|HOME |NEWS |INTERVIEW|
|July 21, 2001||
The Rediff Interview/ Ratan Thiyam
Ratan Thiyam, one of India's finest theatre personalities, was distraught by developments in his native Manipur after the Centre announced the extension of its ceasefire with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Issac-Muivah). Last week, he returned his Padma Shri to the President.
The former director of the National School of Drama discussed his angst in an interview with Senior Special Correspondent Onkar Singh from his home in Imphal, in a telephone interview.
Why did you return the Padma Shri?
I am an artiste, emotionally a very sensitive person. The decision to return the award is not an easy thing because this is the recognition of your contribution in a certain field. In my case, in the field of drama. I am essentially a peace loving person and cannot see anyone being harmed. But when I saw the level of violence in Imphal and elsewhere in the state, I was so moved by the developments that I spontaneously decided to return the award to the President of India.
When did you write the letter to the President?
I returned the award on July 13. I wrote an emotional letter to President Narayanansaab, giving him the reasons why I thought I should return the honour conferred on me by the nation.
Did you think a lot before taking such a drastic step?
I do not deny a certain amount of thinking must have gone into it before I arrived at the decision. But by and large, I would say it was a spontaneous decision. I was angry with the Government of India because those who wield power did not think our problem needed urgent handling.
Look at the way they reacted when the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M Karunanidhi, was arrested. The whole government came alive in a matter of minutes. But the death of people in the Imphal valley did not even move them a bit.
Union Minister of State for Home I D Swami visited Manipur for an inquiry. Did you meet him?
I met I D Swami and so did others. The minister merely told us the government would review the situation at the earliest. But nothing seems to have happened. Due to General Musharraf's visit, Manipur became a non-issue.
The prime minister has called a meeting of chief ministers of the northeastern states on July 27. Don't you think the Centre is making a serious effort to address the problem?
I am not a political person, so I cannot say much on this matter. I hope something positive comes out of this meeting and the government reverses its earlier stand. Otherwise, violence in the state will go up again. The most unfortunate thing is that with one decision they have destroyed the harmonious relations between the hill people and the plains people. Between the Nagas and the Meitei.
What makes you feel the state could witness more violence in the days to come?
You have to come here to realise the situation. People are still protesting. It may not be reported. Naga insurgents from Nagaland came to Manipur and held a large meeting with the Nagas residing in Manipur in Senapati district. The situation has now reached a very delicate point. I hope peace returns to Manipur soon.
In your opinion, there is heightened tension between the Nagas and Meiteis. Do you see the militant groups from both sides playing a role?
So far the militants have kept away from the agitation. At the moment the agitation is in the people's hands. But it can get out of hand.
I do not know why government interlocutor K Padmanabhaiah suggested to the government that the ceasefire between the GoI and the NSCN (IM) group be extended to other states in the northeast without realising its consequences. Let me put it this way -- if the situation is not controlled now, militants outfits operating in Manipur and Nagaland might take advantage of the situation.
Who do you blame for the situation?
Partly the state administration, partly the Centre. The state administration failed to take preventive measures and keep things under control. The Centre is responsible for taking a wrong decision.
If the President asks you to reconsider your decision, would you heed his advice?
If the President says something, then I would have to listen to him.
|Do tell us what you think of this interview|
HOME |NEWS |
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | SEARCH
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK