By Miraj Shah Kori
This is the story how the Sangai festival was decorated with the red blood of a poor rickshaw driver which was being celebrated to promote Manipur as a world-class tourism destination which showcased the best of what the state has to offer to the world in terms of art and culture, hand-loom, handicrafts & fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisines & music, eco & adventure sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of the land.
The day when poverty drove the poor old man out from his rented room with a rickshaw to earn two square meals for his wife and son only to return home in a body bag.
A deadly blow
It happened six years ago on November 30, 2011, in which a rickshaw driver was killed and four other people including two women sustained injuries when a remote-controlled bomb went off near the main gate during the festival at Hafta Kangjeibung at around 11 am. The deceased rickshaw driver was 55-year-old Md Kora from Mayang Imphal Irong Umang Leikai. He left behind his wife, Pishak and a 10-year old son, Imran. Pishak is a vegetable street vendor in Khwairamband Bazar. Sometimes she sells plastic basket at the street, which belongs to non-Manipuri shop.
The bomb, which was suspected to have been kept inside a carton box, was said to have been loaded in his rickshaw by one who identified himself as a member of the proscribed KCP from near New Check on crossing with the instruction that it should be taken towards the festival venue and gave Rs 20 to Kora, who apparently did not know anything about the powerful bomb. However, as the rickshaw crossed the main gate, the bomb went off. The impact of the blast was so terrible that both the legs of Md Kora were severed from his body. One of the severed legs was found near the drain of MB College while the other was found lying around 20 meters from the blast site. The rickshaw driven by Kora had also blown up into pieces.
Courage of conviction
That was a horrifying scene with the terrible consequence of the bomb in which the situation explained the uneasiness to believe all his five senses. However, he could understand the eyes of people around him but they were reciprocal to feel the pain of Kora. Although many security personnel were seen in and around the festival ground, none came forward to rescue him. The deplorable situation was again unfortunate for him when a 99 percent injured body was asking for help and no one including the security personnel came forward to respond with any sort of empathy or sympathy of a human being to this poor man.
After a few minutes, a team of Imphal West District police led by Additional SP Birbabu went up and interrogated the injured rickshaw driver as if he was like Dawood Ibrahim instead of shifting him to a nearby hospital or giving him any aid. The safety and security of the citizens is not the priority but the interrogation of Kora on the dying bed is for the Manipur police. In the conversation, Kora said without showing any sign of losing consciousness that he was given Rs 20 by one unknown person who identified himself as a member of the proscribed KCP for delivering some goods towards the festival venue. Manipur police department could not arrange an ambulance in the heart of the capital city that the injured rickshaw driver was taken in a DI Tata of the police for treatment at JNIMS where he passed away at around 11.50 am.
The four persons who sustained injuries in the blast were identified as Chabungbam Bidyapati (24) d/o late Bihari of Awang Khunou Mamang Leikai, Yumnam Bala (50) w/o Rajendro of Konthoujam Awang Leikai, Md Sattar (20) s/o Atou of Moijing and Wahengbam Kulladhwaja (42) s/o Lalabi of Kangla Uchonkhong. Bidyapati is a recruit of North East Security Services and she was manning the ticket counter of the festival while Bala came to see the festival when the explosion took place. Bidyapati was hit by bomb splinters on her right hand while Bala on her right thighs.
No empathy shown
After the explosion, DGP Y Joykumar present Deputy Chief Minister of Manipur, Senior SP of Imphal East L Kailun, Senior SP of Imphal West Clay Khongsai, other police officers, bomb experts, Assam Rifles, Army and BSF and National Security Guards who were in Imphal in connection with the planned visit of the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, rushed in for spot inspection. Tourism Minister TN Haokip and other government officials also arrived at the spot for inspection. All of them had witnessed the incident that how this poor rickshaw driver was killed. However, no assistance or any affirmative measures were given the widow and orphan.
JAC as usual
Although police claimed that KCP (MC) had earlier given a restriction on organizing any sort of entertainment programme, no one claimed responsibility for the blast till the time of filing this report. Followed by the incident, JAC against the killing of Kora was formed and submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister in connection with the incident wherein it expressed its demands which includes booking the culprits and compensation of Rs 10 lakh to be given to the bereaved family of Kora and also a suitable Government job to one of the family member.
Tragedy of surviving victims
Widow Pishak and the orphan Imran have been struggling to survive since then. They are still staying in the rented room as they couldn’t afford to buy a new house anywhere in Manipur. They earn a livelihood from what Pisak gets from her daily work where she used to sell the plastic basket of Non-Manipuri shopkeeper at the Bir Tikendrajit Road earning Rs 100 a day. She shares the profit with the shopkeeper from whom she buys rice and other groceries.
On the days of strikes, her son has to go to bed without food. The frequent general strikes and Bandh seriously affect her earning. And like many another street vendor at khwairambandh, she is also subjected to face the atrocities by city police and VDF.
Imran has grown up now. He is now studying class in ten standards. He is known to me since my graduation days at DM College of Arts as my student. He was admitted to our coaching centre without any fee that was running during my graduation days at Imphal. He was more mature than his age. He was brave and can talk freely about his family and his father. He is hard working and precocious. Despite all these hardships he has been facing, he is very good in his studies and stood among the top fifth in his every school exam.
I had sensed the frustration he went through that affected his studies in various instances. He was so young and under qualified to experience all these suffering in his age where most of his friends were enjoying the lap and warmth of their parents demanding the moon and the stars. The poverty and the bomb blast had swallowed his happiness. He is still working hard against the entire disadvantage and the idle sneer of the world. This boy is expecting the help of the Almighty Allah (SWT) to realize his dreams and to rescue him from despair and pain.
Talking about the family, Imran said, ‘‘my mother has spent nearly fifty thousand to meet the expenses of the lawyers and other people who are associating with her work for the ex gratia of my deceased father from the Government.”
“She afforded all this money by borrowing from the near and dear ones in the high hope to return it as soon as the money is received from the Government. However neither a single penny has been awarded nor any sort of affirmative initiative has been extended from the Government of Manipur, and we are still with this heavy debts’,” he added.