Blocklade-hit Manipuris find solace in cultural fest

November 28th, 2011 - 6:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Imphal, Nov 28 (IANS) Affected by the more than 100 days of gruelling economic blockade and ethnic clashes, people here are trying to find some solace in the ongoing 10-day Manipur Sangai Festival that kicked off last week.

With the beginning of the festival Nov 21 here, a sense of euphoria has descended upon the people, who can be seen crowding food stalls, dancing to local pop songs, and shopping for assorted goods that range from jewellery to handicrafts.

“This cultural festival has brought some respite to us as this economic blockade has really affected our life in each and every aspect,” 30-year-old Imphal resident Thekpal told IANS.

Organised by the state’s tourism department, the festival strives to showcase and promote the art and culture, indigenous sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of Manipur.

“It has brought joy to the people in the state who are sandwiched between the ethnic clash between Kukis and Nagas that has resulted in this economic blockade,” said 24-year-old college-goer Suresh.

The festival boasts of more than 100 food stalls and around 400 handicraft outlets.

“Clashes, strikes, blockades will remain here, and because of this perennial problem, we can’t enjoy our life here,” he added.

Manipur is reeling under the economic blockade since Aug 1. Kuki tribals, affiliated to the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee (SHDDC), blockaded national highways 53 and 39 to demand that a Kuki majority district be carved out of a larger district claimed by the Naga people as part of the “Greater Nagalim”.

The Nagas responded to the SHDDC move with a blockade of their own, and are reluctant to give an inch of land to the Kukis.

The blockade has led to an acute shortage of essential commodities. Petrol is being sold for Rs.250 per litre and cooking gas cylinder for Rs.1,700.

“This festival is like an oasis in the desert which has given much needed succour to the entertainment starved people,” tourism department’s deputy director Shyam Sunder told IANS.

“Whether it is Nagas or Kukis, they are performing with their respective troupes on one stage. It brings all the tribes together,” he added.

However, he says, the blockade has affected the popularity of the festival to some extent.

“We expect people from other states to visit this festival but due to road blockades, they will not come. Those who can afford flights can come and enjoy here,” said Sunder.

Sangai is an annual festival which was started in 2010 and received good response from the people in the state. It generated a revenue of Rs.3 crore for the state.

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