The Art of Disrespect

TANGKHUL-NURABI, a dance drama played during the Lai Haraoba festival with reference to the two mythological figures, one is that of Nongpok Ningthou and Nurabi, representing Panthoibi, their love episode, that have central significance in the Meitei/Meetei community ritual, this year, left many disgusted, including the Meitei/Meeteis.

According to Rekha Konsam’s research on Lai Haraoba, unlike other rituals in the festival, Tangkhul-Nurabi or loutaba is more like a skit with a loosely structured script, and has elements of comical interludes, myths, sacred chants and play, with room for the performer to improvise.

The portrayal of Tangkhul-Nurabi skit at Lai Haraoba this year, although not the first time, lampooning the Tangkhul Nongpok Ningthou, painted a vulgar representation of the Tangkhul tribe. However, the more worrying scene, many would say in the act, was the demeaning treatment of women in the name of rituals and drama.

The degrading and disrespectful presentation of certain tribe and the crowd cheering to such caricature only adds mistrust among communities. It is for the knowledgeable elders, the civil bodies, if not the government to chide such ideas in the name of art and festival, ridiculing a community.

Also read: The Captivity of Tribal Women in Northeast India

What should worry us more is the inadvertent infiltration of that very vulgar representation into the minds of the young. A high school student, watching the skit, will only take home vulgar, shunning out human decency. Leave alone the alleged intention of harming a community’s image. By all standards, it paints black human dignity, regardless of one’s ethnic identity. Such acts in the name of entertainment only build into the psyche of a child in their formative age. The consequence or the output of such children growing up with distorted ideas of people and community in a plural society, in a digital age is unthinkable. Lampooning of any ethnic groups in any form offline and online, behind a mask, in a state like Manipur should be discouraged and dealt with immediately and with authority.

The Meitei/Meeteis of today, a civilized, well mannered and highly sophisticated society has offered tremendously in the field of education, healthcare and its contribution to arts and culture is staggeringly admirable. They are mindful of the nuances of culture and tradition, that no one can argue.

The portrayal of another community in one of their own festivals in such bad light should strike as an opportunity to rebuke those involved, in helping build, nonetheless the pace, a stronger relationship between the hill and the valley of Manipur in general.

Towards a harmonious community building, the Umanglai Kanba Apunba Lup (UKAL) and Uttra Sanglen Sana Konung immediately banning four ‘Tangkhul Saba’ artistes from performing at Lai Haraoba festivals as a disciplinary action is a welcome step. Well done!

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