Date:
Imphal Free Press - Imphal Free Press
Sunday, 06 August 2017 00:00

Blood donation camp

By A Staff Reporter

IMPHAL | Aug 5

A blood donation camp was organised today at Wangkhei Puja Lampak community hall as a part of observing the 38th foundation day of Young Voluntary Organisation (YVO). The camp was organised by joining hands with Live Saver Manipur (LSM), State Blood Cell, National Health Mission (NHM) and Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS). The chief guest of the function RIMS Transfusion Medicine head and professor, Dr. A. Barindra Sharma spoke about the benefits of donating blood mostly by the young people.

The function was attended by YVO president, Hanjabam Debo Sharma as president, Ward no. 19 coperator, Y. Lukamani Devi, NHM state programme officer, L. Tomcha Khuman, LSM, advisor, K. Joychandra and Wangkhei Druga Puja Lampak Women Welfare Organisation, president, N. Dhanata as guests of honour.

Published in News
Sunday, 06 August 2017 00:00

VIP culture out, VVIP culture in

By Yaruihor Hungyo

The VIP probably was zipping his pants and tying his shoe lace or combing his hairs in the comfort of his/ her bungalow while the traffic was already brought to stand still anticipating their arrival

I set off to work with my scooter Jupiter, in the morning around 10:30, from Khuman Lampak. When I reached the Khongnang Ani Karak junction, as usual, the barricade was in place to stop vehicles from making a right round turn thereby preventing anyone from entering the Assembly Road (and the Mantripukhri Highway). I see that every day since the first day of Assembly Session. So normally, vehicles go a few distances down south and make a U-Turn between the MBC and TBCI Church where the road median barrier had an opening.

But today, there were police and traffic personnel preventing even the two wheelers from making a U-turn at that usual spot. So, cars and other vehicle further went south where there is another opening, opposite to the 2nd MR Gate. But again, there were traffic personnel shunting any crossover. All the motors that have been trying to make a U-Turn must have breathed a sigh of relief when there finally appears a free U-Turn opening opposite the Hotel Imphal Gate.

I always wonder why people had to travel a further 1 Km down South and come back thereby unnecessarily travelling 2 Km and wasting precious 10 – 15 minutes, considering the traffic congestion caused by the situation. Since my job is often time-critical, I know those few minutes could be really precious for some people. And all the while, the opposite lane - from the North AOC to the Khongnang Ani Karak, was virtually empty.

I was happy for those drivers who finally escaped from the snail paced journey down South towards North AOC. I was on a scooter, so I sneaked in between gaps and manage to reach North AOC Junction where I ran into a massive traffic jam. I waited patiently as I am already accustomed to such scene especially during the morning office-going hour.

But to my surprise, I realized, traffic from all directions have been brought to an abrupt halt. The police and the traffic personnel must have received a radio call that a VIP is en route for the Assembly Session and that the traffic be cleared so he/ she is not late for the Assembly.

I took a role of a responsible citizen and understood, the House is almost in session, they shouldn’t be late. I was really ‘cool’ patient. But, 4 – 5 minutes in, everything is still stand still, except for few vehicles trying to niche around the traffic rules and go to the front of the jam. I turned off my engine, and took out my mobile phone. I read my unread messages, and social media notifications. Still, everything still stands still.

I opened my CoC (game) and I was actually hoping the so-called VIP take some extra time to arrive so I can launch one war attack. I successfully scored 2 stars (only CoC gamers can understand this). But still there was no sign of any VIP passing by. I did my second war attack, and in the meanwhile, the VIP convoys started coming one after another. The traffic is already dead-jam-packed - till the 2nd MR Gate on the north, Minuthong on the east and PCTC oil pump in the west. I had enough time to even reply to one of my emails. After prolonged wait, the traffic finally started moving for fresh air.

The Prime Minister of India banned Red Beacon on the 1st of May 2017, with the aim of ending VIP culture. But with a ban on Red Beacon, the reality of ending VIP culture seems to have gone the other way around. Back in the days when the Red Beacon was still in place, the traffic is adjusted as and when we hear the Red Beacon siren coming. But now, they communicate in radio and hold up the whole traffic when they’re en route.

Today, I thought the VIP probably was zipping his pants and tying his shoe lace or combing his hairs in the comfort of his/ her bungalow while the traffic was already brought to stand still anticipating their arrival.

I reached my workplace 15 or so minutes late and when asked upon by my boss, I told him I had to wait for our honourable people’s representative to pass through before I could cross some traffic junctions. He node his head in understanding - he probably must have been through similar experience.

Today was just another story. There was another time when the traffic was dead-jammed from the Eastern Kangla Gate to the Babupara Junction to the Keishampat Junction waiting for the Governor to come out of her bungalow and go to wherever she was suppose to go. The traffic brought to absolute halt for more than 10-15 minutes while the governor is probably sipping the bottom half of her cup.

While waiting, one person on another Activa nearby joked – "if only the internet service in Manipur is good enough, the Governor could just sit in the comfort of Raj Bhavan and do video conference instead of coming out and harassing us like this."

I don’t think this could have happened if red beacon system still was in place. True, Red Beacons disturb the normal flow of the traffic, but without the Red Beacon, the whole traffic on the route for the VIP is brought to abrupt halt.  So I have come to a point, either, PM Modi’s initiative is an epic deception, or the supposedly enforcers of PM’s vision lack the slightest of understanding of what our honourable Prime Minister have put forth on the table. But for now, it is safe to say, gone are the days of Red Beacons and VIP Culture, it is time to embrace the VVVIP Culture.

(The writer is trained in computer engineering. He may be contacted at helloahor@gmail.com)

Published in Articles

By Dr. Th. Ranjit

Indigenous or indigenous people, according to a common definition, are those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later become dominant through occupation, settlement or other means. The term ‘indigenous’ has prevailed as a generic term for many years. In many countries, the term is synonymously used as tribes, first peoples/nations, aboriginals, ethnic groups, Adivasis, Janajati, etc. However, UN system has not adopted, so far, an official definition of ‘indigenous’, instead it has developed a modern understanding of the term based on the following.

1) Self identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.

2)  Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/ or pre-settler societies.

3)  Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources.

4)  Distinct social, economic or political systems.

5)  Form non-dominant groups of society.

6)  Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

Again, according to convention no. 169 of 1989 on Indigenous and Tribal population of ILO (International Labour Orga.), a specialist agency United Nation Organisation, it has been stated that Indigenous Population which are estimated more than 370 million people over seventy country worldwide, practicing unit traditions, retaining social and cultural, economic and political characteristics of their forefather, that are distinct from dominant societies in which they live, are permanent societies. Meetei community being indigenous of the state and practicing all traditions of their forefather, despite many are embracing Hinduism, are permanent societies i.e. Tribal society as per UNO. And as per Supreme Court, Highest of the Country, in each land mark judgement on January 5, 2011 it has been stated that Scheduled Tribes are indigenous people of the country. As a citizen of a democratic county we ought to honour the verdict of Supreme Court and that of UNO.      

Meetei is one of the principal indigenous tribes of Manipur and of N.E. India. When Meetei community returns to its original fold/tribal status by enlisting in the scheduled tribe list of the country, the land and reservation quota of the present scheduled tribes of the state will not be affected at all. Some myopic people, including the well known leaders of prominent civil organisations as well as individuals, both in the valley and hill districts of the state, who do not know much about ‘scheduled tribe’ and ‘Human migration theory’ are circulating malicious and spiteful rumours, particularly of the hill district, that the land and reservation quota of hill people (scheduled tribes) will be grabbed once Meetei community once it is included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the country/state  under Article 342(1) of the Indian Constitution.

It is unfortunate that some organisations based in valley and hill districts have been deliberately spreading venom and instigating people to counter this popular demand of the Meetei community, who have been playing big brother’s role from the beginning of history till date and still planning to play in future too. Many people, both in the valley and hill districts of the state, believe in this canard being spread by pseudo scholars, pseudo leaders, or hypocrites. In reality, the rumours are unfounded and are engineered by some who have vested interests, and some who want to throw the seeds of distrust, disunity and disharmony among the consanguineous ethnic communities, who have been living in love, understanding and harmony since time immemorial.

The very theory that the land and reservation quota of our brethren in the highlands will be grabbed by Meeteis in the low lands is out of the question. After inclusion of Meetei tribe in the ST list of the country, the state will have two separate ST reservation quotas under two different names/nomenclatures. Meetei ST will be known as Plain ST, New ST, Backward ST, Advanced ST or any other name; whereas, the present STs as Hill ST, Old ST, Backward ST, Advanced ST or any other name suitable to make distinction between the two STs.

The existence of reservation quotas within quota in a state or UT is empowered by the constitution of India under Article 16(4).In a new and pragmatic approach to quotas within quota of ST in the state, bigger STs like Tangkhul, Rongmei, Mao, Paite, Hmars, etc. may have separate quota and the smaller STs like Koireng, Kom, Monsang, Chothe, etc. in another quota, in the way Nagaland State is doing, for uniform growth and development of the indigenous communities in the state.

Under the same Article, in Assam state, Scheduled Tribes are categorised as Plain Tribes and Hill Tribes with corresponding reservation quota of 10 percent and 5 percent. Similarly, in Meghalaya state, different ethnic tribes have separate quota based on their population. Thus, Khasi and Jayantia, 40 percent, Garo, 40 percent, and others 5 percent. In Nagaland state, there are three different categories of Scheduled Tribes (i.e quotas within quota). Chang, Khiamungan, Konyak, Phom, Sangtam and Yimchunger with 2 5 percent; Chakeshang, Pochury, Zeliang and Sumis of the Tuensang, Mon, Longleng and Kiphire districts as backward tribes with 12 percent reservation quota.

The remaining ST quota goes to the remaining tribes under unreserved quota in the name of Advanced Tribes (Ao, Angami, Lotha, Sema). Thus, when indigenous Meetei community is enlisted in the scheduled tribe list, and consequently when Manipur becomes a tribal Hill State, there will be no question of grabbing the existing ST quota of the state by the Meetei community in any manner. Therefore, there should not be unnecessary apprehension about this reality guaranteed by Indian constitution by our brethren in the hills, rather they should welcome this fresh paradigm shift to take place in respect of Meetei community in particular and the indigenous people of the state in general, for a prosperous and peaceful Manipur in near future.

Regarding the fear of losing lands of our brethren in the hills in the hands of Meetei people when the latter is included in the ST list of the country in near future, people should not believe in such rumour as it is unfounded, malicious and misleading without any iota of truth. Simply it is a fuss about nothing or a figment of imagination to malign age- old and time –tested good relation among the ethnic communities in the state. When settlement in villages in the hills are under strict control and management of vigilant village chiefs in Kuki areas, and village authorities in Naga areas. Then, why there should be unnecessary apprehension in the minds of our brethren in the highlands of their lands being encroached upon or grabbed by Meetei STs?

Again, Meeteis will not turn their face towards hills, except foothills and low hills for settlement, as there is scarcity of water as compared to that of  valley districts, where water is plenty and almost perennial. In reality, Meetei community having been embraced Hinduism during the reign of King Pamheiba (1709-1748), about three hundred years ago, have the practice of taking bath on daily basis and therefore, would prefer to settle in valley areas where water is abound. Therefore, settlement of Meetei in the hill areas of the state in colonies, leikais, or villages, is far from possibility. It may be noted that Meitei do not settle even in the hills located in Imphal valley except the foot hills and low hills, let alone settlement in remote hill districts of the state. This may be because of the fact that Meetei worships mountains as abodes of sylvan gods and goddesses. The proof is that Koubru, Thangjing, Marjing, Wangbren, etc. are all located in mountains/hills of the state and people have their veneration to these deities.  Meetei, the important indigenous tribe of the state, who was nestling in the hills in the early times, do not feel to return to its old Habitat but to old Fold /Tribal Status to be with other indigenous and related 36 or more tribes in the state and live in the fertile plain areas of the valley districts playing big brother’s role and mingling with other communities, in future too.

