EVERY TANGKHUL VILLAGE is a sovereign village when it comes to celebration of festival, namely, Luira Phanit, (seed sowing festival) Dhar-reo Phanit (post harvest festival) etc. No big village has the authority to impose smaller villages in fixing the date and time for celebration of any festival. Each village celebrates its festival independently. Outsiders can come and witness and be a part of the celebration but cannot take active role in the overall management and execution of such festivals.
There are also, on the other hand, community festivals, for example KUT festival of Manipur, Lui-Ngai-Ni (seed sowing festival) for the Nagas as a whole, which is celebrated on the February 14 of every year. Likewise, the Shirui Lily “State” Festival has become a community festival of the Tangkhul tribe since 2017. Prior to 2017, the villagers of Shirui have been observing Lily Festival at village level for many years.
With the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Government of Manipur represented by N. Ashok Kumar (IAS), Secretary (Tourism), Government of Manipur and Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) represented by HA. Shanngam and Gideon Zimik (Phungva of TNL) on May 1, 2017, the Shirui Lily Festival not just became the biggest festivals of Tangkhul community, but also became a gigantic State festival with people thronging from all parts of Manipur.
On May 1, 2017, the following MoU was agreed upon:
- The Shirui Lily Festival shall be observed every year in consultation with Tangkhul Naga Long and Shirui Village Authority.
- The venue of event shall be at Shirui village and Ukhrul Headquarters only.
- In order to conserve the Shirui Lily, the State Government shall honour and respect the Customary Laws of Tangkhul Naga Long.
As mentioned, each Tangkhul village celebrates their respective festivals independently in their own way. The Tangkhul Naga Long, even though the apex body of the Tangkhul tribe, cannot and does not interfere in the celebration of a festival being observed in its realm, for a lack of better word, by any village, big or small.
As per the Order/Notification of April 18, 2022 by Tourism Department GoM, the order mentions “Shirui Festival 2022”, omitting the word “State”.
As far as I’m concerned, if the status quo Shirui Lily State Festival will be reduced to a mere Shirui Festival, then I think, there is no point of inducting MLAs, TNL, TNWL, Headman of Hungpung and Hunphun as member of the Organising Committee, or for that matter DC, SP, CEO etc. Because, as I have sufficiently explained in my introduction, it amounts to disrespecting the Customary Laws and practices of Tangkhul tribe, and as a result, amounts to infringement of rights of Shirui village, the sole owner of the festival. Festival of any particular Tangkhul village does not, with utmost respect, require a Governor’s or any other authority to constitute and from Organising Committee for that very village.
Only when it is a “State Festival”, the order by the Governor of Manipur will be valid.
Therefore, I humbly put forward my opinion to the concerned State authority, and to the larger audience in Manipur who have had the great pleasure to witness the length and breadth of the festival with world renowned bands electrifying performances not so long ago, that the nomenclature should be named as Shirui Lily State Festival 2022 and not reduced to Shirui Festival 2022. Only then, the Governor will have the power, vested upon him, to constitute an Organising Committee for the State festival and at the same time, outsiders can be picked as member of that committee.
There is yet another aspect to this, the proposed budget for Shirui Lily Festival is a limited one. There are reports of pending bills from the last edition of Shirui Lily State Festival too.
On a side note, people of Ukhrul at this point, by and large, seems to have lost interest. The Tangkhul artists are usually left out in the main events. They are used just to attract the crowd before the start of events. At times, it appears as if the festival is meant only for those in the committee. I speak from experience.
To conclude with, Tangkhul Naga Long this time around, seems to have been left out. As per information received, TNL did not attend the first meeting of the Organising Committee held on April 20, 2022, as the MoU of May 1, 2017, it seems is left in utter oblivion. Only time will tell, how it will all turn out.