One of Manipur’s most highly regarded playwrights Ratan Thiyam says that he cannot understand PM Modi’s refusal to talk about Manipur in Sunday’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’, though he did find time to speak about the Emergency, which is 40 years old.
Manipur playwright and director Ratan Thiyam has said that if the Prime Minister or Union home minister ask him to initiate a truth and reconciliation process in Manipur he would be prepared to consider doing so.
Thiyam, who is one of the state’s most highly regarded theatre practitioners, said he is “heartbroken” by the tragedy unfolding in Manipur but cannot believe the anger between the Kuki and the Meitei communities has gone so far and deep that they cannot be reconciled.
In a 30-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Thiyam, who is a former chairperson and former director of the National School of Drama, said he cannot understand PM Modi’s silence and his refusal to talk about Manipur in Sunday’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’, though he did find time to speak about the cyclone in Gujarat and even the Emergency, which is 40 years old.
Thiyam said the prime minister seems to have turned his back on Manipur just when it needs him the most. “The PM either doesn’t understand the gravity of the crisis or doesn’t care.”
Thiyam said the people of Manipur are asking “Where should I go? What do I do?” These are, he agreed, existentialist questions. They suggest the people of Manipur feel the country – and perhaps the media in particular – has turned its back on them and forgotten about them. As an illustration of his point, he said television news, when it shows the weather, stops at Kolkata, as if there are no Indian states further to the east. This metaphor perfectly and poignantly illustrates how the rest of India views the Northeast.
Asked whether the time had come for Chief Minister Biren Singh to be dismissed, Thiyam said these are decisions the Union government has to take and the fact that it has not suggests they are happy with Biren Singh, despite the deteriorating situation in Manipur.
Asked if reconciliation is not possible or doesn’t happen and, therefore, trust cannot be restored between the Kuki and Meitei communities, would he accept that the time has come to concede the Kuki demand for a separate administration? To put it differently, if the two communities cannot live happily together, perhaps they might be able to live happily as neighbours? This is when Thiyam said that he cannot believe the anger and divide has gone so deep that it cannot be resolved.