Ukhrul Assembly Constituency: A Cassandra in the Politics of Manipur

In Manipur, the Valley is the only place where the nectar is. A location that is bearing the burden of population explosion. To common sense, decentralization of infrastructure is the way forward.

(Illustration of Ukhrul town by R Shimray)

CASSANDRA IS A priestess in Greek mythology. She is the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Cassandra is the younger sister of Hector, the hero of the Greek Trojan war. She was gifted with the power of prophecy by Apollo, the god. Upon being given, Cassandra did not return his favours prompting Apollo to curse her – her prophecies not to be believed by any. There are many versions of why her prophecies were made not to be believed. In modern understanding and usage, one is a Cassandra if one speaks of the truth and/or predicts disaster or misfortune. Cassandra predicted the fall of Troy. Troy indeed fell.

Like Cassandra, Ukhrul Assembly Constituency (44-ST) has spoken a few truths in the Manipur Legislative Assembly. For speaking truth to power, Ukhrul A/c (44-ST) have always been silenced by means, legal and illegal, over the years of existence of the State of Manipur; punished through underdevelopment and left unattended, which saw an exodus of youth in the 2000s that came to the public realization of its magnitude only during the reverse migration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Must read | Reverse Migration in the wake of COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications & Policy Thrust Areas

Ukhrul A/c has always been the Cassandra in the politics of Manipur. Fast forward to the present-day Manipur, Alfred Kanngam Arthur as the then MLA, Ukhrul A/c was stripped of his legitimacy for raising the issues concerning Hill-Valley gaps and spearheading the ADC Bill movement. Arthur pointed out on the floor of the House on 4th August 2021 that the Actual Expenditure on Development for the Hills was 108 crore against 5000 crore in the Valley (2017-18), 150 crore against 4900 crore (2018-19), 120 crore against 5000 crore (2019-20) and 141 crore against 7000 crore (2020-21). On Actual Expenditure on Forest and Environment (19 crore against 66 crore in 2017-18), Arthur pleaded, ‘Speaker sir, this is Environment and Forest. Forest, I think, 90% of the forest is in the Hills’. The irony speaks for itself. The common knowledge, thereafter, is that the projects he championed for were all stripped or delegated elsewhere.

Also read | CM Biren’s remark on ADC Bill 2021 ‘disintegrating Manipur’ an attempt to politicize & criminalize tribal movement: ATSUM

Now, Ram Muivah, MLA, Ukhrul A/c (44-ST), seems to be facing the same music. If what was flagged on the floor of the House on 25th February 2023 happened to be true. For Ukhrul A/c (2022-23), 8 crore out of the expendable 652 crore was allotted under Public Works Department, which means 646 crore for the remaining 59 Constituencies. One could only wonder how much of it went to other Hill Constituencies. Speaking of annual State level Shirui Festival, it is only a matter of decency in an odyssey to extend gratitude to the host for the shelter and meals provided by the host. Likewise, for the welfare of Shirui Festival, dignitaries who have earlier graced the various editions of the festival have the moral obligation to push for the disbursement of the antedated funds. Whatever the vendetta in the political game let alone ‘singling out’, indifference is not decency. More than the particular representative, the citizens of the said Constituency need a prompt response as the year approaches for a new edition of Shirui Festival. If the Government of Manipur is not in a state to host such festivals, or for that matter, all festivals, in all fairness to all, it ought to not organize such State festivals, including Sangai Festival, Kut Festival, Lui-Ngai-Ni Festival and the likes.

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