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Kut fest marks call for peace
- Jagat, gaikhangam soothe frayed nerves

Imphal, Nov. 1: Peaceful co-existence and unity calls marked this year’s Kut festival, the largest post-harvest festival of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo ethnic communities. The festival was organised at 1st Manipur Rifles parade ground here today.

In the wake of the Centre’s move to reach an agreement with the NSCN (I-M) early next year, governor Gurbachan Jagat and home minister Gaikhangam sought to calm frayed nerves and clear the areas of mistrust during their speech.

While there is an apprehension of losing the political and territorial integrity of the state as a result of the settlement between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M), the Kuki community is demanding that justice be meted out to the Kuki “victims” of the Kuki-Naga ethnic clashes in the early nineties.

“Justice has to be delivered to the Kukis before any settlement is arrived at between the NSCN (I-M) and the government of India,” Thangkhosei Haokip, president of Kuki Inpi Manipur, apex body of the Kuki community, demanded a few days back. He alleged that more than 900 Kukis were killed by the NSCN (I-M) and its collaborators during the 1990 skirmishes, that also uprooted many villages.

The festival is a celebration of bountiful harvest, thanksgiving to the Almighty and honouring the ancestors through colourful dances and songs by cultural troupes of the sub-tribes. However, the state leaders could not ignore the situation in the state.

“Manipur is full of problems that challenge the age-old co-existence. The increase in population has created a pressure on land, created new conflicts. All should introspect the past and plan for the future for a collective identity,” the governor said in his address.

He urged the people to resolve differences through talks and dialogues and not by using violence, including strikes and blockades, which severely impacted on the poorest of the poor. He said emotional integration of the people living in Manipur could be achieved in one day. “However, there should be a beginning to unite the people for progress and development.”

Home minister Gaikhangam also stressed the need for unity and peaceful co-existence of all the communities and expressed the hope that the festival would spread the message of brotherhood.

The daylong programme was rounded off with Miss Kut beauty pageant, with participants from various communities. Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh attended the cultural programmes, including the beauty pageant held in the evening.