G Vinayak in Guwahati
Even as the Centre grapples with the crisis caused in the Northeast by its decision to extend the territorial limits of the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), renowned theatre personality Ratan Thiyam has relinquished the Padma Shri conferred on him by the Government of India in protest.
Large parts of the Northeast, particularly Manipur, have been rocked by violent protests against the Centre's decision. Manipuris in particular have been furious because they see the decision as a prelude to legitimising the NSCN's demand for a 'Greater Nagalim' comprising large parts of present-day Manipur.
In a letter to the President of India, the internationally acclaimed theatre personality said, "Life is not normal in the valley of Manipur for the past month. No tangible effort or urgency is visible on the part of the Centre. It is decaying by the day and there is no helping hand coming forward. It is not disrespect for the civilian honour of Padma Shri conferred on me, it is the compulsion of my bleeding heart. Although it is a very painful decision, I am, as a protest, relinquishing this honour."
In the emotional letter, Thiyam said that though he was immersed in his creative activities as a theatre worker, "I have been witnessing the political developments and the deteriorating condition of life in Manipur. When I look at the present situation of Manipur, my heart bleeds."
He said the decision to extend the territorial limits of the ceasefire had caused death, injury, turmoil and restlessness in the region. Apart from hurting the sentiments of the people of Manipur, the decision had damaged the age-old amity between different communities of Manipur inhabiting the state's hills and valley.
"During a recent visit to the state by Minister of State for Home I D Swami, I had expressed my views on the issue, concentrating on the point that there is no solution except immediate withdrawal of the ceasefire extension," Thiyam said.
He said the curfew imposed in Imphal had affected daily wage earners leading to starvation, while his own work had also suffered.
The theatre personality said that for the past many years, the people of Manipur had suffered from lack of proper attention from the Centre. Yet, once again, the government at the Centre remained a silent observer when 14 young lives were lost and the whole of Manipur was burning.
Thiyam said the recent strong protests by the emotionally disturbed and shocked people of Manipur, reaching violent proportions, was a natural reaction. "Fortunately it did not deteriorate into a communal mayhem and the full credit for the same goes to the people who kept their cool in the heat of the movement," he stated.
He also blamed the people's representatives for their failure to safeguard the people's interests and called upon the Centre to withdraw the ceasefire extension immediately.
The Anti-ceasefire Agitation: Complete Coverage
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