According to the ‘theory of human migration’, movement of people from one place to another takes place on the basis of availability of better facilities for education, health care, livelihood, job, secured life, weather and climate,  transport, communication, etc, among others. In the context of Manipur, Imphal is the hub of all activities and all walks of life, and as a result people from different districts inside the state as well as outside the state settle in large numbers in colonies and villages by different communities in different parts of the valley district, as we all see today. Therefore, Meetei ,when included in ST list in near future and becomes a recognised tribe of the Govt/Manipur of India,  will go hardly to the hills for settlement against the Theory of Human Migration but to other places where better facilities are available than Imphal. People should not have the misconception of grabbing lands of highlanders in the hills by Meeties living in the valley in future.

The demand for ST tag by Meetei community of the state is fundamentally banked on the following hard realities.

Firstly, to save the Meetei, one of the important and dominant indigenous people of the state, which is showing signs of its gradual degeneration in the last few centuries and rapid downfall in the last few decades in population, land, culture, language, economy, social status, etc. in its natural habitat, under Article 342(1) of the Constitution of India.

Secondly, to save the fertile lands and wetlands in the valley which are producing maximum food grains, vegetables, fishes, etc. for the people, both in the valley and hills, from being owned by more skilled, hardworking, advanced and united non-indigenous people i.e. to save the indigenous people in their habitat.  

Thirdly, to foster a harmonious, peaceful, united and progressive Manipuri society based on ethnic  equality  among the indigenous communities of consanguineous relation who have been living together since time immemorial and to form a tribal state just like our sister states in the North East- Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya in near future.

Fourthly, to enable Meetei community, like other indigenous people in the state, to compete confidently well with other communities of India having similar social status( i.e. scheduled tribe) in the field of education , service sectors of Central Govt., etc, to earn more laurels, medals, positions, awards, privileges, etc. for better economic, social, educational, cultural and political status of Meetei in particular and Manipur in general, by discarding and discontinuing decades long practice of competing with highly advanced, educated, and organised communities in General category/OBC of other states  but ST in the country for the betterment of Meetei in particular and Manipuri in general.

In fine, the demand for restoration of ST status is to save Meetei from being degeneration in its own habitat and to bring harmony, progress and peace among the indigenous people in the state. Therefore, the indigenous people in the state should see this great historic event of Meetei’s returning to its original/tribal fold to be in equal footing with other ethnic tribes as home coming and should extend hearty welcome by all.  We should not forget but remember the adages, “blood is thicker than water” and “birds of the same feathers flock together”, in the context of Manipur.

(The writer is Associate Prof of Geology, DM College, Imphal. The expressed opinion is his own.) 

Published in Articles

By Arjun Ramachandran

The recent history of Kerala (the history of the Malayalam-speaking people, to be precise) is well documented, especially the nuances of the particular kind of Modernity that struck this region in the 20th century; when an advent of Leftist politics coupled with emerging intellectuals from among the people contributed to the development of a society that is today regarded as one of the most progressive societies in the country, notwithstanding multiple problems that Malayalis face and exhibit. We speak of communist leaders, generally left-leaning intellectuals, and of the idealist revolutionaries, all of whom outwardly advocate an egalitarian and anti-casteist, secular society.

The effect on arts was also visible. Cinema and literature became the choice media for a broad style rooted in immediate reality, and subsequently, they became the choice tools for reforming the Malayali psyche too, with varying degrees of success. In this aspect too, the casteist and misogynist undercurrents and the political and aesthetic shortcomings in the works of different accepted greats have been brought out and analysed with respect to reality, but what has entirely been eschewed is a discussion of the photography of this era; which is somewhat ironic, considering that photography should have been the most apt medium for a social documentary expression. Instead, we have mistaken photographs for reality, and shown utter disregard for the expression of artists like Razak Kottakkal – however unconscious such expressions may have been.

Razak Kottakkal was born in Wayanad in 1959. The “Kottakkal” in his name came after he set up his studio there, before which he had worked as a darkroom assistant in Mumbai and learnt the craft. Razak began by taking up commercial assignments, before branching out into different areas and genres, all of them broadly falling under the category of social documentation. He was acquainted and associated with the generation of artists who were dominating the era, and is remembered by many among them both as a friend and as a photographer. He had since entered the Malayali subconscious through his many iconic photographs, before passing away in 2014 after prolonged illness.

Razak’s photographs of Basheer is almost as famous as Basheer himself; anybody who is familiar to a minimum extent with Modern Malayalam literature would have encountered at least a few of Razak’s portraits of literary figures, without knowing the name of the photographer – mostly because the photographer is considered secondary to the subject in such cases. Different aspects of Razak’s life have entered public record, through interviews of his contemporaries, family, colleagues, and subjects. Yet, for all the wealth of information that such records provide, they are hard reminders that photographers are barely understood beyond superficial labels. Despite being acclaimed as a documentarian figure, his work lies scattered and inaccessible today, defeating the very purpose of documentation. Among the ones that have been preserved in some way, the focus is almost unanimously on the subject. His commissioned works, unless they are film stills, find almost no space anywhere, despite the status that Razak has gone on to acquire. In contrast, we see the most casual of sketches or drawings by some artists being preserved.

There is little need to recount the life story of Razak Kottakkal. Much of it is available online and in print. We shall restrict ourselves to the aspects of his life which would help us in understanding his photography better. In the beginning of this discussion, it is important to acknowledge that, for all his merits, Razak’s work can never be considered the ideal of technical perfection in photography. Publicly available digital images of his photographs betray signs of overexposure and over development of film (a significant portion of his work was in monochrome film), with no details in the highlights, and inconsistent blacks; it is possible that these are due to bad scanning technique. Beyond this, there are multiple signs in his images that show a discomfort in representing anatomy and architecture, and an overly simplistic approach towards composition, among other drawbacks. Interestingly, such formal “faults” were almost like a signature of the Modern cinema and literature, where beauty of meaning seems to have been given precedence over all other aspects.

Razak’s photographs shared the aesthetics of contemporary cinema and literature at deeper levels. The interests of the artist were more or less humanitarian. Identification, for instance, was restricted to the idea of likeness. The point of view was almost always an outsider’s. What little abstraction was there was purely literary. The content of his images are descriptive, conveying literary ideas and literary notions of beauty. The power of such seemingly simple and limited things lay in the immediacy that the photographs provided to the spaces and people that Malayali discourses of the time were concerned with.

Described by his acquaintances as a well-read anarchist, maverick, and alcoholic, Razak’s visual and reading culture seems to be aligned with the intelligentsia of the time. He was familiar with the photographic works of Ansel Adams and Raghu Rai, both of whom he held in high regard, and with the cinema of Tarkovsky, Bergman, and Kieslowski and the likes. The spirit of rebellion which took him from a conservative Muslim family to a radical lifestyle is also noted. His wife attests to the fact that he loved Ghazals and semi-classical cinema music. He named his studio “Clint,” after the much-hyped boy prodigy.

The “anarchist” in him is nearly invisible in his photographic works. What we see is a conformism of a different kind, where he accepts the greatness of a different set of values and worships them to no end. Literary figures, and other artistic figures, in his images are romanticized and elevated to higher planes – and it is this aspect of his works that is celebrated the most. Other images too employ such reductions, in multiple manners, and in nearly every image, the subject is singular, with no undercurrents of any sort.

Actually, the “anarchy” of his life was at best a selective rebellion, where cultural conventions and certain particular conformity were discarded. However, in Razak’s art and life, such rejections gave life to a different set of conventions and notions. The parallel with the socialist schools of thought and Malayali society as a whole is undeniable; Karl Marx, Che Guevara, EMS, Narayana Guru, alcoholism, cinema, literature, travel, love, engineering, Gulf, Bombay, and so on and on were new ideals that different classes and castes of people aspired to or were inspired by.

None of this is meant to take away from the value of Razak’s works. Instead, such perspectives should only serve to contextualize his works better. His dependence of telephoto lenses for street photographs, the indoor portraits with catchy lighting, the scenic landscapes, photographs of gatherings of personalities, photographs of houses and family of personalities, and the multiple other labels that describe his work can all be explained by considering his work in relation to the social circumstances of the period. Indeed, this can be applied even to his stills for cinema, and his commercial assignments.

There is one aspect of his art that this does not cover, and that is his cinematography. In his cinematographic works, we find a rejection of many of his photographic principles. His compositions are purposeful and forceful, with judicious employment of fluid camera movement. The tightness of cinematic space is commendable, as compared to the rather lax treatment of space and proximity in his photographs. Razak’s cinematography shows none of his seeming discomfort with human bodies; the Joshy Joseph documentaries ‘Making the Face’ (co-directed with Suvendu Chatterjee) and ‘One Day in the Life of a Hangman’ attest to this. The sense of closeness evoked by his handheld camera in these two documentaries has not been achieved by most other Malayali cinematographers. These works, and Razak’s other collaborations with Joshy Joseph, such as ‘Statusquo’ and the feature film ‘Imaginary Line,’ serve as a reminder of the limitation of the Malayalam cinema language in terms of composition, lighting, space, colour, and movement. It is unclear, of course, how much credit can truly be given to Razak and how much to Joshy Joseph, but on record, it remains Razak’s cinematography.

This transformation that Razak’s language underwent while transitioning from photography to cinematography hasn’t been fully understood or appreciated. Perhaps it is simply because Razak understood the possibilities of cinema better.

Razak Kottakkal has been a victim, of sorts, of the Malayali society’s attitude towards photography. The expression in his images has been disregarded, and images themselves have been attributed a glossiness that is to be admired from a distance, and not approached or entered. The aesthetic still survives; there are numerous photographers who approach subjects the way Razak did, be it lensing, compositions, lighting or choice of subjects, and this can be put down to a tradition in Malayali photography that perhaps began from Zachariah D’Cruz, or even before. However, the aesthetic is misunderstood or not understood, as is the photographer. This is best illustrated by the fact that photographs taken by Razak’s contemporaries are sometimes attributed to Razak, despite being widely different in style; this highlights a lack of knowledge of the visual language, and to the general nonchalant attitude towards photographers. Most of his photographs were commissioned by high-profile magazines and leading agencies, who often do not credit the photographer, contributing to the confusion.

In this time and age, it should be considered unnecessary to emphasize the importance of preserving photographs. Unfortunately, photography as a medium has been little understood in this part of the world, and the irony of Razak being remembered through oral and literary anecdotes is testament to that. Many of his iconic images may be forever lost. Hardly any steps are being taken to archive the works of contemporary photographers, and it is pertinent for the government to support such initiatives, and by not archiving the work of Razak, we have lost the chance to retrospectively gaze at figures and moments of the period from a unique viewpoint – that of Razak himself. Efforts made by organizations such as Lalita Kala Academy in commemorating such photographers should be taken further, and developed into a consolidated effort to preserve photographs and support the photographer; and these efforts need not wait until the photographer is no more.

First published in Photo Mail (www.photomail.org)

Published in Articles
Sunday, 06 August 2017 00:00

Beauty & Make Up Tips for Raksha Bandhan

By Shahnaz Husain

Rakshabandhan, The  amazing Indian festival   is not only  a special   day  to celebrate the precious unbreakable bond between brother and sister but also  offer a welcome break from all the chaos and frenzy of routine life.This sweet Indian festival of Rakhi is a good occasion for looking fabulous  and flaunting our interesting Indian outfits. 

You as a sister, visiting your sweet brother’s or cousins’ home or as the host to these festivities must be scintillating to look glamorous,cheerful ,pleasant  and beautiful on this special occasion .

 Flaunt a celebration-perfect look this Rakhi 2017 with  latest Ayurveda  beauty  tips to ensure you have a really fun-filled, sorted and shining day of brother-sister affection.

Raksha Bandhan is one of the important festivals, when brothers and sisters celebrate the loving bond between them. Like all festive occasions, girls love to dress up and look their best. It’s a good idea to start following a few beauty tips a few days before, to add a glow to the skin. In the hot and humid season, the skin needs toning and refreshing. Here are some home remedies:

Watermelon juice is a good skin toner and relieves dryness too. It cools, refreshes and softens the skin. Apply on the face and wash off with plain water after 20 minutes.

