The Telegraph
Thursday , November 12 , 2015

Boycott cloud on Manipur festival

A dancer at the Sangai Festival.
File picture

Imphal, Nov. 11: The Nagas are unlikely to take part in this year's Sangai Festival organised by the Manipur government to promote tourism in the state, with the United Naga Council (UNC) asking all Naga tribes to stay away.

The Naga organisation decided to boycott the festival to protest the passing of Protection of Manipur People Bill, Manipur Land Revenue and land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill and Manipur Shops and Establishment (Second Amendment) Bill by the Manipur Assembly on August 31.

Manipur organises Sangai Festival every year from November 21 to 30 in an attempt to attract foreign and domestic tourists along the lines of neighbouring Nagaland's Hornbill Festival.

The festival provides an opportunity to visitors to catch a glimpse of Manipur's rich and colourful culture, indigenous food and games, scenic beauty and also enjoy adventure sports.

Ambassadors and other diplomats of Bangladesh, Norway, Sri Lanka and Japan have confirmed their participation.

As a part of the festival, an international polo tournament will be held here.

The UNC, the apex body of the Naga community in Manipur, has issued a "directive" to all presidents of the Naga tribes not to allow any member of their respective tribes to participate in the festival.

The UNC cautioned the Naga community that anyone defying the directive would do so at his own risk.

The organisations in the hills termed the bills "anti-tribal".

Nine persons died in Churachandpur district during violent protests on August 31 - the day the bills were passed. The relatives of the protesters are yet to accept the bodies, demanding that the bills be withdrawn. The bills are awaiting President Pranab Mukherjee's consent.

"The bodies are now lying in the mortuary of the district hospital in Churachandpur. We are in a state of mourning and the government is not concerned. The manner in which the government is preparing to celebrate the festival with much fanfare has hurt sentiments of people in the hills. Therefore, we are not going to participate in the festival," the general secretary of the UNC, S. Milan, told The Telegraph.

The UNC, however, appreciated a report that the Union home ministry has decided to consult all sections of the people in Manipur before taking a decision on the fate of the three bills.

The home ministry on Monday issued a statement saying that it would consult all stakeholders, including the Manipur government, on the bills to address the issue in the best interest of all sections of people in Manipur.

Milan said the UNC appreciated the intervention by the home ministry on the issue of the three bills. He, however, added that despite intervention by the Centre, the Nagas would not take part in the festival as a mark of protest against the "neglect" of hill settlers by the state government.

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