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By L.Keivom, Inpui Columnist

I remember that day vividly. It was 1530 hrs Italian local time, February 11, 1991. I was sitting alone in my office in Milan ruminating and daydreaming. My phone rang. I picked it up. I heard a familiar voice from across the Atlantic Ocean. It was the voice of Dr. Rochunga Pudaite from Wheaton (Illinois). His is always a welcoming voice telling you good news of progress made, projects that are coming up and new ideas which descended on him. To talk to Ro and his charming wife Mawii is inspiring as their encouraging words heighten you and stir your spirit to a positive endeavor. This time, however, Ro’s clear and convincing voice sounded strange; it was hoarse and quivering as if struck by a lightning. At last, he broke the shattering news: NGURDINGLIEN HAS BEEN ASSASSINATED YESTERDAY!

My God! I couldn’t believe my ears. I was dumb-struck. Words failed me; they stuck in my throat, stunted and frozen. Numbness gripped me, paralyzing my senses. When I recovered somewhat from the shock, I rang up my wife to tell her of the unforgettable and unforgivable tragedy. I could hear her sobbing uncontrollably on the phone. Slowly, I put down the phone, looked up the ceiling vacantly and moaning, “God, what madness has befallen my people!”. God kept a stony silence perhaps aghast himself at the terrible sight of how Satan’s wand could suddenly turn my once simple and peace loving people into a bloodthirsty beasts. Alas! Cain is still alive prowling for a kill…

Ngurdinglien whom I fondly used to call him ‘Dinga’ was my good friend. I feel deeply sad to use past tense to describe him and our friendship as my wife and I are not going to easily consign him to the past tense. Though Dinga has become grammatically a past tense, he will remain with us a present tense till we ourselves are consigned to the eternal exit when our call comes. So be it.

Ngurdinglien and I hailed from Hmar Area south west of Manipur, he from Parbung, now a sub-divisional headquarters and I from Pherzawl which, having a high school since 1951, was then the only seat of learning between Mizoram’s capital Aizawl and Manipur South District’s headquarters Churachandpur, also known as Lamka which means a place where all roads meet like the proverbial Rome. So Dinga did his high schooling in my village. Though senior to me in age, he was junior to me in studies. Frankly, study was not Dinga’s cup of tea but he scraped through to college degree. He was neither blessed with eloquence nor penmanship. Dinga was different, blessed with and destined for something else.

Dinga was a born politician. Being the youngest son of a village headman, he learnt the art of leadership and public dealing from childhood. These trainings and experiences came in handy when he plunged into politics almost immediately after his graduation from D.M.College, Imphal where I also studied. Grapping the first opportunity arising from an election petition that cost the sitting MLA L. Rokung his seat in the Manipur Legislative Assembly, Dinga contested the by-election following in 1968 and easily won it against his formidable rival, a seasoned politician Haokholal Thangjom. From then onwards and till the Assembly elections in early 1990 in which undemocratic method employed by elements who speak from the barrel of a gun foiled his electoral chance, Dinga was continuously a member of the Assembly and that also mostly in ministerial capacity for more than two decades. With 22-year unbroken record behind him, Dinga perhaps had by far the longest innings in the electoral history of Manipur Legislative Assembly. Such a score is no mere feat particularly for a politician with no firm political base except the toothless ethnic party called Hmar National Union (HNU) headed by him. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to break his records.

I admired Dinga for many of his remarkable qualities: his self-confidence, his courage, his dignified personality, his large-heartedness, his political acumen and his determination. As a leader would, Dinga always stood above local wranglings, church politics, backbiting gossips and a tendency to insulate each community within its own cocoon. He mixed freely with all and sundry communities without losing his identity and made friends everywhere. He milked the rich and helped the poor.

I remember those trying days in the later part of the 60s when many villages along Mizoram-Manipur border were subjected to harassment by the MNF forces and they were in turn suspected by the Indian security forces as potential MNF collaborators. It was a crucial and dangerous moment. No leader dared to come out to rescue the helpless and suffering villagers caught between the devil and the deep sea except Dinga. He travelled fearlessly to the affected areas, secured army protection for them and also persuaded the insurgents to keep restraint. In return, he earned the trust and confidence of the people who catapulted him to become president of the Hmar National Union, a position he held unchallenged till his death.

It is very difficult to describe Dinga as a person because his outward appearance betrayed his inner self. He looked stern and intimidating but his heart was kind and soft and would melt easily even though he would never show. He would bark but wouldn’t bite unless precariously challenged. Though an introvert, he was a good mixer and a good listener too. When most politicians are smooth talkers who survive by playing on public emotions, Dinga was a poor speaker, the anti-thesis of Shakespeare’s Mark Antony. Dinga was not the kind of politician who befuddled and mesmerized the public by juicy campaign promises. Yet he was a very successful politician. Again, most politicians are known to be hypocrites but Dinga was not. For example, the most fashionable dress in the Christian society is to don the garb of ‘piengtharna’ a born-again status which is a sure ticket to gain instant social acceptability and respectability. Dinga shunned such outrageous acting and was never shy of living according to the dictates of his conscience.

Dinga was very dear to us. Whenever we came home on holiday from abroad, the first thing we used to do on arrival in Imphal was to call on him before we even visited our close relatives. We always looked forward, as he too did, to our re-union. Whenever I was in Delhi, he used to fly down many a time to be with me. He came all the way to Wellington (New Zealand) to see us. We shared many moments of joy together, as also secrets. With Dinga ruling the roost in Imphal, home-coming was always more inviting and comforting.

I have yet to see from my community in Manipur a politician who has come up nearer to Dinga’s stature. Dinga walked tall maintaining throughout an elephantine gait and would not allow himself to be distracted by the mewing of cats and barking of dogs from his journey up the political ladder. He was confident that he knew his tortuous and winding path better than roadside observers whose opinions he thought were far too detached from the political culture and reality obtaining in Manipur. For this reason, he was misunderstood in some circle of his own community; they pointed accusing finger at him for the many ills that visited the community during his term. History will judge who is right and who is in the wrong. But will the warped minds who killed the hen that laid golden eggs for them will ever realize the gravity of their misdeeds? Will Cain who murdered his brother escape unpunished?

Good bye, my friend Ngurdinglien. You fought a good fight and crowned with a martyr’s death. Now that you are freed from the shackle of life, rest in eternal peace. Pray for those who are consumed by hatred and violence; pray for their lost souls and for the bereaved and impoverished community you loved and served all your adult existence. Goodbye, my friend, goodbye… (May 25, 1991 Milan, Italy)

Note: While searching for some old information, I dug out some old files that contained many articles I wrote while in Milan, some of which I thought had already lost. The above article is one of them. LK (August 5, 2011 Delhi)

Post a Comment

  1. Sorry to see him go. However i strongly doubt his commitment to the Hmar comunity for various reasons which i will mention points.
    1. If he was in 22 years minister what didi he do for Hmar people?
    2. Was he not the one who divided the Hmar people for political gains? saikot, thanlon and tipaimukh so that he could get elected again and again
    3. Why did he turn against his own people who were fighting for a homeland?

    I respect the departed soul yet I cannot love him for his selfish deeds. It is no use trying to make hero out from not a hero.

  2. L.Keivom in hnam a hmangainaw lem a ni? Milien le milal inchawimawituo a thaw a ni maw le. Ka hrietthiem thei lul nawh.

  3. Pu Keivom hi mi taphawt a please tum vawng nisien a hawi... Nuhmei jail a damsung intang ngam kha ani le....Huiha.....!!


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