Fruit Mask for all Skin Types: Fruits like banana, apple, papaya, orange can be mixed together and applied on the face. Keep it on for 20 to 30 minutes. Then wash off with water. It cools the skin, cleanses dead cells and removes tan.

Cooling Mask: Mix cucumber juice with two teaspoons powdered milk and one egg white into a smooth paste. Apply on face and neck and rinse off with water after half an hour.

Mask for Oily Skin: Mix one tablespoon Multani Mitti with rose water into a paste and apply on the face. Wash off when dry.

After applying face mask, take two of the cotton wool pads soaked in rose water and use them as eye pads. Squeeze out the rose water and then apply on closed lids. Lie down and relax, while you have the mask and eye pads on.  Used tea bags can also do the trick. Soak them in a little warm water, squeeze out the water and apply on the eyes like eye pads.

To soften rough, bushy or frizzy hair, mix some water with creamy hair conditioner and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the hair. Then comb the hair, so that it spreads through the hair.

Raksha Bandhan is usually celebrated during the day. Daytime make-up has to be light and carefully done. If you have a clear skin, leave out foundation. After cleansing, apply a sunscreen with a built-in moisturizer. Then apply powder. Translucent powder, like a baby powder, is good. For oily skin, apply astringent lotion, instead of moisturizer. Then, apply compact powder. Pay attention to the oily areas of the face, like nose, forehead and chin.  Press the powder all over the face and neck, with a slightly damp sponge. This helps it to set and last longer. If you wish to apply blusher, use less and blend well. Blush-on should be like a gradual flush on the face.

For eye make-up stick to eye pencils during the day. Or line your eyelids with brown or gray eye shadow. This gives a softer effect. Then, apply only one coat of mascara, which helps to make the eyes look darker and brighter, but prevents the “heavily made-up” look.

For lipstick, avoid very dark colours, like dark maroon. Go for light pastel colours, pink, mauve, light browns, copper or bronze. The colours should not be too intense. Or, use only lip gloss. First outline the lips with a lip pencil, same shade as your lipstick. Fill in colour with a lipstick brush. Obviously outlined lips are out of fashion.

For a special occasion like Raksha Bandhan, you can try out a new hairstyle, like putting up your hair with fancy hair clips or ribbons. Wearing flowers in the hair can be quite alluring.

Long hair is very much the trend, with cascading waves or curly and bouncy hair.  Go for the softer look, with curls or natural waves, in the lower half of the hair. The classic ponytail is also dictating trends. It suits most face shapes, because one can wear a pony tail high or low, with a fringe or without, or with wisps or curls falling down, with that carefully-careless look. A ponytail is actually an easy hair do. With ribbons, or other hair accessories, it can even provide a touch of glamour. One can have a ponytail for a formal or an informal look. For a long face, wear a low pony tail and have a light long fringe falling straight down. For an oval face, wear it with a side-swept fringe. For a square jawed face, have wisps of long curls falling down on either side of the face, just beyond jaw level. It will suit a round face too. Or you can put the hair up with the help of hair clips. 

Shahnaz Husain is international fame beauty expert and is popularly called Herbal Queen of India

Published in Articles

(The following is the text of the the Srikant Dutt Memorial Lecture 2017 of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi, titled “The Long Broken Road Ahead to Reconcilion in the Northeast” delivered by, PRADIP PHANJOUBAM, editor Imphal Free Press, on March 27, 2017. The lecture is long and therefore we will be serialising it over the next few Sundays. However, for those who want immediately access to the whole of it, the lecture has now been published as an NMML “Occasional Paper” and a PDF version of it is available at the NMML website.)

 

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen,at the very outset, let me thank the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum &Library, Mr. Shakti Sinha for considering me worthy to deliver the prestigious Srikant Dutt Memorial Lecture 2017.

I did not know Dr. Srikant Dutt in person, but I do know of him from accounts of many of his close friends, a good number of whom are from the Northeast. All of his friends who I also happen to know, without exception, admire and remember him very fondly. From their stories, for whatever the reason, for a long time, I had developed almost an unexplained and unseen bondage with him. I admired his fabled brilliance as a scholar, his commitment to fighting injustice, his immense energy and capacity for hard extended work at his desk, his love for readings, his virtuosity as a political commentator, his rebellion against oppressive and pretentious social norms, and above all his concern and love for the Northeast. So much was my admiration for him, that though I did not know him personally, when the story came to the unfortunate episode of his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, I remember feeling a personal sense of loss. So it was disbelief and a good measure of bewilderment that struck me when I, out of the blue, received a mail from the director of this institute to deliver this lecture. When I decided to accept the invitation, the first thing that I told myself was that I must get to know more of Dr. Dutt, and I am lucky to find a book, posthumously published, along with some articles written by him from one of his friends in Manipur, and read them. When I browsed the internet and searched his name, the first article listed was an obituary of him in the Economic and Political Review which among others called him a virtual encyclopaedia of world affairs.

I must say that NMML has been kind to give me the liberty to choose the subject I would speak on. It did not take time for me to decide that my tribute to Dr. Dutt should be about the conflict situations in the Northeast and an exploration of how they may be resolved. I have tried to do this keeping in mind that an honest and accurate diagnosis of the problem must be the beginning of the journey towards any lasting resolution. I have no illusion the journey ahead will be easy. I have therefore chosen to title my lecture today as ‘The long, broken road ahead to reconciliation in the Northeast’. The region has had a traumatic modern history, marked by the entry of the British on its stage in a prominent way in the early 19th century. Much of what is the Northeast today, the good and the bad, are indeed a legacy of this chapter of its modern history, though I am not presuming things could have been any better or worse if this chapter had not happen. However there can be no doubt things could and probably would have been radically different had things been otherwise. The colony had its ways of getting itself going was not always sinister, but all the same with profound impacts on the lives and history of the place. These are the ‘what ifs’ of history, and they do not matter much now. History is concerned with only those that happened, but the ‘what ifs’ do provide valuable lessons. Therefore I am also reflecting on some of these counterfactual possibilities as lessons for the present and the future.

Unpacking the past

The British of course did not walk into a political vacuum when they entered the Northeast region. There were several principalities already in existence with their peculiar brands of frictions and fraternities. However, the entry of a European colonial power did bring about a paradigmatic change, understandably upsetting the existing world order, and ultimately yoking them all together to serve the commercial interests and security outlooks of the colonial power. Let me then begin with a scan of this modern history of the Northeast, which, as I have just contended, resembling so much with the rest of the world outside Europe, began with the arrival of the European colonisers, in this case the British. Let me also begin with another caveat. When I say history, I do mean it in the sense E.H. Carr defined it as ‘a chronicle of the state’.1 By his definition, not all ‘past’ is necessarily ‘history’ and likewise not all ‘facts’ are necessarily ‘historical facts’. While everybody must have a past, not everybody’s past makes history. Carr’s famous example of how Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 B.C. makes history but other crossings of the same stream by millions of ordinary men and women is not an illustration of definition. This understanding is important. A good deal of my argument here is that the Northeast problem is also of previously non-historical communities coming into the era of history, and the major marker in this transition was the arrival of the British. To reiterate the point, there can be little doubt that much of what is the Northeast today, good and bad, are a legacy, direct and indirect, of the British administration and the new era of modernity that came along with it, disrupting the old world marked by its own peculiar struggles and contests for livelihood, survival and identity.

Before this epochal event, the world that once was in this region can best be represented by what Willem van Schendel and James C. Scott called Zomia, constituting much of the mountainous massif of South East Asia, where States of varying sizes and influences emerged in fertile valleys, nurtured by the surplus generated by gradual advancement of techniques and technology of wet rice agriculture. The emergence of these Paddy States as Scott calls them, also meant the beginning of a new era of friction between these newly emerged state spaces with the prevalent non-state spaces, primarily in the mountains that surrounded these valleys where tribes lived whose economies were confined to primitive slash and burn agriculture of very meagre productivity, substituted by hunting and gathering from the forests they inhabited. With no surplus to manage, these tribes had little use for any centralised bureaucracy that represented a state. Scott also says the non-state bearing people of the mountains were state evaders and to avoid the influences of the Paddy States continually receded to the higher and more remote reaches of the mountains.

However, This last assertion has been contested by many scholars because while the friction between these two spaces was a reality, the communities did evolve means for coexistence and conflict resolution. The Posa system in Assam is one such where Ahom kings reached agreements with hill tribes, who habitually raided the more productive villages in the foothills during the lean seasons, to stop these raids and instead be allowed to levy a form of tax from the foothill villages to meet their needs, and in the process, be also spared of punitive retaliations of the Ahom State. In Manipur, myths and legends of the inhabitants of the hills and the Paddy State in the valley tell of their past as brothers inhabiting the hills together while the valley was inundated with floodwaters, and of how as the valley dried up, one brother descended to settle there and soon became prosperous reaping the bounties of the fertile, well irrigated and agriculturally productive alluvial flat land. This drying up process of the valley is still happening, and wetlands continue to be reclaimed and converted to paddy fields. The hill to valley migration is also still very much an ongoing phenomenon.

As a variant of these metaphoric tales of migration and brotherhood, there is a festival called MeraWa-yungba amongst the Meitei valley dwellers during the Meitei lunar month of Mera, coinciding with the laid back post-harvest season of October for the agrarian society, when they erect a tall bamboo pole in their courtyards and every nightfall hoist a lamp atop it to be left lit for the rest of the night. This, legend interpreters say is the replay of an archetypal memory of the parting of the brother from his mountain home to settle in the valley. The valley dwellers are therefore, telling their relatives in the hills, that all is well with them and they will be well provided for in the coming year. Later in the same month, another related festival called Mera Houchongba is celebrated, where chiefs from hills and the king of the Meitei kingdom meet and exchange gifts, essentially the produces from their fields. These festivals of ancient fraternal bondages have come to be revived as official state celebrations by the Manipur government in recent times in the hope that moderation will result amongst warring communities by the annual reminder that everything was not as bad as it seems today.

While Scott’s hill-valley friction in Zomia is a reality,what he seems not to have noticed is that unlike what he contends, the non-statehill people were also not always averse to the state, and behind the overt show of dislike for the state and its authority, there definitely were also evidences that they were in awe, and envied the much better organised and administered prosperity of the Paddy States in the valleys. Long before Scott, colonial writer Edward A. Gait for instance wrote of how many communities on the fringes of the Ahom State mimicked the latter to become autonomous power nodes. As for instance ‘the Bhutias in the north, so also the Khasis, in the south of Kamrup, had gradually established themselves in the plains; and the Ahom viceroy of Gauhati, finding that he was unable to oust them, had contended himself with receiving a formal acknowledgment of the Ahom supremacy.’2 Quite interestingly, in one of Srikant’s essays in his posthumously published book -Viewpoints on the Third World3, a writing on the Indo-China region, he mentions of such frictions between these states and the non-state communities, predicting in the mid-1980s Scott’s important work Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchic History of Upland South East Asia, 2013.

 

Exclusion to protection

One of the many things of interest about the legacy of the British administration in the Northeast region is the manner in which many policies, which under the British were exclusionary measures, have now come to acquire just the opposite meanings. The Inner Line Permit System, the 6th Schedule, Article 371-A in the case of Nagaland and Article 371-C in the case of Manipur etc, which are directly or indirectly inherited from British administrative ingenuity of separating the state spaces from non-state spaces, or revenue spaces from non-revenue spaces by including the former and excluding the latter from everyday administration, have now come to be seen as provisions for protection of the latter from the former. This perhaps, is not surprising. This is only another important evidence of how the meaning of any text is vitally dependent on the context against which it is placed, and therefore, even when colonial texts come to be separated from the colonial context and placed against a democratic setting, they will acquire different meanings, sometimes radically different ones.

