This is the second time I write on this topic. In my previous article I did not deal with the meaning of MAUTAM. Hence, I think it is pertinent to dwell in the meaning of mautam here. The word mautam is formed by two words MAU and TAM. Mau means bamboo and tam means famine. Therefore mautam can be rendered as ‘bamboo related famine’ or ‘famine caused by the flowering and dying down of bamboos.’ This phenomenon occurs in a regular interval of 48-50 years in parts of Manipur and Mizoram States in the areas where bamboo covered.
From its flowering till date the mau has played its own part. It had flowered, bore fruits and died down. New bamboo plants started to take their place. But the tam is only about to play its role. The sudden multiplication of the number of rats is unbelievable. It is surprising that whether this mautam rats are a special gift to destroy every food crops and create famine. We, tribal are fond of rat meat. Therefore, on other than mautam years we caught rats with the help of traps or dug it out of its hole. To us, they are not a docile animal. Rats cannot be caught or killed with sticks because they are afraid of man. But this year’s special rats are not like the previous rats. Live photos can be taken while they are eating and destroying food crops. They have no fear of man.
Bad it may, the English construction I have been writing here the urged within me prompted me to put it in English. There’s no help for it. But to write and highlight. If interested and kind enough to save the life of our people, why not read on?
Born to destroy?: What is more surprising is that they are like having special sense on how to select food crops from other crops. The trail they left is also astonishing. They cut down every standing food crops at the bottom into pieces. Not only this they also destroyed all creeping and climbing food crops. During this season, in other years, our interior villagers were self-sufficient in seasonal crops like cucumber, maize, melon, water melon, pumpkin, peas, etc. But this year, they have none. My sister and brother visited me recently. They narrated all this. It is really mind blowing and ear tingling. Hard to believe, yet true! To show how rats play havoc on food crops and rats multiplied in numbers; the Chief of Lungthul (E) brought more than one thousand rat tails at Churachandpur as evidence. That was a week’s hunt with hoe stick. If mautam rats were not special rats they cannot be easily killed with bare stick. So, the Lungthul (E) Chief’s rat tail tale, tells everything beyond doubt.
Such being the situation in our interior villages, two big questions arise here. First, what to eat next year and who will provide it? As there is not going to be harvest this year, these questions need immediate attention. Next is where to get seeds to sow if they survive? If these two questions have not been paid attention to, or if there is no satisfactory answer for these questions, there is not going to be a ray of hope for our people, mautam victims. If some one has doubt on my writing and take it as a mere exaggeration he can confirm with the candid photo snaps of the MHJU tour team and also the COMFA live photo clips.
At this point, let me have a look back on how the State government and our representatives have no plan and preparation for this eventuality. At the outset, it was the Zomi Planning and Development Agency (ZEPADA) which raised its voice to the need for combating mautam. It even unearthed as to how the PDS items meant for the district have been hijacked, of course from Sangaiprou Godown, Imphal. Some thing came out of it. But the PDS items which reached the district have been far from satisfactory. What is worse is that most of the PDS items have been sold out at Churachandpur town (sic village) itself. It did not reached the targeted masses of our interior villages. At the same time some FPS agents used these items for minting money for their selfish ends.
Again, while writing this, how Mizoram State has taken steps to combat mautam before it becomes into reality comes to my mind. The Mizoram government had been busy for 4 to 5 years before mautam occurs. While asking special packages from the Central Government to meet this eventuality the state government on its part had tried to meet on its own too. It bought a rat tail at Rs.5/- before 5 years mautam menace. It took steps by spreading awareness programme and educating on how to cultivate alternative crops with subsidies. However, the Mizoram government could not meet the rat menace successfully with such preparations. Such has been the case; it is natural that Manipur government, having no plan at all, the victims have to suffer helplessly. It is also discernible that Manipur government has no concern for our (us) people at all.
Further, let me compare ourselves with our valley counterparts. Laishram Monika was rejected from the Indian squad of Beijing Olympics at the eleventh hour. No sooner than the news reached Manipur than the valley people burst out as one. The Sports Minister and the Chief Minister of Manipur rushed to Delhi to enquire the case and plead for her cause. This is to a great extent shameful for Manipur. We understand it. But it is the question of whether she will bring medal or not. However, on our part, the question is of life and death. But there is no one to plead for our cause. The plight of our people has been turned a deaf ear this far. Till today we hear no voice from the government and our own representatives to address the plight of our people. None care for us, even our representatives! Those who we expect to raise voice for our people remained a smug silence. Nothing is heard of them! Can we call them our representatives? Are they thinking they
represent a selected few? Time will tell.
