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Tribute to unsung hero

Imphal, Sept. 30: Internationally acclaimed theatre personality Ratan Thiyam today expressed his unhappiness at the lack of response to the birth anniversary of Hijam Irawat, architect of modern Manipur, and respect to the leader of the masses by the state government and political parties.

Today was the 116th birth anniversary of Irawat, a revolutionary who was known as the leader of the masses and the modern architect of Manipur.

Several organisations observed the day with programmes that included cleanliness drives.

The main function was organised by the CPI at the Iboyaima Shumang Leela Shanglen in the city with people paying floral tributes to the life-sized picture of the leader.

Irawat, who died in Myanmar (then Burma), fled after the government declared him wanted in September 1948 for his role in resisting the move to form Purbanchal state by clubbing together some regions of the Northeast.

Irawat was also the leader of the poor and peasants and led theatre, sports and literary movements. He played a major role in founding the communist party in Manipur.

For the first time, the CPI constituted the Hijam Irawat award for theatre personalities and the recipient of the award was Ratan Thiyam, director of Chorus Repertory, Imphal. The award includes a sum of Rs 20,000, a citation and a shawl.

Addressing the gathering after receiving the award, Thiyam said today was the happiest day for the people of Manipur because on this day Manipur had one of her greatest sons.

“I took part in organising the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. New Delhi and Bengal did whatever they could to make the event a grand success but here in Manipur, the response to the birth anniversary of one of the greatest leaders of the masses is discouraging,” Thiyam said.

Stating that Manipur lacks the culture of appreciation of good things, and until and unless the people and state gave support to those making efforts to achieve something, they would eventually vanish.

“Irawat fought for the masses. All should rise above politics, religion and differences to honour and show respect to the leader who relentlessly fought for the poor and helpless. However, it is encouraging that awareness is slowly growing,” Thiyam said.

The programme was marked by calls from CPI leaders for unity among the people for solving all the problems of the state and taking the state forward.

Earlier, 40 students and women contingents took part in a march past competition, paying respect to the leader.

As part of the programme, three shumang leela artistes presented a dance performance to the tune of the famous song written by Irawat — Thangol ado maya thouna fenu, he lou-uba (Oh peasant, sharpen the sickle).