The continuity of policies and their gradual transformations through the decades is therefore, fascinating. For instance, the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873, created the Inner Line, separating the revenue space in Assam plains from the non-revenue wild hills that surrounded it. This policy approach conforms to the general colonial administrative outlook of segregating the ‘fiscal’ from the ‘absent’ subjects. Hence, the Government of India Act 1919, designated the spaces beyond the Inner Line as Backward Tracts and left them un-administered, under the broad gaze of the Governor of the province. Then came the Government of India Act 1935, by which the Backward Tracts were categorised into Excluded Area and Partially Excluded Area. The Excluded Areas were left un-administered and were also not given representation in the local government. The Partially Excluded Areas were given some representation, but by nomination of the Governor. After independence, these Excluded Areas and Partially Excluded Areas were given a different interpretation and dispensation, also helped by some influential but nonetheless romantic interpretation of this state of colonial exclusion by men such as Verrier Elwin, a prolific writer and researcher, who no doubt had genuine concerns for the tribal populations of the Northeast, but nonetheless also ended up endorsing these isolationist policies. As it has been pointed out by scholars of the Northeast, obviously influenced by Elwin’s views, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in the foreword to one of Elwin’s books, The Philosphy of NEFA, that the Northeast tribals ‘should develop along the lines of their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them. We should try to encourage in every way their own traditional arts and culture.’5

 

Reid Plan

This romanticised vision of the Northeast as needing to be a separate entity was pretty widely prevalent amongst the British colonial administrators in the decades ahead of their departure from India. This is visible most pronouncedly in the Reid Plan, often erroneously referred to as Coupland Plan. Although the plan was conceived by the then Governor of Assam, Robert Reid, in his lengthy 22-page note that he prepared under the title Notes on the Future of the Present Excluded, Partially Excluded and Tribal Areas of Assam was first published confidentially in early November 1941.6Scholars of Northeast can be thankful that the content of this note is reproduced in a compilation of four similar notes on the matter by four British officers in David R. Syiemlieh, helpful On the Edge of Empire: four British plans for North East India 1941-1947.  Reid had argued the future of this region should be decided by the British Parliament.  He said that ‘It cannot be left to Indian political leaders with neither knowledge, interest nor feelings for these areas’.7Reid’s note, through official channels, ultimately landed in the hands of Reginald Coupland, the then professor in Oxford with the permission to use the idea in the project he was working on8. He did so liberally in the third volume of The Future of India.9

The idea was to have a new Protectorate or Crown Colony, constituting of the tribal areas of the Northeast and the adjoining regions of Upper Burma as a separate state, unaffiliated to either independent India or Burma. It is also interesting that the map of this proposed Crown Colony bears quite a fascinating resemblance to the Indo-Burma region that a federation of underground insurgent organisations in the Northeast, Indo Burma

Revolutionary Front,

(IBRF), once wanted to jointly liberate. This map also bears striking resemblance to a big chunk of Scott’s and Schendel’s Zomia.

David Syiemlieh compiled the works of three more British officers besides Reid – Andrew G. Glow, Reid’s successor and Governor of Assam during 1942-1947, James P. Mills, the advisor to the Government of Assam for the Tribal Areas and States, and his successor Philip F. Adams. Interestingly all their choices for a capital of this proposed Crown Colony were Imphal. This is despite the fact that Shillong was the capital of Assam at the time, and Assam virtually meant the entire Northeast with the exception of Tripura and Manipur. The Crown Colony of course did not include the Brahmaputra and Barak flood plains. The fact is, in the geography of the Indo-Burma region, the political centrality of Imphal and the valley it is located in the aftermath of the WWII having six airports, has not failed to strike anyone, even in the colonial times. In pre-colonial times too, this natural centrality would not have been any different.

Other sections of the British authorities however foresaw the many reasons how this proposed Crown Colony would have faced endemic existential problems. One of these was what we are witnessing today in the Northeast,  every single community, even those with a few thousand population see themselves as unique, and would have felt unrepresented if any of them did not have direct representation in the government in equal measures. There were many more anticipated problems raised by these sections of the colonial administration both from the Indian as well as the Burmese side, all of which ultimately contributed to the still birth of this Crown Colony. Not the least of these was a general disinterest and even objections from the newly emerged elite amongst the communities in region. For one, many of them had become accustomed to the Indian or Burmese systems, and for another, they too foresaw the fallacy of such an arrangement that depended on a romance of universal fraternity amongst the communities in the region. Intuitively they knew that the myriad ethnic communities shared little more other than their common backwardness making them realise that the typical bitter ethnic frictions within the region would render a state which would be ungovernable.

 

NEC prospect

In retrospect, this stillbirth probably was for the better as the Northeast, especially multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religion Assam and Manipur, can vouch for having lived with bitter divisions within them. But the idea is interesting and may throw light on future administrative strategies in the region. Perhaps if a sublimated version of it can be conceived of, where a larger political union, within which the different states of the Northeast are federal constituents, can receive consensual green signal, all the demands for greater homelands can find some healthy and mutual accommodation. Happily the idea of the Northeast itself is emerging somewhat like this, and although many think the idea has no basis, the reality is that this idea today has a definite identity and a sense of peoplehood. In many ways the North Eastern Council, NEC, can be seen as an institutional response to the idea of the Northeast and whatever was worth salvaging from the earlier idea of the Crown Colony without any compromise to the sovereign space of India. This Central government nodal agency for funding and monitoring development projects in the region, and other similarly conceived institutions may have the answers to some of the vexed Northeast problems. An imaginative exploration of the potentials of such institutions to foster a lasting resolution to the myriad frictions within this conflict torn region may be a good start.

Let me return again into the issue of how exclusionary policies under a colonial regime in the modern times have become democratic safeguards for those once excluded. There are of course other interesting reasons why British legacies have lived on the way they have in India. Noted writer A.G. Noorani has suggested an answer in India-China Boundary Problem: 1846-1947. Noorani points out that in the case of India, the end of colonialism was by a transfer of power and not simply by an end of British paramountcy as in Burma.10 In neither of the cases, independence was attained by overthrowing power. Because this is so, whereas Burma had to begin borrowing, mimicking, building, or rebuilding its institutions from scratch, block by block, India inherited the laws and established administrative instruments from the British, and then initiated transition to a new system which carried over much of what was inherited. Perry Anderson in his provocative book, Indian Ideology writes that in much of the Indian Constitution is the shadow of the Government of India Act 1935.This includes some of the most draconian features of the constitution such as Article 356, which he points out is Section 93 of GOI 1935 Act in another guise.11

If the modern history of the Northeast region began with the entry of the British, then the most important landmark is the Treaty of Yandaboo 1826, signed after the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War, between the victors British and the vanquished Burmese (then Ava kingdom). The British stepped into this arena because of an expansionist thrust of the Ava kingdom during the reign of the seventh Konbaung, King Bagyidaw, and overran much of what is now the Northeast, beginning with the erstwhile Manipur kingdom pushing on to the Ahom kingdom, sweeping whatever resistance came along the way. They thus, reached the edge of British India, on the eastern frontiers of Bengal. The Ahom kingdom, which was in an advanced state of decay at the time was in no position to fight back the Burmese occupation, and appealed to the British for help, and the latter obliged. The British defeated the Burmese in Assam, and they also armed and helped the king of Manipur, Gambhir Singh and his cousin Nara Singh, who were taking shelter at Cachar then, to raise a resistance force which came to be known as the Manipur Levy, which then entered Manipur to end Burmese occupation there as well.

The Treaty of Yandaboo 1826 was then signed. Assam was annexed to become part of the province of Bengal, but Manipur was left as a Protectorate state. Burmese territories adjoining Bengal, namely Arakan and Tenassarim were also annexed by the British. The British in later years waged two more wars on an unwilling Burma, but these were as Alastair Lamb puts it, excuses to annex territories. In his words, the British swallowed Burma in three gulps.12After the second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852,Lower Burma, including Pegu and Rangoon, were annexed. After the end of the three wars in 1885 the British annexed the whole of Burma into British India. This last war is interesting for one more reason. One of the main charges made by the British was that the Burmese were getting too close to the French whose sphere of interest was already well established in neighbouring Indo-China. The Ava court insisted they were not and yet the British still chose to punish the kingdom and at the end of the one-sided war, annexed the rest of the kingdom. Lamb and other scholars are of the opinion that the first Anglo-Burmese war that ended with the Treaty of Yandaboo 1826, was the only real war the British fought with the Ava kingdom.

 

Curzon’s Frontier

Lord Curzon’s Romanes Lecture 2007 titled ‘Frontiers’ should also provide interesting clues in unpacking the colonial experience of the Northeast. The former Viceroy of India in the lecture reiterated that, ‘in Asiatic countries it would be true to say that demarcation has never taken place except under European pressure and by the intervention of European agents.’13The idea of the State as Europe knew it was where the administration of the borders were as tight or even tighter than at its centre, were unknown outside of Europe at the time. Borders here were far from rigid and precise, and were instead notional. They were also seldom artificially created, but conformed to natural barriers such as lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys, deserts, marshes and forests etc.

Curzon also at length elaborated on the role of buffer states in British frontier management. These ranged from simple agreements on ‘no man land’ strips of land between neighbouring states, to extremely sophisticated political and administrative arrangements between two rival states to keep another in between them as neutral. The Tibet case is often cited as an example of the latter variety of buffer States. A treaty between Russia and Britain in 1907 sought Tibet to be kept under the suzerainty of a lesser neighbour of the time, China, but out of any direct influence of either Russia or Britain.

The St. Petersburg Convention 1907, which Britain literally forced on Russia, already weakened by a humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 and also an ally of Britain by then in Europe, was meant to ensure that the latter will have no excuse whatsoever to nurture territorial ambitions in Tibet. But as Alastair Lamb notes, in this treaty the Russians, though the weaker side as in judo, used the opponent’s weight to floor him.14 Indeed, the manner in which the British tied themselves up in knots was witnessed during the Simla Conference of 1913­–14, with rather tragic consequences for India long after its independence. If not for the treaty obligations of the St. Petersburg Convention 1907, India could have settled its northern boundary in the Northeast sector without much problem with a bilateral agreement between India and Tibet during the Simla summit. Britain instead had to make the Simla Conference a tripartite one, and invite China to be party of the negotiations. China it is known walked out of the conference, putting the legality of the agreement reached at the conference in doubt. An agreement was indeed reached between British India and Tibet on the boundary, creating what we now know as the McMahon Line, but even this agreement could not be published immediately, again because of British apprehension that Russia would object as it contravened the St. Petersburg Convention 1907. It was finally published only in 1938, after Communist Russia abrogated in 1921 most international treaties concluded by the Tsarist regime they overthrew. The damage however has been immense, and there are some who claim the McMahon Line never existed and that the actual international boundary between Indian and China (Tibet), should be where they say an Outer Line existed at the southern base of the Arnuachal Pradesh mountains.15 This, we however know is where the Inner Line is. I will touch on the politics as well as the administrative necessities which led to the drawing of the Inner Line in 1873, which has since its creation been often mistaken as the Outer Line.16The entangle over the boundary in this sector, as we know, is still far from settled.

 

Protectorates

There were also other more straightforward Protectorate States. These are frontier principalities which the British have subordinated but not completely taken over. They were left to be as they were before British intervention, but with a long leash. This was so because they served better purposes this way in frontier management than they would have been as British administrated regions. In Curzon’s words again, a Protectorate or a ‘buffer State is an expedient more or less artificial, according to the degree of stability which its government and institutions may enjoy, constructed in order to keep apart the Frontiers of converging Powers.’17 Also clear from Curzon’s lecture is that the security concerns of colonising European powers were never so much determined by threats from local principalities but by the possibilities of other European powers entering their spheres of influence and spheres of interests.18Hence much of the Tibet policy of the British was determined by their apprehension of the Russians during the Great Game in the late 19th and early 20th Century. As part of this Great Game, Curzon describes how in the Western frontier in Afghanistan a multi-buffered frontier was built: ‘(1) the administrative border of British India, (2) the Durand Line, or Frontier of active protection, (3) the Afghan border, which is the outer or advanced strategical Frontier.’19The colonial government also became able to create such a three layered buffer in the east. To understand this, a closer look at the British administrative policy of the Inner Line is essential.

