Although heated exchange of words continued unabated on social media platforms, no untoward incidents were reported at the time of filing this report.
Amidst the tension over issues surrounding Mount Koubru, hundreds of devotees scaled the 2562 meter high mountain on Wednesday.
Manipur police and paramilitary personnel dotted along the National Highway 37 since early morning. Although heated exchange of words continued unabated on social media platforms, no untoward incidents were reported at the time of filing this report.
Volunteers of Umang Lai Kanba Apunba Lup (UKAL) and Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) distributed water bottles, snacks and tree saplings, to plant atop the mountain, to the devotees at the two entry points.
According to Manipuri mythology, Mt Koubru serves as an abode of God Lainingthou Koubru and Goddess Kounu since ancient times. Several communities of the state regard the mountain as one of the most sacred places in the state.
Every year, many climb the mountain during spring and winter and offer prayers at the peak. It has been a sacred ritual since time immemorial.
However, this year, many felt their ritual was being threatened. It started when the Committee on Protection and Preservation of Mt Koubru (COPPK) on April 11, had announced “immediate closure” of all entry points to Koubru against the continuing of the survey works by the Manipur Government, despite its objection.
The decision was taken in a meeting held at Saitu Village, Saitu Gamphazol Sub Division, participated by members of Sadar Hills Chiefs’ Association, Kuki Inpi and other civil bodies of Kangpokpi district – Mt Koubru is located in the district.
Consequently, several CSOs voiced their objections and there was a palpable condemnation of the decision. They appealed to the COPPK to reconsider the decision and “let sense prevail”. The CSOs also appealed for calm and urged the government to settle the matter before it gets out of hand.
The COPPK decision also drew flak from many quarters on social media platforms. Some even suggested that mobile internet should be banned for a few days to avoid any untoward incidents.
On April 14, the COPPK clarified that it did not mention restrictions on pilgrims with religious purpose and not a single pilgrim has been denied entry to date. The restriction was imposed only to the survey team and any agency or department accompanying the survey team for security purpose or whatsoever, it had added.
Meanwhile, CSOs like UKAL and KKL urged the public to join the annual ritual of scaling Mt Koubru en masse.
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh late on Tuesday made an appeal to the public not to go en masse to scale Mt Koubru on Wednesday, but to perform the annual ritual as usual to worship Lainingthou Koubru.
The state government represented by Water Resources and YAS minister Letpao Haokip and Forest and Environment minister Awangbou Newmai had a lengthy meeting with representatives of COPPK to resolve the Mt Koubru impasse on Tuesday and an agreement was eventually signed.
The agreement was made based on four points including “no restrictions of pilgrimages or worshippers to Mt. Koubru as it was practiced since time immemorial”.
During the 12th session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly in February 2021, CM Biren had also said that the issue surrounding religious places of any community is a very sensitive issue. He said that the declaration of 15 sites as protected areas is under process and that objection calls for Koubru and Thanjing will end by February end. He said that Koubru falls under the Reserved Forest area and belongs to the Forest Department.
Meanwhile, unlike past years, not everyone came to scale the mountain and spend some days atop it – which is usually the convention. Interestingly on Wednesday some, even children came and climbed some metres, offered prayers, and returned. When asked, one of them said that they came to “save Koubru”.