The Problem of Periphery

A short recollection on the difficulty of locating Manipur in conflict resolution, as it survives in a suffocating and peripheral corner as one of the provinces of the Indian state

We might find countless literature on conflict zones but in most of the cases, the reference is made from the perspective of a state and hardly from that of the constituents. Let’s see the issues and implications.

Any discourse on conflict resolution in Manipur tends to produce two sides:

  1. if you are against the government and the army, then you are anti-India or you are too Manipur-centric. Some people would even ask which party we are affiliated  to or sympathise with.
  2. if you stand for the nation, then your political belief or indifference is highly questionable. In most cases, the second side belongs to ideology-challenged liberals, conformists and apolitical communities vis-à-vis contemporary Manipur.

Imphal: Centre for centre’s sake?

Each situation comes with its share of justification but with objectionable reasons. For instance, if we consider we are pro-freedom regardless of the state, we are narrow-minded, consumed with regional aspirations, and we don’t thinl beyond the state or, at least, that is how other people (read mainland India) interpret the condition.

In today’s context, the issue is viewed from the perspective of Manipur. The tragedy occurs because we just cannot do away with India. We can talk about, amongst others, Mexico, Burma, the Philippines and Syria, where the conflicts are ‘national’ in character.

However, if we have to talk about Manipur then inevitably we need to consider India, whose ‘positive’ aspects—shown by its economic growth, success stories of liberalisation and FDIs, a proactive government and the likes—are no less than alien terms in the province. Picture this. India is the largest democracy while we have a police state bogged down by heavy militarisation. The country is as well one of the leading economies in the world, while we are trapped in economical and geographical backwardness so listlessly. These are just a couple of random examples.

It follows that we have to consider India not only because it is a party to the conflict but also as a whole of the parts. This has created a sense of insignificance, and a condition like the ongoing armed conflict is merely a law-and-disorder issue that India would want people, in and beyond the country, to see it. This is no less than getting two punches simultaneously on one hand and getting doubly displaced on the other. 

Radical guerrillas believe that revolution must starts from the countryside and ends at the centre. In our case, nobody knows where the starting and ending points are or will be.

One of the origins of the present conflict arose from the merger of Manipur into India by coercion. The erstwhile kingdom had transformed from a monarchy to democracy, with its own elected representatives and a written Constitution. India, in 1949, did not even have its Constitution but by the virtue of its strength and manipulation, it annexed the independent ‘nation’ through arm-twisting methods while disregarding all sorts of international laws.       

A related post on this blog:
Minority Report: Regionalism Is a Lie
On hindsight, this is an issue of a minority group—as we take the 38 different ethnic groups in Manipur as one. The issue of identity and security has been the most vulnerable among us cutting across ethnicity. Fortunately for India, whenever there is miscommunication between any of these groups, it is the easiest task for the Indian intelligence and other related authorities to drive a wedge and so far its action plans have been quite successful.

After all, history is witness to the fact that a more powerful centre will always dictate and capitalise on the periphery in politics, economics and even in the domain of culture as we have seen from the issues of Indianisation in Manipur.

A major contention from mainland India is that India is a developing country and that there are numerous territories and people, who have no access to the most basic infrastructure needed in the 21st century. However, here is a rejoinder. A majority of them had existed as a people with a common history, culture and tradition or briefly, they share the Indian ethnicity.

Regardless of any factor, the problem is with the periphery and the inability of the body politic of the aforementioned area to occupy the central position for varying reasons. A primary reason is Manipur’s over-dependence on New Delhi. That’s understandable; however, we have an ancient wisdom to remind ourselves: it might not be our fault to slip and fall but it will definitely be ours if we do not stand up.

Ironically the matrix is illustrated in inimitable ways. With the rise of political mobilisation in the hills areas in Manipur, the Meiteis have become the irresponsible Big Brother while the Nagas—hopefully—are only a few agreements away from signing the final peace deal, if we go by official reports. Somehow, Nagaland, under the aegis of NSCN, has been able to locate itself in this political theatre. Good for them but the reality remains unchanged: we live in the periphery and a lot of conditions are set at the centre with consent or without.

We are trapped in the periphery but not as any mundane entity that can detach itself easily. For Manipur, even if an eastern international border is merely 120 kilometres away, we have to go 2,400 kilometres towards the west to air our grievances. No wonder then, all we have are internal issues that can be solved amicably but which has never been done so. Unconsciously we are also helping ourselves to remain unmoved below the centre. We should thank ourselves plus the native apologists, politically-innocent people, elected representatives and their ilk for this crisis.

We might not get the result instantly by placing ourselves at the centre. Yet it will give a fresh pair of eyes to re-look into absurd politics fashioned by the existing trends of real and imagined democracy. In the meantime the search for locating ourselves continues until then we have to survive without any sense of agency.


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