A Goan in Manipur looking for home finds he isn’t exactly welcome. The local Meiteis have taken to blocking the streets demanding that the state government implement the Inner Line Permit System that will prevent indiscriminate influx of “outsiders” from destroying their way of life and buying their land. And so I find myself pretty much holed up in an tiny but airy room in a nondescript lodge overlooking the incomplete remains of Dewlahland.
An ol’ peacenik friend of mine had asked me to conduct a photography workshop for undergrad youth in Churachandpur, Manipur. I agreed immediately as I was looking for an opportunity to meet the Bene Menashe tribe who live there waiting to make "aliyah". In my excitement, I even booked tickets for Sayuri n Sarada but had to eventually cancel as the ILPs protests intensified and everyone around thought it would be stressful.
I flew in to Imphal last afternoon via Calcutta where a friend's friend came to pick me...Geology united us :). He greeted me with an uncertain giggle and we drove into town with no real plan. “I’ll come to the airport and then we’ll see”, he had said the previous night on FBchat. I was open to any eventuality and happy to go with the flow. Outside the window, Imphal seemed like a city trying desperately to grow but its attempts curtailed. Roads, buildings, bridges, everything incomplete and like most Indian cities dirty and unkempt.
Between hotels that were closed due to the "disturbances" and those beyond budget, I settled for this lodge in Dewlahland, in an area populated by "tribal people" and therefore safe for me. From my room I could see the War Cemetery and so this morning, thinking that the dead wouldn't mind my being around, I went to pay my respects.
The Battle of Imphal in 1944 was the turning point of the Second World War where hundreds of Indian, British, Japanese were killed.