After news reports of Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh mass-producing the ‘gamcha mask’ sported by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Handloom and Textiles department of Manipur — where the gamcha is a traditional garment – is up in arms.
The department has sought the intervention of the Union Ministry of Textiles, to take necessary steps to ‘immediately stop the production of gamchha face mask in UP’, citing “emotional discontentment” amongst the public, including weavers, in Manipur.
K Lamlee Kamei, Director of the Handloom and Textiles department, in the letter to the Ministry said objections have been raised from different sections of the state, including the weaver community, over the mass production of the traditional Manipur handloom cloth in UP on powerloom.
“The emotions of people of Manipur ran beyond imagination,” said the director, in the letter addressed to the development commissioner of the Ministry.
Civil bodies of Manipur, like the ACOAM-Lup, Kangleipak, AMESCO and HERICOUN, among others, had in a joint statement lambasted the department of Handloom and other handloom clusters over their ‘long negligence of the value of the traditional muffler’.
The civil bodies stated that when Modi wore the ‘leirum phee’ (the gamcha), different sections spoke of the recognition of Manipur’s culture by the PM. But the department concerned never thought of protecting it, and now a textile unit in Barabanki was mass-producing it as ‘Modi Gamsha’.
The directorate of handloom and textiles, Manipur, has convened a meeting on Monday to discuss \the prevailing situation and the registration of ‘leirum phee’ under Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
It claimed that the ‘legyan’ (muffler) sported by Modi was designed from a traditional cloth, ‘leirum phee’, of Manipur.
In the letter to the Union ministry, the textile department said the traditional ‘leirum phee’ was first produced in the 9-10 century without a flower design, and with flower design during the reign of Manipur king Loyumba in 1074-1112 AD.
The cloth was woven by the Shachilan clan at that time, purely on handloom and used mandatorily during marriage ceremonies of the Meitei in Manipur, said the director.
The letter further claimed that the production of the ‘lengyan’ was started in 2004 following a joint meeting of the sub-committee in September.
Accordingly, the ‘lengyan’ with ‘leirum design’ was officially used in the 1st India ASEAN Motor Car rally (November 22 to December 6, 2004) and became the symbol of Manipur on every occasion, it said.
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