Furthermore, the alternative food of village folk when there is no good harvests are maize, taro (whether it is correct or not- Bal in local dialect, Pan in Manipuri) and hakai (a type of wild root fruits but deep to dig out). Maize and taro too fell the victim of rats. The only alternative left is hakai if sufficient rice has not been supplied. They may not die of starvation but out of malnutrition. At the same time, to let our people take to hakai at this advanced age will be very shameful. We cannot bear it. Of late an organization called Committee on Mautam Famine Aid (COMFA) came into being and urged to combat mautam on our own. This may sound good but may be easier said than done. Therefore, it is high-time to take steps cautiously. What sounds good may not be put into practice. So, the only alternative step left for us is to pressurize the government and our representatives. If heeded we gain, if ignored there are many steps to be taken.
Remember, the Mizo National Front underground movement was the off-shot of Mautam itself. What is needed most at this juncture is to raise our voice in unison, let us be one, let us show our unity to the Manipur government. If we fail to unite in the face of this mautam calamity, what can we expect worse thing to unite us? Complete annihilation? To remain a despised ones? Assimilated tribes? To accept the chain of slavery even for the coming generation’s history?
The answer is yours and mine. To me, the answer is : to plead, to agitate, to resort to whatever means the Indian Democracy allow us, and if not paid heeded to, even beyond the Indian Constitution. On saying this, I don’t mean to wage war against the government of India. Far from it, India will not allow us to die of hunger. She is the emerging global super power economically and militarily, to repeat. It is our representatives (?) if they think they are so? And the State Government to bring the matter to Mother India. It is here the question lies. Therefore, if India did not come to our rescue it will not be her fault, but of the Manipur government and our representatives. If Manipur did not care for us why remain in it? Are we going to remain satisfy under this step-motherly treatment? If the L. Monika case compelled the head of the state to rushed to Delhi to plead her case why not ours? Is a single sportsperson’s rejection case graver than the life of thousands of our people? Is that uncertain Olympic medal more precious than the life of more than one lakh village people? If the Manipur government remained a deaf ear further why not wake it and compel it to address our people’s plight? If we remain still further, it will not be the fault of Manipur Government, our self-professed representatives, but ours. At the same time, if the MLAs of our interior villagers did not think they represent them let them give place to someone who will represent and care for them. I say this, because none of them except Mr. T. Hangkhanpao remain silent this far.
While I am writing this the following mobile news reached me.
1.Singngat MLA Pu Hangkhanpao has discussion on mautam famine and how to distribute rice to the victims with the designated agents on 23rd August 2008. (The first among four representarives of Churachandpur district. Hurrah!) (Zogam Thuthang)
2.’Let mautam unite Eimite (all of us) & just like Mizoram i.e. MNF to fight..? Pray that it’s a blessing in disguise’ from Lian K. Muivahland (Lenlai News)
3.’9.9 crore spend on rodent control etc. since 2006, 16.9 crore sanctioned by the Central government for relief, (but) not a single paise was spent (for the purpose) so far to help mautam in Churachandpur. Let’s all fight famine without waiting for what the government is doing. One will starve to death (and) it will be shame for you and me’- President, CDSU(Lenlai News) & (Zogam Thuthang)
4. News has come in highlighting that our brothers of interior villages has nothing to depend on as mautam has play havoc on their paddy field, completely devasted. (Lenlai News)
5. ‘The Indian Government has sanctioned Rs. 1000 crore on Bihar flood under natural calamity fund along with 1.25 lakh ton of rice. But our mautam remained unheard of to the government.’ (Zogam Thuthang).
6. ‘Near the vincinity of Sinzang village lying along Tipaimukh Road hosts of thangdal (a king of flying insect with great bad odor) covered three mounts.’ (Zogam Thuthang).
7. ‘Believe it or not: the Chief Minister of Manipur along with his council of Ministers ate up all the rodent control “rodent killer drug” amounting to Rs. 9.16 crore. On knowing this rats become furious!'(Lenlai News).
8. ‘Pu Mani Charanemai, MP promised to COMFA that he’ll contribute 150 quintals of rice; at this point the Ministers and MLAs of Churachandpur district claimed they’ll not remain a silent spectator.’ (Zogam Thuthang). GREAT, HAIL!
Taking the above news as first hand information, it is heart rending that the plight of our brothers has been paid unheeded. So, unity, and unity alone can save them from the jaws of death. For all of us, there is no time to procrastinate. Act, therefore act. Our inaction and smug silence may mean death. The urge is as quick as my heart-beat, what about you! All of us, need we have time to procrastinate? Or, act now, presently? Future is full of deceit? Rely on future or act once? The choice is ours. To me, to act, no time for procrastination. Agree with me or not? The choice is yours. Huh! To conclude I would like to call upon every one of us in the words of John F. Kenedy : “United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures….divided, there is little we can do – for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.”
‘It is an insult to God and humanity to tell religion to a hungry man.’ Swami Vivekananda.