clear in this junction that is loudly and clearly named as "LOC". This 'LOC" powered by security forces have wittingly and unwittingly amplifies the 'divide'.

In a district as communally/ ethnically fragile as Churachandpur one cannot say communal crisis or social upheaval will not erupt. And true to that security forces are required and perhaps stationed for emergency. But history is witnessed that these security forces are no longer required in this particular junction. Most importantly security forces should not serves as a convenience for "communal divide' and should not merely stand as "protection of communal line of divide".

It is high time that this light house junction "LOC" should be removed from the minds of the inhabitants of both the north and south Lamka. For this the security forces camped in Light House must be immediately moved. LOC or this Light House junction must be clear of any "forces".

Most importantly security forces stationed in this particular communal line of control should be removed. If permanent peace is to be sustained, important key location such as 'Light House' junction should come back as an important public space in Lamka. Military/ security should not serve as a force that protect such lines that enforce communal/ethnic divide.


* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at www.hertribe.in & ninglunhanghalthinkingloud.blogspot.in
This article was posted on 25 June , 2018 .


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