Described by everyone who knew him as the most soft-spoken and yet the most passionate person on issues dear to him, Dr Vareso Ningshen, aside from being an educator, contributed his strength and intellect to a variety of social and political causes.
On May 26, 2021, just a mere 57 years in age, he passed away due to Covid-19 related complications.
Born on September 27, 1964 to Shilngak Ningshen and Shangpeila Ningshenof Nambashi Khullen village. Dr Ningshen was the youngest among 6 children. His mother passed away very early and it fell upon his father, a farmer and labourer, to take care of them.
With his humble economic background, it is said that while he was undertaking his studies in Kohima, when the meager money from home would not reach on time or cover his expenses, he would support himself by working as a brick carrier at construction sites; when even that was not enough he would eat only one meal a day.
In the mid 80s, after completing his BA from Patkai College (1985) he moved back to Kohima to pursue his LLB. By then, his interest in social and political issues had taken root. As a student at Kohima Law College, he served as the President of the college’s students union. He was also active in the church, serving as the President of the Christian Youth Society of Tangkhul Baptist Church, Kohima.
From 1992 to 1994he practiced at the Mumbai High Court; thereafter at Guahati High Court, Imphal from 1994 to 1996. In between this, he managed to complete his LLM from University of Mumbai in 1996.
According to friends, while his practice was successful, he did not find it personally fulfilling and therefore when an opening for a lecturer at LMS Law College, Imphal was announced, his friends urged him to apply. His candidature a success, he joined LMS Law College as a lecturer in September 1996. At the same time, he even served as an OSD (Legal) in the Directorate of Education from September 1996 to December 1997.
His active involvement in village regional and religious organisations led him to meeting a soft-spoken lady from his neighbouring village in the late 1990s. Their friendship blossomed; Dr Timreiphy Tuithung of Kashung and Dr Ningshen got married in March 2002. They went on to have a daughter and two sons; Sonim, Vareyan and Worshangpei.
An area which Dr Ningshen deeply believed would alleviate the social and political issues confronting his community, the Tangkhul Nagas, was to thoroughly revisit and examine the functionality or ineffectiveness of their traditional and customary laws. And hence, “The Tangkhul (Naga) Customary Laws: A Critical Legal Study,” would go on to become the thesis for his PhD which he completed in 2009 from the University of Guwahati. In it, he concluded, amongst others that “in the changed scenario of society, there are difficulties in the enforcement and administration of customary laws and justice…that the existing Tangkhul customary laws must be developed and give(n) legal cognizance to ensure the viability and effectiveness of administrative governance and the justice system.” To achieve this, he goes on to propose that, “The codification of Tangkhul customary laws or tribals in Manipur by competent authority has become imminent in the interest of justice.”
Dr Ningshen’s contribution to the society went beyond his scholarship. He was actively involved with a number of community based civil society and religious organisations. His legal knowledge and its application at the community level greatly contributed to the re-drafting of the Tangkhul Long and UNC’s constitution. In their condolence message, the UNC noted, “He was a source of rich legal knowledge,…and historical contexts and it was with these enlightened tools that he guided and empowered us to carry forward the struggle for the rights of the people.” ANSAM also condoled saying, “He understood the movement like no other. He propounded co-existence but never took the middle path…He did not hesitate to discourse openly within and beyond the state and encouraged the same to all.”
A dedicated teacher who was accessible to all, one of his students who also went on to also teach with him professed, “You are (a) man of golden heart who love to serve people and render justice to all in any given situation. When I worked as your junior colleague in the college for a decade, I came to realise that you are one of the golden pillars of the LMS Law College. Your contribution to the legal education in Manipur is immense. Our informal discussion on various legal and political issues of Manipur including ways and means for improvement of community relationship rally (sic) enriched my understanding in various aspects of politico legal issues…” The VC of DM University also remarked, “Dr Ningshen was a sincere, serious and laborious teacher…it will be very difficult to fill the vacuum created by his loss.”
Cutting across ethnic and communal lines, he worked energetically toward communal harmony and peace-building as well.
The condolence message of the students’ union of LMS Law college is a fitting tribute to Dr Ningshen, “A soft spoken and kind hearted man, one who always did his best to impart knowledge to his students…You will always be remembered and your sacrifices will always be imprinted in our hearts.”
DMUTKLI is greatly indebted to Mr. Chingya Luithui, Human Rights Activist for lending us his valuable time and support right from the very outset till the completion of this work.