As Manipuri workers return home from Goa, what does the future hold for Baby Emmanuel Quarentino?


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been wearing a leirum phee, a traditional Manipuri scarf, in place of a face mask. The leirum phee has been produced in Manipur since the ninth or tenth century and was mandatory during the wedding ceremonies of the Metei community. Did Modi want to show that the state has a special place in his heart? The problem is that Manipuris are up in arms because a textile mill in Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh is mass producing the Metei pattern and selling it as the Modi gamsha.

The idea that cultural artifacts can be appropriated to make up a national culture belies the fact that people in each part of India experience citizenship very differently. In Manipur, the thousands of young men and women who have been going down towns and cities of India in search of work may have begun to feel a sense of being Indian. Despite innumerable difficulties, they have adjusted to different cultures across the country even though they dreamt of returning home one day.

I do not think anyone imagined that they would be returning so soon; put in Shramik trains, traveling without food or water. No one had in their worst nightmare…

Read more