NEW DELHI, India — Kachin, known locally in India as Singpho, celebrated the 28th annual Manau dance festival in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh this week from February 12th to 16th. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki attended the festivities along with thousands of local people and guests from Burma, China and Thailand.
“34 guests from Jinghpaw Buga (Kachin State-Burma) and 6 from Thailand participated,” said Zahkang Zau Ing, chairman of the local reception committee.
Five Arunachal Pradesh state cabinet ministers and two ministers from the neighboring state of Assam joined newly elected Chief Minister Tuki in attending the event, Zau Ing added.
This year's festival was held at Namgo model village in Lohit District. Singpho in India mostly live in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam states.
The Manau dance festival is celebrated annually by Kachin people in India, China and in Burma's Kachin State. This year however Manua festivities were significantly curtailed in Kachin state due to the ongoing conflict between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese army.
Last month the usual Manau dance activities held in the Kachin state capital were replaced with an angry speech delivered by Kachin State chief minister Lajawn Ngan Seng. During his 20-minute diatribe Lajawn Ngan Seng repeatedly blamed the KIO for preventing peace in the state. Most Kachin people however do not share Lajawn Ngan Seng's views that the KIO is to blame for the end of a 17-year ceasefire.
Aid and church groups estimate that more than more than 60,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since fighting began last June. Though some have fled to government controlled areas, the majority of the refugees are thought to have taken shelter in temporary camps located inside KIO territory or in China.
Burma's government has so far banned international aid agencies from entering KIO territory to help these refugees. A team from the UN was however able to visit refugees at the KIO's Laiza headquarters nearly two months ago however Burma's government has not allowed a promised follow up visit to happen.