What is needed now is a common platform

In the wake of the death of Richard Loitam, a Manipuri Meitei, organisations from across the city participated in the “Justice for Richard” protest.
As a member of the Manipuri Meitei Bangalore Association (MMBA), Jenial Thiyam was surrounded by those from Bangalore Manipuri Students Association (BMSA), Tangkhul Student Union Bangalore (TSUB), Kuki student Organisation (KSO), Zaliarong Student Union Bangalore (ZSUB) — each representing the different ethnicities from in and around Manipur.
“It was only during the protest did I know of the various organisations and associations in the city,” said Mr. Thiyam.

Diverse groups

With over 75 major tribes and clans, the diversity of the region is reflected in the students' associations and unions who joined in the protest.
And, perhaps Loitam's death, apart from showing up the alleged discrimination against those from the northeast, was unwittingly a unifying factor for students' unions in the city.
“The idea of a platform for northeast students had been floated around five years ago. But it stagnated because of disunity between the groups. However, now after Richard's death, a lot of other organisations want to get together towards a common platform,” said BMSA general secretary Tony Longjam.
No common platform
He added that over two lakh people from the northeast had migrated to the city but were fragmented into smaller groups — divided along tribes and clans.
While the BMSA has over 4,000 members, KSO has around 3,000, and even smaller groups for the Mizos, Paithes, Thangkuls, among others.
Hitherto, these associations remained autonomous of each other to preserve the region's cultural diversity.
Preserving their culture
Far removed from their native towns and villages, these associations are vital for the students to keep in touch with their cultural roots — which extends far deeper than the generic “northeast” nomenclature.
Laldintluanga, a third year chemical engineering student who is vice-president of the Mizo Students Association, said that the association played a role in bringing the Mizos under the same roof for festivals that would have been gone unmarked otherwise.
“Festivals, such as the spring festival Chapchar Kut and harvest festival Pawl Kut, are celebrated with great fervour here, and there is traditional singing and dancing,” he said.


Similarly, for Mr. Thiyam, the Meitei associations play an important role in bringing Meitei culture to his children, who have been born and brought up here.
“They don't know about the harvest festivals, or culture, or the language. As the MMBA organises summer camps for children, they learn about the culture of their forefathers,” he said.
For Savio Thangjangam Misao, who has just finished his studies in the city, the celebration of the harvest festival Chavang Kut organised by the KSO, wherein thousands of Kukis — the women dressed in Khamtang shawls and the men in Saipikhup attire take part — brings a slice of his heritage to the city.