 

 

Inner Line

After the British annexed Assam, one of the outlooks of the British administration was of building buffers against the French sphere on interest just across Burma, in Indo-China. Curzon has some useful insight on this too. Outlining the policy of protectorates of the Indian Empire he elaborates that the first concern is to surround ‘its acquisitions with a belt of native states with whom alliances were concluded and treaties made.’20Such a policy resulted in a chain of protectorates including Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. To this list other British officers, in different contexts have also added Manipur.21

Related to this, one of the British colonial administrative mechanisms which India has inherited with little or no dilution is the Inner Line Permit System. The line served a very definite and important function during the colonial days, and continues to be important, though not for what was originally intended. In recent times, the ILPS has been on very contentious ground. Two Northeast states, Meghalaya and Manipur, which do not fall within its purview, want it extended to them so as to restrict influx of migrants into these states which, those demanding the ILPS say, has come to threaten to reduce their small indigenous ethnic populations to hopeless minorities. In Meghalaya the demand has somewhat been subdued, but in Manipur it became explosive, causing a multi-dimensional conflict situation, with a section of the hill tribes opposing the demand claiming these restrictions would put them at a disadvantage. The issue is still far from being resolved in either state, particularly in Manipur.

This line came into existence in 1873 when the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation was promulgated. The Inner Line was, as it has been mentioned earlier, in many ways the British administration’s answer to tackle the non-state spaces they encountered in the Northeast region. However, as the administration made it plain, ‘this line does not necessarily indicate the territorial frontier but only the limits of the administered area... it does not in any way decide the sovereignty of the territory beyond.’22 The Inner Line required British subjects to seek a special permission to cross the line and enter the territory beyond. This was necessitated because tea and timber speculators habitually entered the hills and got into trouble with the tribes who live there, often compelling the authorities to take out punitive expeditions. At the time there were petitions from the land hungry tea garden lobby for the British authorities to either abolish the Inner Line altogether and extend the administration’s security cover into the hills so they could claim more land or else push the Inner Line deeper into the hills.23 Under the circumstance, the British did take out a survey of the Naga hills to do a cost benefit analysis. The estimate was Rs. 3000 as tax revenue, and the necessary expenditures to set up proportionate police posts, Rs. 16000.24This being the case, the British authorities decided to keep the Inner Line and advised the tea lobby to keep out of the hills. The British did alter the Inner Line by simple gazette notifications a number of times as a concession.25 The line, as Bodhisattva Kar writes, ‘was also supposed to demarcate the Hills from the plains, the nomadic from the sedentary, the jungle from the arable- in short, the tribal areas from the Assam proper’.26

In the east, the line had another purpose. With the protectorate state of Manipur as the yoke to hold together non-state spaces of the Naga Hills to its north and the Lushai Hills to its south, a convenient buffer zone was thus created. Manipur was bound by the treaty of 1762 and then much later by the treaty of 1833 to come to the aid of the British in its expeditions in these hills whenever necessary, and these treaties compelled the kingdom to send its troops during British in expeditions to the Naga hills on numerous occasions. Most important among them were during the Battle of Khonoma in 1879, and to the Lushai Hills in 1871-1872 in the expedition to rescue of a six year old European girl Mary Winchester, abducted by Lushai raiders from a tea garden in Assam. Manipur troops were also tasked to rescue European employees of the Bombay Burmah Company, a logging concern stationed at Kendat in Burma in 1885 when the 3rd Anglo Burmese War broke out.

The second layer of this buffer was Burma which came under the British rule in 1885. Even before this, after the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, the kingdom was more or less a helpless surrogate of the British, as Alastair Lamb implies, waiting to be swallowed by the British. The third layer was, in Curzon’s words: ‘on the extreme north-east the annexation of Upper Burma has brought to us the heritage of a fringe of protected States known as the Upper Shan States’.27 Beyond the protectorates of the Shan States and the State of Siam, lay the ‘Spheres of Interest’ of another great European Power, France.28

 

Independent India and the Inner Line

After independence this British legacy of separate administrations for the hills and valley remained unchanged in multi-ethnic Assam. The divide also came to be accentuated because of a peculiar turn of linguistic politics in Assam. The Inner Line was retained and the territories enclosed by it were accommodated in special political arrangements different from the mainstream. This arrangement is spelled out in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution which seeks to leave these tribal populations of Assam in Autonomous District Councils where they would be given a degree of freedom to govern themselves under their customary laws, but within the larger administrative cover of Assam. The Nagas turned down this arrangement and soon began a struggle for self-determination and secession from the newly independent Indian Union. In the effort to reach a truce with the Nagas, the Naga Hills district of Assam was made a separate state in 1963, christened Nagaland, though this did not end the Naga struggle for sovereignty. When it was transformed into a state, Nagaland was also given special status under Article 371-A, which makes customary laws and land ownership patterns of the Naga tribes virtually off limits of laws made by the Parliament, except with the assent of the state assembly. Meghalaya too was separated from Assam and became a state in 1972, and was followed by Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh which too became separate states in 1986. Though Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills also were once beyond the Inner Line, they continued to remain as Assam districts, though enjoying Sixth Schedule status. Though separate states, Meghalaya and Mizoram still retain their Sixth Schedule ADCs.

Manipur and Tripura were always separate kingdoms. But they too ultimately adopted laws that gave similar autonomy to their hill tribes in the way the Sixth Schedule does. In Tripura it was Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council Act of 1979, passed by the Indian Parliament under the Sixth Schedule following agitation by tribal communities of the state. In Manipur it was The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act of 1971. This Act was passed by the Parliament while Manipur was still a Union Territory. It paved the way for establishment of the six Autonomous District Councils in the state. Today there is a demand in the Manipur hill districts for bringing these ADCs directly under the Sixth Schedule as the latter arrangement is seen as equipped with more power.

The situation of Manipur is interesting. An explanation of the peculiar geography of the state and a revenue management laws that evolved corresponding to this geography will be helpful. When the British took over Manipur in 1891 without actually drawing an Inner Line as of Assam, they tried replicating the well tested system of separating revenue from non-revenue territories. Again as in Assam, this meant putting only the revenue valley districts, the traditional home of by then largely Hindu Meiteis, who by the Indian Constitution do not fall in the Scheduled Tribe category, under the local administration. The non-revenue Manipur hills, inhabited largely by Naga and Kuki tribes, were left largely un-administered but under the charge of a British officer, the President Manipur State Durbar (PMSD). In Assam, as we have seen, the PMSD’s role was taken by the province’s Governor, unlike Assam, the Manipur valley revenue district is far smaller in area. In actuality, it is just about 2000sq km, forming only a tenth of the total area of the state, and is surrounded on all sides by hill tracts, predicating in many ways the state’s current peculiar and complex problems of ethnic frictions and demographic pressures.

Manipur did not become part of India immediately after independence. Instead it joined the Indian Union only in 1949 under controversial circumstances. This former kingdom was made a Part-C state and placed under the charge of a Dewan. In 1950, Dewan Maj. Gen. Rawal Amar Singh abolished a permit system that once regulated entry of outsiders into the former kingdom. In 1960, while Manipur was still under a territorial council,29 an Act of the Parliament introduced the Manipur Land Revenue & Reforms Act, bringing the revenue of the districts of the small valley under modern land revenue law. The surrounding hills, however, were left untouched. Settlement and land acquisition in these hills by non-scheduled tribes became prohibited as in territories beyond the Inner Line in Assam. The valley, however, remained open to every Indian citizen to settle at will. This asymmetrical arrangement, and the increasing land pressure in the valley, has been bringing about a social repercussion in the present times. The peculiar nature of the demand for the extension of the ILPS to the entire state and the opposition to this demand from the hill population, amongst whom population influx is already prohibited, is informed by this asymmetry of land laws.

It is in the backdrop of a strong public agitation in 2015 in the valley that the Manipur government had introduced three bills which together were meant to do somewhat what the Inner Line Permit System does. Among these bills, only one The Protection of Manipur People Bill of 2015 was freshly drafted. The other two, namely The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, and The Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill of the same year were amendments to existing Acts. The amendments to the last two bill were necessitated to incorporate the provisions of the first bill which controversially defines ‘Manipur People’ as domiciles settled in the state on or before 1951, and to extend the land protection only to ‘Manipur People’ as defined by the first bill. Following violent opposition to the bills from communities in Manipur’s southern district of Churachandpur, the Governor of the state withheld the passage of the bills and referred them to the President of India. The President in turn ultimately rejected The Protection of Manipur People Bill of 2015 and also returned the two other bills for reconsideration. This probably means the removal of all references to the rejected bill, and for these two bills, as noted earlier, only seek minor amendments to existing Acts.

The bills probably caused insecurity amongst sections of the tribal population in the hills for various reasons. But, the least on account migratory lifestyles induced by poor economy of many of them especially in the southern region, defined by unproductive slash and burn agriculture. Many were led to fear this mobility as what was being targeted by the three ILPS bills. Secondly, relating to this lifestyle, there is an apprehension that the cut off year of 1951, sought for deciding which ‘Manipur People’ are unfair, and would leave many of the tribal communities dispossessed and disenfranchised. Indeed, 1951 as the cut off year for defining domicile status may be legally untenable, and this may be strongest reason why the bill was rejected by the President of India. Furthermore, many also doubted the veracity and accuracy of the records of hill communities and villages in the 1951 census. Third, there was the question of Manipur government skipping consultation with the Hill Area Committee, a statutory within the Assembly formed under Article 371-C, and constituting MLAs of the hill districts, for the ‘modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such committee.’30 The government’s explanation was that not all issues related to the hills, in particular money bills, need such consultations. The ethnic frictions in Manipur and the entire Northeast for that matter, is indeed complicated on one hand, but definitely not beyond comprehension or salvation.

The way forward

What then can be the way forward? This probably is the most challenging question. Difficult as it is, a beginning has to be made. In the sketch of the Northeast’s past, and in the dissection of the genesis of some major issues, some of the possible solutions are implicit. What is also required now is the introspection on the part of communities in the Northeast entangled in the many conflict situations, as well as by the Indian State whose policies can, and have, made the difference between peace or its absence in the region in the past as I have tried to sketch. As much as it is important for the region to resolve and get over its insecurities, it is also vital for the Indian state to understand why these insecurities exist.

For one thing, the communities in the Northeast are very small and their fears of being overwhelmed by forces from outside; demographically, culturally, linguistically, economically etc., are not altogether unrealistic. It is important to mention that among the 2540 languages of the world listed by the UNESCO in 2016, on a scale ranging from ‘vulnerable’ to completely ‘extinct’, almost all of the indigenous language of the Northeast, fall in the category of ‘vulnerable’ and a few in the ‘endangered’. Endangered languages are those where children of the respective community have begun to abandon it, as the mother tongue in preference of another. There are also ‘critically endangered’ and ‘definitely endangered’ languages depending on whether this abandoning process began at the parents’ or grandparents’ generations. On the other hand ‘Vulnerable’ languages are those which still spoken as mother tongue by most of the children of the community, but because of the small number of speakers and the restriction of the domain in which the language is spoken, it falls under the category of vulnerable. It must be said it is to the credit of the region that many languages spoken by even a few thousand people have not gone extinct, but the fact is, they are with little exceptions, under threat.31

Insecure past reflected in constitution

The Indian state too has had its own problems. Its traumatic birth as a modern independent nation as Fali S. Nariman points out in his book The State of the Nation, has been a cause for a very fundamental existential insecurity.32The character of the Indian state is still repleted with features shaped by the extreme circumstances of 1947, and many of these needs to be shed, as India of 1947 and India of 2017 are two very different countries. In 1947, India not only suffered the trauma of Partition but also was unsure whether it would be able to integrate with most of the 560 princely states either because of their unwillingness or indifference about joining the Indian Union. It must be noted that it was at this time the Indian Constitution was written and it was expected that this insecurity would have been reflected in it. This unease is most pronouncedly evident in the avoidance of the word federalism. To name a few others, the role of Governor, who is in office at the pleasure of the President as per Article 156 and is the eye and ear of the Centre as implied, though Article 163 specifies he acts on the advice of the state cabinet. There is also Article 356 by which on the recommendation of the governor of the state, the Centre can dissolve the state government and take over its administration for a limited but extendable period. Though the stated objective of the provision is to tackle constitutional crises, like all draconian laws, this Act too has had a history of ending up misused by ruling political parties to serve their power interests so many times. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA-1958 is another piece of legislation which reflects this same state of insecure mind and it is not a coincidence that it too came into being during the early years of India’s independence.

