Actor-model Lin Laishram – of Mary Kom and Axone fame – left Manipur when she was only nine because there was insurgency in the state. She grew up outside thinking one day she will return. But now she is once again living in fear for her parents, who are back home in the violence-hit state.
Laishram slammed the film industry for being silent about what is happening in Manipur, especially when it has been vocal about the Ukraine crisis and other international issues. Excerpts from an interview to News18:
What are your thoughts about the unrest in Manipur?
When we were young, things were not right so I had to leave. Unrest is not new to us. Things changed and Manipur was changing too, there was development. A lot of my friends were returning home and starting a new life there, businesses and startups and such. Then this happened and it took Manipur 20 years back. My heart is bleeding, every community is suffering; I am very upset. I can’t take this pain anymore.
Why can’t the two communities coexist?
This conflict has been there from time immemorial; it began at the time of our merger. There are many layers to this issue – land, poppy cultivation. I pray every day that I wake up to normalcy in Manipur. Go back two months, even the Miss India pageant took place over there. What happened after that?
How is your family back home?
No one in Manipur is doing fine. Roads and highways are blocked, medicine and essentials are not coming in. My parents are in their 70s, they have seen a lot of violence in their life. My mother said to me: ‘We have never seen something like this, people here are hellbent on killing each other, humanity is lost’. I am worried for them, they need medicine even though they have stocked up but we don’t know; if there is an emergency, what will we do? A few days ago, water supply was stopped as there were rumours that it was poisoned. There are a whole lot of problems. The price of petrol and even basic needs such as vegetables is skyrocketing. I feel helpless.
What is the reaction of the film industry and the intellectual fraternity?
There is no reaction from this fraternity. They have time to talk about Ukraine and other international issues but they don’t have anything to say about Manipur. The Odisha tragedy was horrific, everyone tweeted and I also believe that people should tweet and stand by victims, but what about us? Do we not exist? One state in India is reeling from a crisis for over a month and no one has anything to say?
Is it scary that they don’t feel about the northeast?
They will say the northeast is beautiful but that’s it. So many homes burnt, no one cares. It’s so scary but no one speaks about this, not even a word. This is discrimination. My question is, why won’t you discuss us? They have just turned a blind eye to us and our situation.
How do you feel the Manipur issue is being handled?
We could have avoided this. It could have been solved at a local level. The state government could not handle it properly. Even now, we don’t see things changing. This violence is unacceptable. Manipuris are just fed up.
Do you want to say something to the central government?
The peace committee should start working fast. We are talking about AI on the one hand and look at how bad things are in another part of India. Children are unable to go to school. They always feel somebody will come and attack them. They don’t deserve this. With one part of the body rotting, the government should do something. I am angry, I can’t take this. I am staying in Mumbai but my heart is in Manipur. Something needs to be done.
What do you want to say to Manipuris?
Let’s hope things fall into place, let’s stand together and think: ‘We shall overcome’. We can bring peace together. Both sides are reeling from pain and no one is benefiting from the violence. Let’s bring peace.