Sudden Death of Avihu Singsit Followed By Promised Return of Missing BMC Records
(November 19) The mystery of the missing records of the B’nei Menashe Council, heightened by the sudden death of outgoing BMC chairman Avihu Singsit on November 16, appears to have been solved. The records have turned out to be in the possession of the BMC’s outgoing secretary Seimang Yitzhak Haokip. Seimang, who at first denied having them, has now promised to make them available by Sunday, November 22.
How long he has had the missing documents, which include the BMC’s registration papers and all written accounts of its activities over the years, is unclear. They were gone from the BMC office in the Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur when the Council’s newly elected officials took possession of it earlier this week. At a transitional meeting on November 15 with Avihu Singsit, the BMC’s outgoing chairman, they were told by him that the records were being held by Meital Singson, Manipur coordinator of Shavei Israel. But Avihu, a diabetic who was not in good health, died suddenly the next day, and Meital then issued a written denial of having the records and told the new BMC officials that they were with Seimang Haokip.
The meeting with Avihu Singsit, which had been scheduled to take place at Beit Shalom, was transferred to his nearby home because he was feeling poorly. Singsit was chosen as a Shavei Israel candidate for the post of BMC chairman in 2015. He did not run for re-election in the balloting held earlier this month, the first BMC vote in five years, in which Shavei-backed candidate Shlomo Kipgen was defeated in his bid for the organization’s chairmanship by independent Lalam Hangshing. At the meeting at Singsit’s home, our Newsletter has been told, Avihu congratulated Hangshing, kissed him on both cheeks, and offered his blessings for a successful tenure in office. He died the next day.
Shavei Israel did not take its electoral loss as graciously. Having unsuccessfully sought to prevent the elections from taking place, it subsequently attempted to overturn their results and render them null and void. In a letter sent to the Election Committee on November 11, a week after the ballots were cast, losing candidate Kipgen called for their invalidation on the grounds that several B’nei Menashe congregations took part in the vote that should not have been allowed to; that other congregations that should have been included were not; and that Election Convener Aharon Vaiphei was “arbitrarily” dismissed by the Election Committee before the vote took place.
These charges were unfounded. The congregations of Saikul, Peijang, Petach Tikva, and Phalbung that participated in the vote after a floor challenge to them was defeated had been expelled from the B’nei Menashe community by Shavei for defying its dictates; the congregations of Taipul, Charonching, and Lunjaijing, which Kipgen’s letter charged were excluded, were never part of the community to begin with. As for Aharon Vaiphei, a Shavei sympathizer, his “arbitrary” dismissal took place after he had refused several times to convene the Election Committee in an attempt to delay or ward off the vote.
The removal of the BMCs records from its office was another such maneuver. Without its registration papers, the Council would lack legal status and have difficulty operating. Moreover without written accounts of the BMC’s past activities under the domination of Shavei Israel, there would no way of documenting how it had been reduced by Shavei to rubber stamp status. If Avihu Singsit’s last words are to be believed, the records were taken either before or after the elections by Meital Singson, who passed them on to Seimang Haokip when an accusing finger was pointed at her.
Both Singson and Haokip are slated to leave for Israel as part of the contingent of 140 B’nei Menashe from Manipur who have been chosen by Shavei Israel to make Aliyah next month, and the legal threat of a restraining order to prevent their departure may have swayed them to disclose the whereabouts of the records. In a late development, at a meeting held today, November 19, with Lalam Hangshing and other newly elected BMC officials, Haokip reversed himself and admitted to having the documents , which he said he would produce shortly. It will soon be known if he does.