Claims over Mt Koubru
IFP Editorial: Mt Koubru is the epicenter of all mythology, tradition and belief of human creation on the Earth in the Manipuri world-view.
Recently, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh came down heavily on the forest department officials for the widespread deforestation in the sacred Koubru range. He was speaking at the flagging off ceremony of a month-long campaign on ‘Know your Sanctuaries and Wetlands’ at the Press Club Imphal. He instructed forest officials to go and see for themselves the state of degradation and take up appropriate measures for rejuvenating forest cover in Koubru and other hill ranges for the sake of future generations and also appealed to the people inhabiting the general area to cooperate with forest officials. He also spoke of the deep reverence people have of the sacred Mt Koubru and blessings sought with the prayer ‘Awang Koubru Asuppa, Yoimayai Khunda Ahanba …’ by the Meiteis. In the cosmogony of the Meiteis, it is believed that the evolution of human settlement in the state of Manipur originated from Koubru peak and later descended downward gradually to the foothills and the valley.
Till today, the people of Manipur regard Mt Koubru as one of the most sacred mountains in the state. Every year, a week after Cheiraoba (Manipur New Year), on the first Friday, people go on pilgrimages to the Koubru Peak, which is around 2,802 metres high. A special attraction at the peak is the sacred pond Lai Pukhree, a massive rectangular boulder and the cliff of the Koubru. In short, Mt Koubru is the epicenter of all mythology, tradition and belief of human creation on the Earth in the Manipuri world-view. However, the chief minister’s statement is particularly interesting in view of the recent government move to declare sacred sites in Mt Koubru and Mt Thangjing protected sites under Sub-Section (1) of Section 4 of the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976 in public interest and the objections from some hill based organisations which followed. The state Art and Culture department had recently notified its intention to declare Ibudhou Thangjing (approx, 4 hectares), the sacred site of Lord Koubru (approx. 2 hectares) located at Thangjing Hill range, and Lai Pukhri (approx. 4 hectares) located at Koubru hill range as protected sites. The department notified that any interested person may file his/her objection to the declaration of the said sites/monuments as protected historical sites/areas under Sub-Section (2) of Section 4 of the above Act within two months (60 days) from the date of the issue of the notification.
Nowhere in the government notification, is an intent of constructing a religious structure mentioned. Manipur has several protected sites including Kangla notified under Sub-Section (1) of Section 4 of the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976 and there is no religious connotation whatsoever in the move but rather of protecting it for the cause of preservation and conservation. Yet, the oft-quoted issue of ‘ancestral land’ has once again been dragged in with an objective-sounding call for no temple or church or mosque at the site. This is simply ridiculous and off-the-track. We would advise the people or groups raising objections to the notification to go through the said Act rather than speculating and drawing imaginary structures. As per the Act, no new structures except for fencing and public utilities are allowed in a protected site and the intent is solely based on conservation and preservation of the important site for the sake of posterity. As we said before, there simply should not be such a thing as ‘ancestral land’ in a composite state like ours and anybody who flags such terms always have an ulterior agenda. They should rather be questioning themselves on what they have done so far for conservation and upkeep of the land they are claiming to own. Again as always, at the end of negotiations to such absurd claims compensation and employment always finds a way.