Walking in one of the economically most backward regions, Churachandrapur district, was a reminder of how negligent can our polity be of the developmental concerns in a border conflict prone district. At the same time, the cultural development in the region was outstanding and curiosity of the children even in villages where there was no school was amazing. Notwithstanding the policy of right to education, we went to villages like Khotuh where there was no school on both sides for four or five kms. It was not surprising that during the idea competition, most children articulated the vision of a school in the village. Can one really complain if some young people get angry and lose confidence in the peaceful resolution of the developmental challenges?
There needs to be an urgent benchmarking of all such cases of neglect in conflict prone regions to begin with so that no eligible village remains without a school. This is the minimum our children deserve. This region has witnessed terrible communal violence in the past. To commemorate the spirit of solidarity and peace, we decided to start the shodhyatra from Sanga Ga Muon In orphanage for both Kuki and Naga children. This is run by Kuki Women Union with the motto, “Mother of the motherless”. Some of the children walked with us all through the Shodhyatra and participated in the idea competition and other activities. The spirit of self-reliance was ingrained among the children from an early age. Those interested can contact the director email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, we found a very rich treasure of traditional knowledge as well as contemporary innovations, creative crafts and rich cultural institutions. In some of the villages, local priest prayed together to wish success for the Shodhyatra and almost all the elders present stood in line when we left the village to shake hands with each Shodhyatri. We had not experienced such warmth very often. Sem Haokip, Executive Director, Society for the Promotion of Tribal Welfare and Development [SPTWD] was our host during the yatra. Sem’s moment of personal transformation came about when he started a school in a village from where the people had killed his sister years ago. He used to live in great anger and wanted to take revenge but till he found this peaceful embodiment of love, he couldn’t sleep well. On such foundation of solidarity is built the mission of SPTWD. I wish more and more people will create such temples of love to overcome persistent hatred and strife among the communities.
We met a farmer Hempao Tonthang who had developed a herbal growth promoter by using water extract of smoldering bamboo for invigorating yam crop. SRISTI lab is testing it currently and we will send feedback to him. In Mizoram, another farmer had used similar method to make a pesticide for paddy without filtration and a medicine after filtration. Knowledge Network among all such farmers who are trying to use bamboo as raw material for various agricultural and health preparations will generate so many more ideas and innovations. H Paokholien Lhungdim developed a creative cooker for rice in which steam from a common drum will cook 50 kg of rice in two different cookers. We also organized competition among children to get new ideas. So many good ideas came out in the remote corners of the country. Seigoulin was a bit crazy, she thought about a double side bottle; scissor with both side cutting facility and scooter with double wheel on rear side. She looked at the word differently than most of us. Will our teachers tolerate her queer ways of looking at the world. Lhingmei Vah suggested spectacles which could be adjusted with having different number or power in the same spectacles. Tin Doi them wanted to design Foldable pen and so on. Another girl thought of spectacle with torch light to read in the night.
Where is the sanctuary for such creative children farmers and artisans? We are trying to set up a community innovation centre with different villages having different innovative devices so that they learn from each other, they depend upon each other rather all depending upon one village with all the facilities.
Engagement with Manipur will not get many votes to leaders but it will get blessings to those who care. Do you care?