Mapping India’s Northeast WORKING - ETH Z nbsp;· Council of Nagaland ... Vaiphei, Kuki, Maring, Nepali, and Manipuri ... State of the States: Mapping India’s Northeast

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  • East-West CenterWashingtonW

    ORKINGPAPERS

    No. 12, November 2008

    StateoftheStates:MappingIndiasNortheast

    BhagatOinam

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    EastWestCenterWashingtonWorkingPapers arenonreviewedanduneditedprepublicationsreportingonresearchinprogress.TheseworkingpapersarealsoavailableinPDFformatontheEastWestCenterWashingtonswebsitePublicationspageatwww.eastwestcenterwashington.org/publications.AdditionalpapercopiescanbeobtainedbycontactingthetheEastWestCenterWashingtonoffice.ThepriceforEWCWWorkingPapersis$3.00eachpluspostage.

    BhagatOinamisanAssociateProfessorattheCenterforPhilosophy,JawaharlalNehruUniversity,India.

    StateoftheStates:MappingIndiasNortheastBhagatOinam

    No. 12, November 2008

    EastWestCenterWashingtonWorkingPapersThisWorkingPaperisaproductoftheEastWestCenterProjectonInternalConflictsandStateBuildingChallengesinAsia.Seepages4155fordetails.

  • StateoftheStates:MappingIndiasNortheast

    On June18,2001,ahugemassagitation tookplace in the state of Manipur against theextension of ceasefire between theGovernment of India (GoI) and the IsaakMuivah faction of the National SocialistCouncil of Nagaland (NSCNIM) to all theNaga inhabited areas in the region. Theagitationwas triggeredbya subclause in theagreement which read that the ceasefirebetween the twopartieswould no longer beconfined to the stateofNagalandbutwouldbe extended without territorial limits. Thismeant that the ceasefire between the twopartieswould operate in theNaga inhabitedareas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, andManipur.Nagainsurgentgroups,civilsocietyorganizations, and the political leadership(Nagaland State Assembly) have beendemanding a merger of Naga inhabitedareas of these three states into a GreaterNagaland. Greater Nagaland also aims atmerging the Naga inhabited northwesternpart ofMyanmar into its projected politicalboundary. Within the Indian territory, the

    state of Manipur is likely to be the worstaffected.Hence,whilealotofdisenchantmentechoed from the states of Assam andArunachal Pradesh, the state of Manipurexperienced the largest amount of protestinterspersedwithviolence. In spiteofa statecurfew, theagitationspread from the ImphalEast and Imphal West districts, to theBishenpur and Thoubaldistricts, encompassingtheentirevalleyofManipur.Theprotestsstarted on June 15, one day after theagreementwassigned,andintensifiedonJune18whenthirteenagitatorslosttheirlivesafterbeingfiredbytheCentralReservePoliceForce(CRPF) personnel near the Chief MinistersbungalowtodisperseamobthatattackedtheChief Ministers residence. The governorsbungalowwasalso targeted ina failedeffort.Several state buildings and governmentpropertieswere torchedand turned toashes.Among these were the State LegislativeAssemblyandofficesofsomepoliticalparties.More than 20 quarters of Members ofLegislativeAssembly(MLAs)andMembersof

  • Bhagat Oinam

    Parliament (MPs) were also destroyed. TwoMLAs suffered severe burn injuries. TheSpeaker of the State Assembly, DhnanjoySingh, was beaten up and garlanded withshoes.EffigiesofnotonlytheCentralpoliticalleaders were burnt but the Indian flag wasburntandtrampled.Initsplace,asevencolorflagrepresentingManipurwashoisted.

    In the next few days, different ethnicgroups like Rongmei Naga, Hmar, Paite,Vaiphei,Kuki,Maring,Nepali,andManipuriMuslim, etc. joined the protest. LiangmeiNaga Students Union, however, supportedtheceasefireextension.TherewerealsootherNaga groups that supported the ceasefire.These supporters threatened many Nagabodies who joined the protests. By June 26,Manipuris in Assam and Tripura joined theprotests and showed solidarity.Manipuris inBangladesh started rallies at Sylhet.Nonresident Manipuris in the UnitedKingdom (UK) joined theprotestandcreatedSave Manipur Association on July 2 inLondon.Other ethnic groups in other statessuch as Dimasha in Hafflong joined theprotest.NSCNKdeclared thatNSCNIMdidnot have the peoplesmandate.On June 29,the All Assam Students Union (AASU)threatenedtointensifytheprotestsagainsttheextension of the ceasefire. Eminentpersonalities in the fields of sports, art andculture declared their intention to return thenational awards. The wellknown theatrepersonality, Ratan Thiyam, returned hisPadmaShreeaward to theGoI.UnionHomeMinister of State, I.D. Swami, arrived inManipuronJuly5andbeganconsultationsontheterritorial issuewithpoliticalparties,civilsociety groups, and ethnic communityrepresentatives. With the situation deteriorating I.D. Swami was airlifted from theGovernors bungalow to the Imphal airportandfinallytoNewDelhi.RSSalsopledgedtoprotect the territorial integrity of Manipur.MPLF, the joined body of three insurgentorganizations PLA, UNLF, and PREEPAK(which is of course nonfunctional today) onJuly 24 reaffirmed its resolve to continue

