for The Telegraph on Aug. 25, 2011
Imphal, Aug. 22: Janmashtami today proved to be a welcome distraction that the blockade-choked Manipur needed — for a few hours at least it took people’s mind off their depleting larders and escalating prices.
For some, it even brought peace of mind, however short-lived.
Ibeyaima Devi, for instance, headed for Mani Mandir, Iskcon temple in Imphal, with her entire family — son, daughter-in-law and five grandchildren.
They spent an hour offering flowers and praying to Krishna but the ongoing economic crisis crept into their prayers.
“I prayed to the lord to give us strength, happiness and also bring down prices of commodities. I prayed that the present crisis should disappear,” she said.
The crisis created by the indefinite blockade imposed by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee deepened further after the United Naga Council enforced another blockade along Manipur’s supply lines.
People demanding that the Sadar Hills subdivision in Senapati be upgraded to district status imposed a blockade on July 31.
The Nagas living in the hill districts of Manipur, on the other hand, have been opposing the creation of the district without their consent.
Though the crisis loomed over the celebration, it did not stop devotees from thronging the Hanuman Thakur temple and Kalibari temple, both in Imphal city.
“I prayed that I may get the strength to face the troubled times,” K.K. Chhetry, commissioner of tourism, said.
The senior government official came with his family and spent the day attending a seminar on the Role of Science and Spirituality in Restoring Peace in the Northeast, organised at the Iskcon temple.
Though devotees still shudder to think about the bomb blast that killed six persons during a Ras Lila performance inside Iskcon temple in 2006, some still managed to “feel peace within”.
The calm was temporary though.
As soon as they walked out of the temple complex, they began thinking about their empty kitchen.
“We don’t have any gas at home. I will be buying some charcoal to cook today and tomorrow until we find a cylinder in the black market,” said Memmi Devi.
A cooking gas cylinder is being sold for more than Rs 1,000 while a litre of petrol costs Rs 110, as government began issuing fuel only at selected pumps.