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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 27 , July 1, 2023

Summer 2023 Ethnic Violence in Manipur is an All Out Attack on Shared Culture | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 1 July 2023, by Radhakanta Barik


I as a teacher had students from Manipur and friends teaching in DU and JNU, IGNOU, and Jamia have an understanding of Manipur. I have visited the state and found women merchants in the state to cater to the needs of others. Four months back I evaluated a thesis written by a woman scholar belonging to Kuki community and argued that in their community women are taking to trade and business like the Meitei community. It is a good development. Some time back as a teacher in School of Planning and Architecture took my student from Manipur to see the national football team compete in Nehru Cup in Delhi. It is interesting to note here that five players belonged to Manipur and three belonged to his village. Players belonging to both communities shared friendship and brotherhood. Ten years back the entry of RSS with the backing of state police changed the whole thing. The shared memory of both these communities was growing every day but has been disappeared in the recent attacks on Kuki and their land. Land and memory go together. Without land memory cannot be constructed. With the recent attacks on their land by the militants belonging to the Meitei community have burnt it forever? Now they suffer from mourning which has created wound in their collective memory. Individual memory suffered badly which affect the cultural memory of Kukis and a Section of the Meitei community want to cling to shared cultural memory but remembering these incidents create a scene of mourning for both communities. One can say they can come out of the grief which has created mourning for each community.

The way Manipur tragedy is getting unfolded which clearly aimed at the conflict within the tribal societies of central India. Many tribes have accepted Christianity or animism and got a threatening warning the year Stains children got killed in an open jeep by the Bajarangdal of the Sangh Parivar to teach a lesson to the followers of other faiths. This is a more organised riot against the tribals in Manipur by attacking their religion and land together. This attack on their cultural memory has resulted in large-scale violence in the state. The Kukis are living in bunkers protected by the young of their community whereas the Meitei get protection from the police. This is going to be experimented in central India soon by the Hindutva forces. Unless this gets tackled soon by the state the religious conflict in the tribal India of central India may happen soon. The opposition-ruled states need to take lessons from Manipur tragedy to keep an eye on the situation to grow in the tribal belt of central India.

Ratan Thiyam the celebrated playright staged plays in Manipuri language and dress for a wider audience. Ten years back when the National School of Drama was still an active place of learning and staging plays Thiyam used to get invited to stage the play in the theatre festival. The packed house enjoyed it. He has got a reputation on the world stage but his lone voice is not heard in Delhi power politics as the rulers are not sensitive to theatre persons or artists and dancers. One of his plays was Chakravuya a piece from Mahabharata that used to be staged here. He created magical realism which does not work before well-calculated power politics. The present rulers have invested in hatred business to get elected from Manipur. They used Kuki militants to win in the last election. They have politicized the Meitei community in the framework of Hindutva politics. They belong to the Vaishnavite school of religion which does not fit into Hinduism which believes in millions of gods and a hierarchy of castes. The RSS succeeded to teach them as the Hindus and they are supposed to destroy the symbolic signs of other cultural groups which they did by burning the Churches and they want to control the land of Kukis and other social groups. Hindutva leaders handed over a cake that they will be turned into a scheduled tribe group as they have done in Rajasthan to the Gujar community. There is a limitation imposed on this sort of politics. In such a polarised violent Manipur the lone voice of Thiyam is lost and both communities want to go to the battleground of Mahabharata to kill each other. This is the land of Mahabharata where fratricidal violence is a phenomenon. This violence is a part of the collective memory of each community and they are ready to ignore the individual memory of Thiyam to suit the experiment of Hindutva politics to win two seats for the BJP in 2024.

The way the Manipur crisis has been manufactured to aim in creating Hindurastra. They manufactured a sociological paradigm of the construction of Hindus out of the Meitai community. The RSS created a militia to attack the other religious groups and the target here aimed at the Kukis, their houses were burnt and land had been captured with the help of local police and state government. This is aimed at the other minorities to accept the subordination to the Hindutva politics otherwise they will be targeted with the help of violence. They burnt their Churches which clearly tells others that this is Hindu Rashtra where Hindus can stay not the other religious groups.

This is the experimentation going on in Uttarakhand where the Mahapanchayat is getting organised to boycott the Muslims. It seems that they have adopted a theory of encircling the mainland from the Himalayan to North East and their final battle to be fought in the centre. The Indian state must intervene to destroy their political design in the primitive stage otherwise the whole nation is going to be burnt into a religious war where there will be no hope of staying together.

Next to our village, violence erupted between two clans. Houses got burnt and one person got killed. Arson continued for days. People of the village started living with their relatives in different villages. Policemen got stationed for months. One priest who lived in the same abandoned the village and went away. He was so terrified that he could not open his mouth. Violence in Manipur is going on. Modi has abandoned the state while going abroad.

The way Manipur politics is evolving is taking the shape of ethnic conflict. In the ethnic conflict of the North East, the neutrality of the state has helped in thrashing out a solution. Here the double engine Sarkar in the state and centre is looking at the interest of one community which is a dominant community in the state of Manipur. They control wealth and jobs and political power today. The other communities have been ignored to suit the interest of Hindutva politics. This is compelling the centre not to declare an internal emergency in the state under Art 355. Already one and a half month has passed. No such thinking is going on in corridors of power in Delhi. The police in the state and the Assam Rifle regiment are behaving in a partisan manner. In such a situation the intervention of the army is pertinent to revive the trust of various ethnic groups in the behavior of the state. The present state government has lost faith in various communities. It is working in a partisan manner.

We live in a difficult time when the shared culture is under attack. People in both communities are believing the shared memory is thinning out but still exists. They are artists or Professors and army generals etc. This is high time we need to encourage the shared culture to strengthen the Manipuri identity. This identity played in the national movement. This state had the Members of Communist Party who are the products of the shared culture. Both the Congress and Communists have played a decisive role in the formation of Manipuri identity. This needs to be protected and nurtured by all of us who wish the best for Manipur.

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