    liberationstruggleagainsttheIndianstateandprotect the territorial integrityofManipur. Inthe state ofManipur attacks on localMLAsandpoliticalofficescontinued.Finally,onJuly27 theGoIunilaterally rolled back theTruceExtension leading to normalcy of life amidstprotest from NSCNIM and several Nagaorganizations.

    ThiseventisalandmarkinthehistoryofNortheast India, highlighting the complexnature of the region, and the politicaldynamics that involves the communities,statesandalsotheIndianstate.TheburningofIndian flag and hoisting of the Manipurisevencolor flag was seen as resurrection ofManipursoldnationalpride.Itwasalsoseenby many as handiwork of some insurgentgroupsenteringthemassagitationindisguise.But little did this section of agitators realizethat the seven colors only represent sevenclans of themajorityMeitei community andthus could not be expected to represent theethnicallydiversepeopleofManipur.Further,therewasno earlier recordof theuseof thisflag during the preceding British colonialperiod. Itcertainlyseems itwasan inventionby some of theMeiteinationalists. Itwas anattempttoreinventapastanoldheritageofthe kingdom ofManipurdestroyed by theBritishbuttheactofdestructioncontinuedbythe Indian state.WhileManipur has a longrecordedhistoryasasovereignkingdom, thememory of this past is marked by symbolsand narratives that are very much present.Thereisnothinguniqueaboutthisenterprise;itonlyshowshowhistory(ofacommunity)iswritten(Ricoeur1994:127).CreationofanewBharat in the India during the later part ofBritishcolonialrule isawellknownphase inIndian historiography. Similarly, creation ofthesevencolorflagisonesuchinvention.Butwhat is of immediate importance is that thisinvention is the outcome of a sentiment ofanger from the sense of the loss of the past,and was largely witnessed among manysectionsoftheprotestorsofManipur.TheGoIwasseenasavillainasthesourceofall themenace. It is this sentiment thatwas shaped

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  • State of the States: Mapping Indias Northeast

    intoapoliticallystructuredforminthevoicesoftheinsurgentorganizationsintheregion.IfonelooksathowtheinsurgencystartedinthestatesofNagaland,ManipurorAssam, eventhoughtheemergenceofthephenomenamayvaryfromonesocialdynamictoanother,onestill invariably finds an undercurrent ofdefianceofalingeringcolonialforce.There isalso a lurking belief that by freeing oneselffromthiscolonialyoke,onecanrecoveroneslostpast.Thisdefianceand insurgence isamajor crisis that the region is currently facedwith.ThetargetinvariablyistheIndianstate.Even the regional states and their governments are seen as an extensionof the Indianstate.Theviolentprotests of June 18, largelytargeted against Manipurs political leadership, clearly show this perception. Theexpectationfromthelocalpoliticianswasthatthey, being the leaders of the regional state,must stand up to the Union government ininterest of the people.The government hadfailedthepeople.Whytheyfailedisadifficultquestion, one beyond the comprehension ofthelocalpoliticians.

    Another major highlight is the internaltensionamongdifferentethnicgroups,whichbecameovertlymanifested.WhilemostoftheNaga civil societyorganizationshailing fromthehilldistrictswere in favorof theceasefireextension, many in the valley and theadjoining areas opted to join the majorityMeitei in protesting against the ceasefireextension. The event not only sharpened thehillsvalley divide but also highlightedinternal dynamics generated by the logic ofsurvival and coexistence (Oinam 2002). Thesmallerethnicgroups(Nagasincluded)inthevalleywerequick to join theprotests largelydue to fear that majority community, theMeitei, may see them as taking side withNSCNIM and theGoI. In fact,manyNagasfledNagaramandDewlahlandintheheartofImphal city out of fear of a possibleMeiteibacklash. However, not a single instance ofinterethnic violence was reported. Theprotests remained invariablydisciplined.Theviolencewas targeted only towards the state

    and itsmachineries. In the similar vein, civilsociet