The strongest alibi of this insecurity however is Article 3 of the constitution as it is argued by Nariman. This article gives the Centre the power to not only alter the boundaries or change the name of any state but also to create new states out of existing ones, with or without the consent of the concerned states. When this article was conceived of, this was in all likelihood meant as a warning to the princely states that if they did not fall in line, the Centre has the power to tear them apart or even obliterate their identities completely. Though it is understandable the compelling circumstances of the time would probably have made any nascent nation think of an asymmetrically powerful Centre as a safeguard, the truth is those conditions are long gone. India is a confident and powerful nation now and there is no longer the need to continue to suffer from the same paranoia which was once forced on it. Nariman, however, recommends that these features of the Constitution of India, though cannot be dropped altogether easily now, should be archived, never to be used again.33

 

Cultural container, Look East

One of the fallacies in most studies of the Northeast region in the postcolonial era has been, to see the region exotically as a cultural and geographical island, long insulated from the rest of the world, and therefore happy in a uniquely untouched and unspoilt world of its own till the advent of the modern times. This probably is also the most pronounced weakness of the notion of Zomia that I have discussed earlier in this essay, important though this imagined regional profile is in unravelling the past of the region. No community can or has lived in complete social vacuum, and even neighbouring communities which are hostile to each other have understandably shaped each other’s defining characters. This notwithstanding, and in particular in Indian scholarship, seldom has the Northeast region been looked upon as possibly a product of the larger environment within which it exists, which by the very nature of its physical geography would transcend national boundaries. Often this outlook is determined by an inherent possessive hubris of a national community wanting to see all territories and peoples within its political geography as essentially a part of the national organic being. ‘Every part of India therefore must belong to the India story alone, or the Indian historical mainstream, and any other narrative that does not conform to this standard of national imagining, thereby, becomes deviant and alien, and must ultimately be brought into the mainstream.’34 The flaw of such nationalistic historiography is obvious. As is the case with any other part of the world, the Northeast cannot also be honestly understood in its wholeness, except alongside those of the countries, or regions of those countries, which straddle it on practically all sides. This then is the problem of the story of Northeast at its essence, defined by a core contradiction between what is projected as the Indian national mainstream and the different cultural and political streams that the region expectedly has always also belonged to.35

The nation in this context becomes akin to a cultural container.36 Nothing is expected to spill outside it and conversely, nothing from outside is expected to spills into it. Any historical stream that tends not to fit perfectly into this container becomes problematic. Furthermore, it is another characteristic of the state to be suspicious of these deviant and non-mainstream histories and peoples. The Indian State has been no exception. India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s letter of 7 November 1950, to the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru is just one alibi of this. In this letter, the leader reverentially referred as the Iron Man, is unambiguous of an irredentist suspicion of the ‘non-mainstream’ Northeast.37

Indeed, the conceptualisation of nation as a cultural container becomes extremely problematic in the context of a multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi religion country like India. Especially in dealing with peripheral provinces such as the Northeast, an approximate 98 percent of the physical boundary of which are international, there can be no other way of studying the place, its histories, and peoples, without doing so in consonance with those of territories and peoples beyond these international borders.38

From this standpoint, the Look/Act ‘East Policy’ acquires deeper relevance. This project should no longer be just about commerce, but equally of psychologically freeing the Northeast region from its claustrophobic landlocked mentality. If only commerce were to be the goal, as indeed it seems to be the thrust currently, a maritime project to link the richer South East Asian countries and ports in the eastern coasts of the Indian subcontinent would be the preferred option. True to anticipation it is coming to be precisely this, and so while India’s trade volume with ASEAN is growing respectably, the contribution to this growth by trades through the Northeast land routes is still negligible. The Look/Act ‘East Policy’ then perhaps should have two components. One that takes advantage of the commerce potential with ASEAN and East Asia through sea routes, and the other should be about linking up the natural economic and cultural sub-region of Northeast India, North Myanmar, North Thailand, and Laos, etc. It is not a coincidence that this map too somewhat resembles Zomia, reinforcing the contention that geography predicates war and peace. This project could be modelled on the Asian Bank’s ambitious Greater Mekong Sub-region initiative with its motto of reaping peace dividends through promotion of connectivity, competitiveness and community. Without compromising national sovereignties of any of the countries involved, the idea should be to soften borders to give space for growth of natural economic regions broken up and fractured in the dawning of modern post-colonial nation states in the mid-twentieth century.

Moderating ethnic homelands and identity

If these are some problem areas on the larger canvas of the Indian State, there are also much to be settled on the smaller conflict arenas within the Northeast. One of these, and perhaps the thorniest, has had to do with the idea of exclusive ethnic homelands, and the question of ethnic identities being inalienably linked to this notion of homeland. Since the territories which constitute these ethnic homelands are seldom inhabited by any particular ethnic group alone, very often many groups separately end up claiming same stretches of land as not just their homelands, but their exclusive homelands, thus the conflict becomes more potential. Again it is Assam and Manipur which have witnessed some of the most deadliest of these conflicts in the recent past, and the worst part is that, the potential for more conflicts have hardly been put to rest. Much of the territories claimed as homelands by these ethnic groups are largely uninhabited and therefore these homelands are notional, rather than an ownership determined by actual physical occupation. This being so, it becomes even more easy for geographies of homelands to overlap.

 

Whose Land?

In the land tenure system of a modern state, all land within the territorial boundary of the state is deemed to belong to the state. Individual land owners are only tenants leasing the little plots of land their homesteads or farms sit on from the state with certain rights of ownership over them and for a specified amount of tax depending on the size and category of land they take possession. This ownership however is not absolute. The state can if it considers necessary in the interest of public good, acquire the land back from its tenants by the legal principle of eminent domain after paying fair and due compensation. Obviously, different states have different land laws, but the basic principle defining this relationship remains the same. The modern system is pretty clear cut and there is hardly any chances of dispute within its jurisdiction which cannot be settled by plain application of the rule of law. It is when we enter the world of customary indigenous laws that things get a little nebulous and messy. This is because, first, there are as many different customary laws as there are indigenous ethnic communities and many of these customs are opposed to each other. In most of the cases of Northeast, these ethnic communities literally rub shoulders, so antagonistically placed outlooks to indigenous rights have big potential for causing conflicts. Second, often these customary laws transgress modern notions of justice and jurisprudence. This often is the case in areas of gender rights and equality of citizens. The ugly tension in Nagaland in 2016 over the implementation of the national norm for reservation of seats in urban local self-governing bodies for women is evidence of these discords embedded within. While it is universally acknowledged now that indigenous peoples cannot be unthinkingly put at the mercy of modern laws that they are not prepared for yet, the indigenous customary laws themselves need plenty of moderation within. The United Nations adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007, reflects this. As UN declaration, it is still not a legally binding instrument under international law, but this Declaration ‘represents the dynamic development of international legal norms and it reflects the commitment of the UN’s members to move in certain directions’39

All mixed population of Northeast states, Assam and Manipur in particular, have both these notions of land and land ownership coexisting. While there has been little or no problem settling dispute within the land administered by modern law, this is not so in what are considered traditional lands. Here boundaries are sought to be demarcated on intangible notions such as ancestral land. In Manipur for instance, the conflict situation arising out of the demand for Greater Nagaland, the demand and opposition to the ILPS or the creation of new districts by the state government in 2016 which resulted in a prolonged blockade of the state by Naga groups in Manipur are just some examples. The question is, in case of this demarcation becomes absolutely necessary, what would be the criterion that defines ancestral land? Would it be in terms of actual physical occupation of a particular tract of land for a particular length of time? As mentioned earlier, a majority of the lands in Manipur hills would be physically unoccupied, and if modern law were to be applied, these would be government land. Or would it be defined in terms of occurrences in myths and legends of the communities? In this case too, much of these tracts of land and mountains would occur in the ancient myths of many different communities. The psychological demarcation of territories between hills and valley, and the association of each of these geographical regions with different ethnic communities in absolute terms, as has been argued earlier, is as recent as the drawing of the Inner Line in Assam in 1873. The truth is, the nomadic herder, the shift cultivator, the settled agriculturist, the hunter gatherer, the Zomianpaddy states, all will have different notions of homeland, and in physical terms, these homelands can be the same stretch of land. For instance, for the nomadic tribesman, wherever he moves and pitches his tentis his land and for the Zomian feudal state, its boundaries extend till as far as its domains enter the spheres of interest of other feudal states which challenge and stop it from gazing any farther. Arbitrating claims of homelands in such a scenario thus becomes only a matter of privileging one outlook over the others. This being so, if at all there has to be a demarcation of boundaries between these homelands, it would have to be by modern parameters of justice aimed at safeguarding the survival needs of all. The resolution could also be in terms of a shared homeland based on an aggregate of the different concerns and notions of the contesting groups. Coexistence in this sense should be about sharing and not segregating.

In arriving at this equilibrium, all stake holders have equal responsibility to shoulder. The danger has always been, in such situations, victims and victimisers can reverse positions easily. Indeed, both can also end up with a sense of being the victim in the same bargain. Coexistence must have to be about a shared sense of destiny compelled by geography and existential essentials predetermined by it. The challenge is also about having to come to terms with the changing times. Hence it is about discarding anachronistic and problematic old paradigms that could explain past challenges but not the new and modern ones. It is also about evolving working formulas whereby each can have the most, without infringing into the other’s legitimate and private spheres. It also further entails that the understanding of what is legitimate will have to be periodically negotiated and renegotiated to keep it sharply tuned to the needs of the changing times. There is no other way to begin this journey of self-discovery than to first come to terms with the reality of the Northeast as a multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-religion society. Let it also be remembered that if the ethnic world continues to hang on to redundant symbols to define their identities, their identities too would be in danger of becoming redundant sooner than later for no other reason that the fact that the context against which identity is defined is always in a flux. The battles of the present cannot possibly be fought with any hope for success on the slogans of half a century ago.

 

Conclusion: The Cesar Millan lesson

The author concludes with a piece of wisdom on conflict resolution from a very unlikely source. There will not be many who keep dogs as pet who have not watched Cesar Millan’s incredible series Dog Whisperer show. Millan’s understanding of dog behaviour is incredible and his consistent message is that problem-dogs are more often than not a reflection of the owners’ own inhibitions and misconceptions. Millan provides therapy for homes with aggressive dogs and he insists that it is not just the problem-dogs which must undergo therapy, but also their owners. The attitude he recommends for dog owners is to see in terms of: ‘This is my house and I share it with my dog’ and not ‘This is my house and I keep a dog’. The house becomes not an exclusive space of the owner, but equally the dog’s territory. He also says the equation is not as simple as expecting a reciprocation of the love and affection the owner showers on the dog, on the other hand, what works is giving the dog the space it needs as a territorial and pack animal. He also says primacy must be given to respect rather than love in this equation. The latter is necessary, but the former is what the dog reciprocates. Many owners end up devastated because of the failure to understand this equation. There are of course pathological cases, where a dog is innately aggressive, therefore beyond rehabilitation and have to be put down, and Millan’s self-professed mission is to save problem dogs from falsely being classified thus.

There is obviously much to take away from Millan’s lessons not just in dog rearing, but in any project of fostering social harmony.

