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Roasting Manipur : The Context and Structural Violence

By: JN Lai (Asst. Prof, International College, the University of Suwon, S Korea)

When the mighty Himalayas leaving his snow-white height going down for the deep green of Southeast Asia, there trapped a hilly terrain with a tiny valley in the middle stressing north-south. Over the centuries, she was having changing names Meckley, Meitrapak, Kangleipak with changing boundaries enlarging up to 72,000 sq km between the Brahmaputra and the Chindwin River. She has been known as Manipur shrinking to 22,327 sq km, and been a controversial part of India since 1949. She is bigger than East Timor and smaller than Rwanda. There are about 40 ethnic peoples whose culture reflects ending tail of South Asia and beginning head of South East Asia. Showing a hybrid display in Indo-Myanmar region.
Uniqueness adorns Manipur in its own way. The multiethnic peoples, compounded problems are all sucked into this small landlocked geography. The historical memory of the socio-cultural turmoil of Hindunisation is not able to evaporate so soon and the gone days of Annexation by India is still posing an unsettling political hiccup. The present experience is becoming a staggering predicament of the past stumble.
Present BJP power perhaps condescends that the world’s longest political hunger strike happened here. The game of Polo was born here. One of the earliest universal suffrages in Asia too was practiced here. This is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the planet, the abode of the natural resources and the power house of sports in the Indian subcontinent.
For decades Manipur has been witnessing multi-faceted conflict. The silent war between Political Armed Organizations (PAO) and the Government of India (GoI), and inter-ethnic conflict among the Meetei, Naga, Kuki, non-Naga, non-Kuki, Pangal (Muslim) have brought violence and human rights noise. As a result, thousands of lives have lost, many more have been undergoing pain and trauma, and communities have been living with fear and distrust.
The violence and tension are seen in a landscape where Hinduisation drew a thick and sticky backdrop, haunted by the issues of the Controversial Manipur Merger to India, Militarization under an Extraordinary Armed Forces Legislation, and Hills-valley Dichotomy. They have imprinted their own roots in the socio-political-economic layout by displaying fractured justice, broken peace and twisted human rights. They are sources of fear and conflict for the communities in the region. They are the structural violence of Manipur that have deprived the rights of indigenous peoples in terms of safety, respect, participation, economy, identity and culture.

On 23 September 1969 when Indira Gandhi visited Imphal she said in her public speech, “You must behave like a civilized people. You must behave like people who know how to handle the affairs of their city and their state.” Her speech was criticized in December publication, 1969, The Lamyanba, for affronting peoples of Manipur. Because she ignored the real uncivilized Indians who broke her head in the previous election. In various Indians cities there had been violent clashes between students and police, and Siva Sena burnt houses, vandalized properties, she thought her Indians were civilized. Whereas Manipuris who were living harmoniously with outsiders and did not show any violent acts upon her visit to Imphal, she called uncivilized. The Lamyanba questioned - the ruthlessness of Indira Gandhi in addressing Manipur as something do not know how to handle affairs of city and state, ignoring the fact that Manipur had been an independent sovereign state for centuries before her India dismantled it suddenly.
In the following decades, leaders from the New Delhi have been singing Manipur and Manipuris as a rich heritage, rich arts and culture, peace loving peoples, with a heavy tone of need of militarization, a concern for insurgency, law and order situation. One interesting fact that contradicting the reality is the comments come out as posthumous responses from the retiring military officers. In most of the media briefings, the moment they are leaving Manipur, they opine “Military is not the solution to Manipur problem.”
One similar example is of the former Union Home Secretary to the Government of India, Gopal Krishna Pillai articulated strangely. In his talk at the Internal Security Lecture Series organised by Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), YouTube video Published on 6 Feb 2012 underlined that, thousands year old ancient kingdom of Manipur was forced to diminish to a mere Part C State of the Dominion of India overnight. In the illegal process of Merger that was carried out by the then Dominion Government of India had definitely made serious mistakes, for which he very boldly made a call for the Prime Minister or the Home Minister of India to apologise for the past mistakes that had been so dictatorially executed.
For a holistic approach to the structural violence and multiple challenges of Manipur, we should not forget the Action, Behavior and Context or ABC.  So, for example, the border pillar and other crisis are just AB not the Context C. Instead of addressing fundamental root causes, New Delhi, this time, BharatiyaJanata Party merely plays multiple repressive cards as usual. BJP does diluteand divert crucial issues of Manipur whereas state government displays the most submissive diplomatic treatmentupon them so far. Knowingly and unknowingly N. Biren has screwed up his responseto the people of Manipur and the corridors of power in Delhias well. Now he is getting the heat which some of them are really unbearable – Naga framework and border pillar conspiracy though the ongoing academic crisis and the demand for protection indigenous peoples’ land and rights are somehow manageable.

William Gurumayum

William Gurumayum, Sub-Editor of Imphal Times is a resident of Sagolband Salam Leikai. He has been with Imphal Times since beginning. He also looks after the website and application of Imphal Times. An avid adventure lover, writes mostly travelogue.

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