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The hill people of Manipur,
namely Naga, Kuki and Zomi,
live in an area comprising roughly a ninth of Manipur state, and account for about 40% of the population. Driven by a majority, non-tribal Meitei, the plains account for 40 seats in Manipur’s legislature, the hills only 20 seats. The hill districts are underdeveloped compared with Imphal valley. Churachandpur, a concentration of Zomi people, comprising the Kuki-Chin-Mizo group erupted in violence, after Manipur’s legislature passed the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, on 31 August 2015. The three tribal students’ bodies issued a call for closure to protest against this bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (second amendment) Bill. The bills were passed in an emergency assembly session by the Igobi government, without any debate. Police and Politicians were attacked. On 31 August 2015 and 01 September 2015, around ten people, mostly Kukis in Churachandpur district, were killed in clashes and police firing. The Manipur People Bill seeks to regulate the entry, stay and work for outsiders, similar to Inner Line Permit (ILP) systems operational in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Concern arose over fears that such legislation would lead to unsetting tribal folk in Manipur’s hill districts and encroachment of the hills by non-tribal Meitei of the plains.
Print publication in India has been allowed a wide degree of freedom of expression in consonance with the constitutional provisions. Broadcast channels have not been given the same leeway, as in addition to the general laws they are also governed by the broadcast code that regulates content. The licensing of the broadcast spectrum, which is a public resource, gives the government the authority to lay down additional restrictions. On 08 August 2015, show cause notices were issued to three television channels by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, for their coverage of the Yakub Memon issue (allegedly involved in the March 1993 Mumbai blasts), and events in the run-up to his execution. The notices were issued to NDTV, 24×7, ABP News and Aaj Tak for alleged defamation and aspersions cast by them against the integrity of the President and the judiciary. On the broadcast medium, there was only critical discussion by individuals of the judgement dismissing the mercy petition. Criticism is normal in the public discourse and is an integral part of the freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 19.1(a) of India’s constitution. The notices issued under the section of the programme code of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, have clauses that are too broad, and that could be misused, as in the present cases.
China’s Bubble Burst
Since the second fortnight of July 2015, the Shanghai Stock Exchange fell by 8.5%, its worst drop in seven years, and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange by 7.6%, despite the Chinese government’s intervention. The rapidly inflating bubble that drove share prices to dizzying heights had burst. Two-thirds of all companies listed on the Chinese mainland or about 1800 stocks, lost 10% of their value—the maximum daily limit. They were suspended. After languishing for the past four years, these two Chinese Stock markets took off in 2014. The Shanghai Exchange had shot up some 135%, and the Shenzen Exchange had gone even higher at 150%, in less than a year. The Chinese Stocks were climbing even higher, while the Chinese economy was cooling. Private investors included tens of millions of ordinary workers, farmers, housewives and pensioners. There was a disparity in prices between A-shares, which can only be purchased by investors inside China, and stakes in the same companies available to foreign investors, through the Hong Kong Exchange, known as H-shares.
The Marathon Monks live in the mountains around Kyoto (Japan). Legend claims that the monks of Kyoto run 1000 marathons in 1000 days, in their quest to reach enlightenment. The successful are revered as human Buddhas or living saints. Very few monks embark on the 1000-day challenge, or ‘Kaihogyo’, and rarely one completes it. Only 46 men have managed it, in the last 130 years. There are some recreation non-spiritual runners, about the path to spiritual well being, who are helped by private temples in northern Kyoto. Monks run in straw sandals, and generally their feet remain smooth and clean. As part of their quest, the monks enter a darkened room in an enroute temple, where they spend nine days without food, water or sleep. The body is brought as close as possible to death. The monks are given the title of Daigyoman Ajari, or Saintly Master of the Highest Practice, once they complete the challenge. In imperial Japan, such monks were granted a special place at court, and were the only people allowed to wear shoes, in the presence of the emperor. In the present day, television cameras transmit the final stages of the mountain journey live to the Japanese nation, and the mara-thoning monks become celebrities.
The idea behind the constant marathon movement is to exhaust the mind, the body, everything until nothing is left. Monks believe in the vast consciousness that lies below the surface of human lives, and a sense of oneness with the universe. A lot of secrecy surrounds the marathon monks, and many monks in Imperial Japan have killed themselves after quitting. The 1000-day marathon is a type of meditation through movement. Sport is often seen in Japan, as away towards self-fulfilment.
Religion in Cuba
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba’s communist government became less hostile to religion. At least 60% of Cubans call themselves Catholics, though far fewer are regular churchgoers. After a period of suppression, the Santeria religion is making a comeback. Santeria is a blending of the Yoruba religion, of the Yoruba slaves who came to Cuba from Nigeria, from the early 18th century. It acknowledges 40 ‘orishas’, or deities, with the Catholicism of the Spanish colonisers. The religion mixes spirituality, animal sacrifice, the beat of Congo drums and Salsa music and dance.
Vol. 48, No. 13, Oct 4 - 10, 2015