Published in Articles

(The following is the text of the the Srikant Dutt Memorial Lecture 2017 of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhavan, New Delhi, titled “The Long Broken Road Ahead to Reconcilion in the Northeast” delivered by, PRADIP PHANJOUBAM, editor Imphal Free Press, on March 27, 2017. The lecture is long and therefore we will be serialising it over the next few Sundays. However, for those who want immediately access to the whole of it, the lecture has now been published as an NMML “Occasional Paper” and a PDF version of it is available at the NMML website.)

 

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen,at the very outset, let me thank the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum &Library, Mr. Shakti Sinha for considering me worthy to deliver the prestigious Srikant Dutt Memorial Lecture 2017.

I did not know Dr. Srikant Dutt in person, but I do know of him from accounts of many of his close friends, a good number of whom are from the Northeast. All of his friends who I also happen to know, without exception, admire and remember him very fondly. From their stories, for whatever the reason, for a long time, I had developed almost an unexplained and unseen bondage with him. I admired his fabled brilliance as a scholar, his commitment to fighting injustice, his immense energy and capacity for hard extended work at his desk, his love for readings, his virtuosity as a political commentator, his rebellion against oppressive and pretentious social norms, and above all his concern and love for the Northeast. So much was my admiration for him, that though I did not know him personally, when the story came to the unfortunate episode of his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, I remember feeling a personal sense of loss. So it was disbelief and a good measure of bewilderment that struck me when I, out of the blue, received a mail from the director of this institute to deliver this lecture. When I decided to accept the invitation, the first thing that I told myself was that I must get to know more of Dr. Dutt, and I am lucky to find a book, posthumously published, along with some articles written by him from one of his friends in Manipur, and read them. When I browsed the internet and searched his name, the first article listed was an obituary of him in the Economic and Political Review which among others called him a virtual encyclopaedia of world affairs.

I must say that NMML has been kind to give me the liberty to choose the subject I would speak on. It did not take time for me to decide that my tribute to Dr. Dutt should be about the conflict situations in the Northeast and an exploration of how they may be resolved. I have tried to do this keeping in mind that an honest and accurate diagnosis of the problem must be the beginning of the journey towards any lasting resolution. I have no illusion the journey ahead will be easy. I have therefore chosen to title my lecture today as ‘The long, broken road ahead to reconciliation in the Northeast’. The region has had a traumatic modern history, marked by the entry of the British on its stage in a prominent way in the early 19th century. Much of what is the Northeast today, the good and the bad, are indeed a legacy of this chapter of its modern history, though I am not presuming things could have been any better or worse if this chapter had not happen. However there can be no doubt things could and probably would have been radically different had things been otherwise. The colony had its ways of getting itself going was not always sinister, but all the same with profound impacts on the lives and history of the place. These are the ‘what ifs’ of history, and they do not matter much now. History is concerned with only those that happened, but the ‘what ifs’ do provide valuable lessons. Therefore I am also reflecting on some of these counterfactual possibilities as lessons for the present and the future.

Unpacking the past

The British of course did not walk into a political vacuum when they entered the Northeast region. There were several principalities already in existence with their peculiar brands of frictions and fraternities. However, the entry of a European colonial power did bring about a paradigmatic change, understandably upsetting the existing world order, and ultimately yoking them all together to serve the commercial interests and security outlooks of the colonial power. Let me then begin with a scan of this modern history of the Northeast, which, as I have just contended, resembling so much with the rest of the world outside Europe, began with the arrival of the European colonisers, in this case the British. Let me also begin with another caveat. When I say history, I do mean it in the sense E.H. Carr defined it as ‘a chronicle of the state’.1 By his definition, not all ‘past’ is necessarily ‘history’ and likewise not all ‘facts’ are necessarily ‘historical facts’. While everybody must have a past, not everybody’s past makes history. Carr’s famous example of how Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 B.C. makes history but other crossings of the same stream by millions of ordinary men and women is not an illustration of definition. This understanding is important. A good deal of my argument here is that the Northeast problem is also of previously non-historical communities coming into the era of history, and the major marker in this transition was the arrival of the British. To reiterate the point, there can be little doubt that much of what is the Northeast today, good and bad, are a legacy, direct and indirect, of the British administration and the new era of modernity that came along with it, disrupting the old world marked by its own peculiar struggles and contests for livelihood, survival and identity.

Before this epochal event, the world that once was in this region can best be represented by what Willem van Schendel and James C. Scott called Zomia, constituting much of the mountainous massif of South East Asia, where States of varying sizes and influences emerged in fertile valleys, nurtured by the surplus generated by gradual advancement of techniques and technology of wet rice agriculture. The emergence of these Paddy States as Scott calls them, also meant the beginning of a new era of friction between these newly emerged state spaces with the prevalent non-state spaces, primarily in the mountains that surrounded these valleys where tribes lived whose economies were confined to primitive slash and burn agriculture of very meagre productivity, substituted by hunting and gathering from the forests they inhabited. With no surplus to manage, these tribes had little use for any centralised bureaucracy that represented a state. Scott also says the non-state bearing people of the mountains were state evaders and to avoid the influences of the Paddy States continually receded to the higher and more remote reaches of the mountains.

However, This last assertion has been contested by many scholars because while the friction between these two spaces was a reality, the communities did evolve means for coexistence and conflict resolution. The Posa system in Assam is one such where Ahom kings reached agreements with hill tribes, who habitually raided the more productive villages in the foothills during the lean seasons, to stop these raids and instead be allowed to levy a form of tax from the foothill villages to meet their needs, and in the process, be also spared of punitive retaliations of the Ahom State. In Manipur, myths and legends of the inhabitants of the hills and the Paddy State in the valley tell of their past as brothers inhabiting the hills together while the valley was inundated with floodwaters, and of how as the valley dried up, one brother descended to settle there and soon became prosperous reaping the bounties of the fertile, well irrigated and agriculturally productive alluvial flat land. This drying up process of the valley is still happening, and wetlands continue to be reclaimed and converted to paddy fields. The hill to valley migration is also still very much an ongoing phenomenon.

As a variant of these metaphoric tales of migration and brotherhood, there is a festival called MeraWa-yungba amongst the Meitei valley dwellers during the Meitei lunar month of Mera, coinciding with the laid back post-harvest season of October for the agrarian society, when they erect a tall bamboo pole in their courtyards and every nightfall hoist a lamp atop it to be left lit for the rest of the night. This, legend interpreters say is the replay of an archetypal memory of the parting of the brother from his mountain home to settle in the valley. The valley dwellers are therefore, telling their relatives in the hills, that all is well with them and they will be well provided for in the coming year. Later in the same month, another related festival called Mera Houchongba is celebrated, where chiefs from hills and the king of the Meitei kingdom meet and exchange gifts, essentially the produces from their fields. These festivals of ancient fraternal bondages have come to be revived as official state celebrations by the Manipur government in recent times in the hope that moderation will result amongst warring communities by the annual reminder that everything was not as bad as it seems today.

While Scott’s hill-valley friction in Zomia is a reality,what he seems not to have noticed is that unlike what he contends, the non-statehill people were also not always averse to the state, and behind the overt show of dislike for the state and its authority, there definitely were also evidences that they were in awe, and envied the much better organised and administered prosperity of the Paddy States in the valleys. Long before Scott, colonial writer Edward A. Gait for instance wrote of how many communities on the fringes of the Ahom State mimicked the latter to become autonomous power nodes. As for instance ‘the Bhutias in the north, so also the Khasis, in the south of Kamrup, had gradually established themselves in the plains; and the Ahom viceroy of Gauhati, finding that he was unable to oust them, had contended himself with receiving a formal acknowledgment of the Ahom supremacy.’2 Quite interestingly, in one of Srikant’s essays in his posthumously published book -Viewpoints on the Third World3, a writing on the Indo-China region, he mentions of such frictions between these states and the non-state communities, predicting in the mid-1980s Scott’s important work Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchic History of Upland South East Asia, 2013.

 

Exclusion to protection

One of the many things of interest about the legacy of the British administration in the Northeast region is the manner in which many policies, which under the British were exclusionary measures, have now come to acquire just the opposite meanings. The Inner Line Permit System, the 6th Schedule, Article 371-A in the case of Nagaland and Article 371-C in the case of Manipur etc, which are directly or indirectly inherited from British administrative ingenuity of separating the state spaces from non-state spaces, or revenue spaces from non-revenue spaces by including the former and excluding the latter from everyday administration, have now come to be seen as provisions for protection of the latter from the former. This perhaps, is not surprising. This is only another important evidence of how the meaning of any text is vitally dependent on the context against which it is placed, and therefore, even when colonial texts come to be separated from the colonial context and placed against a democratic setting, they will acquire different meanings, sometimes radically different ones.

The continuity of policies and their gradual transformations through the decades is therefore, fascinating. For instance, the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873, created the Inner Line, separating the revenue space in Assam plains from the non-revenue wild hills that surrounded it. This policy approach conforms to the general colonial administrative outlook of segregating the ‘fiscal’ from the ‘absent’ subjects. Hence, the Government of India Act 1919, designated the spaces beyond the Inner Line as Backward Tracts and left them un-administered, under the broad gaze of the Governor of the province. Then came the Government of India Act 1935, by which the Backward Tracts were categorised into Excluded Area and Partially Excluded Area. The Excluded Areas were left un-administered and were also not given representation in the local government. The Partially Excluded Areas were given some representation, but by nomination of the Governor. After independence, these Excluded Areas and Partially Excluded Areas were given a different interpretation and dispensation, also helped by some influential but nonetheless romantic interpretation of this state of colonial exclusion by men such as Verrier Elwin, a prolific writer and researcher, who no doubt had genuine concerns for the tribal populations of the Northeast, but nonetheless also ended up endorsing these isolationist policies. As it has been pointed out by scholars of the Northeast, obviously influenced by Elwin’s views, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in the foreword to one of Elwin’s books, The Philosphy of NEFA, that the Northeast tribals ‘should develop along the lines of their own genius and we should avoid imposing anything on them. We should try to encourage in every way their own traditional arts and culture.’5

 

Reid Plan

This romanticised vision of the Northeast as needing to be a separate entity was pretty widely prevalent amongst the British colonial administrators in the decades ahead of their departure from India. This is visible most pronouncedly in the Reid Plan, often erroneously referred to as Coupland Plan. Although the plan was conceived by the then Governor of Assam, Robert Reid, in his lengthy 22-page note that he prepared under the title Notes on the Future of the Present Excluded, Partially Excluded and Tribal Areas of Assam was first published confidentially in early November 1941.6Scholars of Northeast can be thankful that the content of this note is reproduced in a compilation of four similar notes on the matter by four British officers in David R. Syiemlieh, helpful On the Edge of Empire: four British plans for North East India 1941-1947.  Reid had argued the future of this region should be decided by the British Parliament.  He said that ‘It cannot be left to Indian political leaders with neither knowledge, interest nor feelings for these areas’.7Reid’s note, through official channels, ultimately landed in the hands of Reginald Coupland, the then professor in Oxford with the permission to use the idea in the project he was working on8. He did so liberally in the third volume of The Future of India.9

The idea was to have a new Protectorate or Crown Colony, constituting of the tribal areas of the Northeast and the adjoining regions of Upper Burma as a separate state, unaffiliated to either independent India or Burma. It is also interesting that the map of this proposed Crown Colony bears quite a fascinating resemblance to the Indo-Burma region that a federation of underground insurgent organisations in the Northeast, Indo Burma

Revolutionary Front,

(IBRF), once wanted to jointly liberate. This map also bears striking resemblance to a big chunk of Scott’s and Schendel’s Zomia.

David Syiemlieh compiled the works of three more British officers besides Reid – Andrew G. Glow, Reid’s successor and Governor of Assam during 1942-1947, James P. Mills, the advisor to the Government of Assam for the Tribal Areas and States, and his successor Philip F. Adams. Interestingly all their choices for a capital of this proposed Crown Colony were Imphal. This is despite the fact that Shillong was the capital of Assam at the time, and Assam virtually meant the entire Northeast with the exception of Tripura and Manipur. The Crown Colony of course did not include the Brahmaputra and Barak flood plains. The fact is, in the geography of the Indo-Burma region, the political centrality of Imphal and the valley it is located in the aftermath of the WWII having six airports, has not failed to strike anyone, even in the colonial times. In pre-colonial times too, this natural centrality would not have been any different.

