Seminar Concept Note

Three-Day International Seminar on

MOVEMENTS IN RECENT PAST AND PRESENT NORTHEAST INDIA WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MANIPUR

27-29 November 2015

 Orgd. by

Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University

 Sponsored by

Indian Council of the Social science Research, N. Delhi

Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University

The region of Northeast India (NEI) is formed originally by seven states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur, but Sikkim has recently been added as its eighth state. The region is characterized by a pronounced ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity. The ethnic heterogeneity of the region unfolds a complexity based on distinctive historical experiences. Movements witnessed in its recent past as well as in contemporary times could be categorized as reformist, reactionary, radical and revolutionary. Movement basing on primordial mobilization and ethnic nationalism had resulted to the dismemberment of Assam. Nagaland, Mizoram, and the Meghalaya were formed by ceding out territories from Assam to pacify the secessionist movement, and as a response to the movement by the hill tribes inhabiting Khasi, Garo and Jaintia Hills against the chauvinistic Assam State language policy. Smaller ethnic groups like Boro, Karbi and Dimasa, etc. also have aspirations for their own ‘Homelands’. There had also been movement against illegal immigration in almost all the states of the Northeast.

Zooming in to Manipur, the state can aptly be called ‘Miniature India’ considering the substantive similarities in terms of multiplicity in ethnic composition and demographic variations in the state with the kind of equation mainland India has with the rest of the country. Manipur came under British colonial domination in 1891. In colonial Manipur, the ‘Nupi Lan’ of 1904 (which translates as ‘Women’s War’), the Kuki Rebellion (1917-1920), the Kabui Rebellion (1927-1932) and the Second Nupi Lan (1939-1940) were some of the movements which created a sense of socio-political consciousness. Besides these, there were also socio-political reforms movements during the colonial period. Onwards from the First Women’s War of 1904, Manipur witnessed movement in some form or the other every decade. Subsequent to the leaving of the Indian subcontinent by the British in 1947, Manipur set into motion a historic tryst with democratic governance when, much before the first general election to be held in India in 1952, elections on the basis of universal adult franchise for the 53 member assembly was held in the year 1948 for the first time in the history of Indian subcontinent. However, this democratic experiment was short lived as the ‘Merger Agreement’ to India abruptly sabotaged it. At a time when India had just become independent after long British colonial rule, there were only three principalities in the Northeast, viz. Assam, Tripura and Manipur. The latter two states had still to join the Indian Union even as late as 1949. But although, the two were still to sign a ‘Merger Agreement’ with India, their kings had earlier signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’, agreeing that they would join the Indian Union, indicating spiritually they were already very close to the idea of India. The then Home Minister of India, Sadar Patel, on his frantic campaign to merge all the princely states with the Indian Union kept the King of Manipur, Maharaja Bodhchandra during one of his visits to Shillong, in September 1949 under ‘house arrest’ and made to sign the Merger Agreement under contentious circumstances. Consequent upon signing the Merger Agreement, Manipur became a part of India on 15 October 1949, the democratically elected Government in Manipur was unceremoniously abolished and its political status downgraded to a ‘Part C State in India’ under a Chief Commissioner where citizens had no democratic space.

Manipur ever since its merger to India have experienced sustained democratic and peaceful movement for restoration of full-fledged assembly and fully responsible government. However, Manipur people’s aspiration for higher political status continued to get partial fulfillment only in piecemeal. Whereas, in the case of Naga hills in Assam, with the violent armed movement for Naga independence gaining ground, Nagaland was created out of the Naga Hills in Assam as a 16th full-fledged state of India in 1963. And many educated Manipuris of those contemporary times feel that it was done so to pacify the agitating armed Nagas. This had set the precedence that ‘violence pays’. It is no wonder that in the late sixties of the twentieth century, Manipur had witnessed the sprouting of armed self determination movements. Manipur, then, was granted statehood on 21 January 1972 making it the 20th state of India. Just a short spell after statehood, insurgency movement started gaining ground and the whole of Manipur was declared as ‘disturbed area’ and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was imposed. The cycle of violence that followed led to the rampant human rights violation and abuses by both the state and the non state actors. This has given rise to the birth of many civil society organizations thereby engendering civil rights movement in the state. Again in the fag end of the 1970s and beginning of the eighties, the swarming in of illegal immigrants had casted a demographic slur in the entire region of NEI to the extent of perceived threats that the natives in the region would soon be marginalized. At such milieu, Anti Foreign National Movement started off from Assam in 1979 was also replicated in Manipur.

Manipur, in its soil, in the last decade of the passing twentieth century witnessed violent ethnic clashes. At such anxious times, the movement launched by a coalition of civil society organizations for the holistic improvement of inter-community relationships amongst the people of Manipur promises some hope. In the interim, ethnic ideology movements based on parochial considerations of community, language, exclusive homeland, etc. which could potentially create division and mistrust in multi-ethnic situation have also found its protagonists among some sections in every community. Against the backdrop of a perceptive threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur on account of the Govt. of India entering into a ceasefire agreement with a faction of the Naga rebel group which have come into force in 1997, the state had witnessed a mass movement for protecting her territorial integrity which later grew in scale and intensity as having no parallels in its history. Alongside, there was also an over ground movement guided by the agenda of expansionist and exclusivist ethnic homeland politics and vice versa. In addition to all these movements so far mentioned, the Meetei religious revivalist movement started from across the border in 1930 found its ready enthusiasts in Manipur and its legacy still enduringly continues till this day.

Against such backdrop, the proposed Three-Day Seminar intends to address the following themes:

Theme 1 Anti Colonial Movement; Socio-Religious Reform Movement; Diaspora Movement
Theme 2 Statehood Movement; Anti-Foreign National Movement; Human Rights Movement; Movement for Territorial Integrity
Theme 3 Movement against alcoholism and substance abuse; Movement based on Identity, Language, Region and Cultural Renaissance.
Theme 4 Insurgency Movements for secession/autonomy/ethnic homeland; Civil Society Movements for Conflict Resolution/ Peaceful Co-existence and harmony

Aheibam Koireng Singh

Seminar Coordinator

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