Kamminlung Singson was sitting next to me on a four-hour hopping flight from Delhi to Imphal. He had one year of training in a short-term programme of Indian Army and was on his way back home to Churachandpur, about 60km from Imphal. He was supposed to travel by train up to Guwahati and then take a bus, but the highways to his hometown, NH 39 and NH 53, had been blocked by Naga rebels for almost 30 days at that time, so he had to somehow arrange for an air ticket. Not many Manipuris can afford an air ticket, he said sadly.
How’s is the situation, I asked?
Very bad. UGs are ruling and people are suffering. Imphal to Churachand Pur ticket has gone up to Rs 150 per person, which was just 40 rupees a few months back, he said.
UGs? Who are they? Underground rebels, he grinned at my ignorance. There is a severe food scarcity and no petrol or diesel is available. One has to be in a queue for one or two days to get 20 or 40 litres of oil. He stared at me as if asking who the hell you are so oblivious of the facts that are tearing apart the lives of Manipuris.
I know some of it, I said sheepishly, hence on my way to Imphal. OK, now that you have taken an armed training with the Army, would you be serving the Indian forces or join the other side? I collected myself and asked.
It was a mischievous question, just to poke him and get him speaking on his motherland. He opened up.
I will fight for India, that’s my motherland. But not many in my village think so. They feel India doesn’t care for them. He showed me a news clipping from a south-based daily which made horrendous reading - it was about the death of a Manipuri woman due to starvation. I didn’t find it mentioned in any other newspaper or channel.
Why was Takhellambam Komberei’s death, a painful end, ignored by a Muthalik-obsessed media? A Mulayam prank or a Lalu joke and statue devis and the Hindu terror talk to please the Arab variety of secularism overwhelms the media, but nothing on the pains and anguish of those who are living under a constant threat from anti-national ultras, have yet to see a railway station after six decades of independence, bad roads, almost negligible infrastructure, 38 insurgent terror groups always breathing down their necks to extort money and yet proud to be an Indian?
Kamminlung tried to be as nice as possible 30,000 feet above the ground level. But I could see it was difficult to control emotions for him.