Other sections of the British authorities however foresaw the many reasons how this proposed Crown Colony would have faced endemic existential problems. One of these was what we are witnessing today in the Northeast,  every single community, even those with a few thousand population see themselves as unique, and would have felt unrepresented if any of them did not have direct representation in the government in equal measures. There were many more anticipated problems raised by these sections of the colonial administration both from the Indian as well as the Burmese side, all of which ultimately contributed to the still birth of this Crown Colony. Not the least of these was a general disinterest and even objections from the newly emerged elite amongst the communities in region. For one, many of them had become accustomed to the Indian or Burmese systems, and for another, they too foresaw the fallacy of such an arrangement that depended on a romance of universal fraternity amongst the communities in the region. Intuitively they knew that the myriad ethnic communities shared little more other than their common backwardness making them realise that the typical bitter ethnic frictions within the region would render a state which would be ungovernable.

 

NEC prospect

In retrospect, this stillbirth probably was for the better as the Northeast, especially multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religion Assam and Manipur, can vouch for having lived with bitter divisions within them. But the idea is interesting and may throw light on future administrative strategies in the region. Perhaps if a sublimated version of it can be conceived of, where a larger political union, within which the different states of the Northeast are federal constituents, can receive consensual green signal, all the demands for greater homelands can find some healthy and mutual accommodation. Happily the idea of the Northeast itself is emerging somewhat like this, and although many think the idea has no basis, the reality is that this idea today has a definite identity and a sense of peoplehood. In many ways the North Eastern Council, NEC, can be seen as an institutional response to the idea of the Northeast and whatever was worth salvaging from the earlier idea of the Crown Colony without any compromise to the sovereign space of India. This Central government nodal agency for funding and monitoring development projects in the region, and other similarly conceived institutions may have the answers to some of the vexed Northeast problems. An imaginative exploration of the potentials of such institutions to foster a lasting resolution to the myriad frictions within this conflict torn region may be a good start.

Let me return again into the issue of how exclusionary policies under a colonial regime in the modern times have become democratic safeguards for those once excluded. There are of course other interesting reasons why British legacies have lived on the way they have in India. Noted writer A.G. Noorani has suggested an answer in India-China Boundary Problem: 1846-1947. Noorani points out that in the case of India, the end of colonialism was by a transfer of power and not simply by an end of British paramountcy as in Burma.10 In neither of the cases, independence was attained by overthrowing power. Because this is so, whereas Burma had to begin borrowing, mimicking, building, or rebuilding its institutions from scratch, block by block, India inherited the laws and established administrative instruments from the British, and then initiated transition to a new system which carried over much of what was inherited. Perry Anderson in his provocative book, Indian Ideology writes that in much of the Indian Constitution is the shadow of the Government of India Act 1935.This includes some of the most draconian features of the constitution such as Article 356, which he points out is Section 93 of GOI 1935 Act in another guise.11

If the modern history of the Northeast region began with the entry of the British, then the most important landmark is the Treaty of Yandaboo 1826, signed after the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War, between the victors British and the vanquished Burmese (then Ava kingdom). The British stepped into this arena because of an expansionist thrust of the Ava kingdom during the reign of the seventh Konbaung, King Bagyidaw, and overran much of what is now the Northeast, beginning with the erstwhile Manipur kingdom pushing on to the Ahom kingdom, sweeping whatever resistance came along the way. They thus, reached the edge of British India, on the eastern frontiers of Bengal. The Ahom kingdom, which was in an advanced state of decay at the time was in no position to fight back the Burmese occupation, and appealed to the British for help, and the latter obliged. The British defeated the Burmese in Assam, and they also armed and helped the king of Manipur, Gambhir Singh and his cousin Nara Singh, who were taking shelter at Cachar then, to raise a resistance force which came to be known as the Manipur Levy, which then entered Manipur to end Burmese occupation there as well.

The Treaty of Yandaboo 1826 was then signed. Assam was annexed to become part of the province of Bengal, but Manipur was left as a Protectorate state. Burmese territories adjoining Bengal, namely Arakan and Tenassarim were also annexed by the British. The British in later years waged two more wars on an unwilling Burma, but these were as Alastair Lamb puts it, excuses to annex territories. In his words, the British swallowed Burma in three gulps.12After the second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852,Lower Burma, including Pegu and Rangoon, were annexed. After the end of the three wars in 1885 the British annexed the whole of Burma into British India. This last war is interesting for one more reason. One of the main charges made by the British was that the Burmese were getting too close to the French whose sphere of interest was already well established in neighbouring Indo-China. The Ava court insisted they were not and yet the British still chose to punish the kingdom and at the end of the one-sided war, annexed the rest of the kingdom. Lamb and other scholars are of the opinion that the first Anglo-Burmese war that ended with the Treaty of Yandaboo 1826, was the only real war the British fought with the Ava kingdom.

 

Curzon’s Frontier

Lord Curzon’s Romanes Lecture 2007 titled ‘Frontiers’ should also provide interesting clues in unpacking the colonial experience of the Northeast. The former Viceroy of India in the lecture reiterated that, ‘in Asiatic countries it would be true to say that demarcation has never taken place except under European pressure and by the intervention of European agents.’13The idea of the State as Europe knew it was where the administration of the borders were as tight or even tighter than at its centre, were unknown outside of Europe at the time. Borders here were far from rigid and precise, and were instead notional. They were also seldom artificially created, but conformed to natural barriers such as lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys, deserts, marshes and forests etc.

Curzon also at length elaborated on the role of buffer states in British frontier management. These ranged from simple agreements on ‘no man land’ strips of land between neighbouring states, to extremely sophisticated political and administrative arrangements between two rival states to keep another in between them as neutral. The Tibet case is often cited as an example of the latter variety of buffer States. A treaty between Russia and Britain in 1907 sought Tibet to be kept under the suzerainty of a lesser neighbour of the time, China, but out of any direct influence of either Russia or Britain.

The St. Petersburg Convention 1907, which Britain literally forced on Russia, already weakened by a humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 and also an ally of Britain by then in Europe, was meant to ensure that the latter will have no excuse whatsoever to nurture territorial ambitions in Tibet. But as Alastair Lamb notes, in this treaty the Russians, though the weaker side as in judo, used the opponent’s weight to floor him.14 Indeed, the manner in which the British tied themselves up in knots was witnessed during the Simla Conference of 1913­–14, with rather tragic consequences for India long after its independence. If not for the treaty obligations of the St. Petersburg Convention 1907, India could have settled its northern boundary in the Northeast sector without much problem with a bilateral agreement between India and Tibet during the Simla summit. Britain instead had to make the Simla Conference a tripartite one, and invite China to be party of the negotiations. China it is known walked out of the conference, putting the legality of the agreement reached at the conference in doubt. An agreement was indeed reached between British India and Tibet on the boundary, creating what we now know as the McMahon Line, but even this agreement could not be published immediately, again because of British apprehension that Russia would object as it contravened the St. Petersburg Convention 1907. It was finally published only in 1938, after Communist Russia abrogated in 1921 most international treaties concluded by the Tsarist regime they overthrew. The damage however has been immense, and there are some who claim the McMahon Line never existed and that the actual international boundary between Indian and China (Tibet), should be where they say an Outer Line existed at the southern base of the Arnuachal Pradesh mountains.15 This, we however know is where the Inner Line is. I will touch on the politics as well as the administrative necessities which led to the drawing of the Inner Line in 1873, which has since its creation been often mistaken as the Outer Line.16The entangle over the boundary in this sector, as we know, is still far from settled.

 

Protectorates

There were also other more straightforward Protectorate States. These are frontier principalities which the British have subordinated but not completely taken over. They were left to be as they were before British intervention, but with a long leash. This was so because they served better purposes this way in frontier management than they would have been as British administrated regions. In Curzon’s words again, a Protectorate or a ‘buffer State is an expedient more or less artificial, according to the degree of stability which its government and institutions may enjoy, constructed in order to keep apart the Frontiers of converging Powers.’17 Also clear from Curzon’s lecture is that the security concerns of colonising European powers were never so much determined by threats from local principalities but by the possibilities of other European powers entering their spheres of influence and spheres of interests.18Hence much of the Tibet policy of the British was determined by their apprehension of the Russians during the Great Game in the late 19th and early 20th Century. As part of this Great Game, Curzon describes how in the Western frontier in Afghanistan a multi-buffered frontier was built: ‘(1) the administrative border of British India, (2) the Durand Line, or Frontier of active protection, (3) the Afghan border, which is the outer or advanced strategical Frontier.’19The colonial government also became able to create such a three layered buffer in the east. To understand this, a closer look at the British administrative policy of the Inner Line is essential.

 

 

Inner Line

After the British annexed Assam, one of the outlooks of the British administration was of building buffers against the French sphere on interest just across Burma, in Indo-China. Curzon has some useful insight on this too. Outlining the policy of protectorates of the Indian Empire he elaborates that the first concern is to surround ‘its acquisitions with a belt of native states with whom alliances were concluded and treaties made.’20Such a policy resulted in a chain of protectorates including Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. To this list other British officers, in different contexts have also added Manipur.21

Related to this, one of the British colonial administrative mechanisms which India has inherited with little or no dilution is the Inner Line Permit System. The line served a very definite and important function during the colonial days, and continues to be important, though not for what was originally intended. In recent times, the ILPS has been on very contentious ground. Two Northeast states, Meghalaya and Manipur, which do not fall within its purview, want it extended to them so as to restrict influx of migrants into these states which, those demanding the ILPS say, has come to threaten to reduce their small indigenous ethnic populations to hopeless minorities. In Meghalaya the demand has somewhat been subdued, but in Manipur it became explosive, causing a multi-dimensional conflict situation, with a section of the hill tribes opposing the demand claiming these restrictions would put them at a disadvantage. The issue is still far from being resolved in either state, particularly in Manipur.

This line came into existence in 1873 when the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation was promulgated. The Inner Line was, as it has been mentioned earlier, in many ways the British administration’s answer to tackle the non-state spaces they encountered in the Northeast region. However, as the administration made it plain, ‘this line does not necessarily indicate the territorial frontier but only the limits of the administered area... it does not in any way decide the sovereignty of the territory beyond.’22 The Inner Line required British subjects to seek a special permission to cross the line and enter the territory beyond. This was necessitated because tea and timber speculators habitually entered the hills and got into trouble with the tribes who live there, often compelling the authorities to take out punitive expeditions. At the time there were petitions from the land hungry tea garden lobby for the British authorities to either abolish the Inner Line altogether and extend the administration’s security cover into the hills so they could claim more land or else push the Inner Line deeper into the hills.23 Under the circumstance, the British did take out a survey of the Naga hills to do a cost benefit analysis. The estimate was Rs. 3000 as tax revenue, and the necessary expenditures to set up proportionate police posts, Rs. 16000.24This being the case, the British authorities decided to keep the Inner Line and advised the tea lobby to keep out of the hills. The British did alter the Inner Line by simple gazette notifications a number of times as a concession.25 The line, as Bodhisattva Kar writes, ‘was also supposed to demarcate the Hills from the plains, the nomadic from the sedentary, the jungle from the arable- in short, the tribal areas from the Assam proper’.26

In the east, the line had another purpose. With the protectorate state of Manipur as the yoke to hold together non-state spaces of the Naga Hills to its north and the Lushai Hills to its south, a convenient buffer zone was thus created. Manipur was bound by the treaty of 1762 and then much later by the treaty of 1833 to come to the aid of the British in its expeditions in these hills whenever necessary, and these treaties compelled the kingdom to send its troops during British in expeditions to the Naga hills on numerous occasions. Most important among them were during the Battle of Khonoma in 1879, and to the Lushai Hills in 1871-1872 in the expedition to rescue of a six year old European girl Mary Winchester, abducted by Lushai raiders from a tea garden in Assam. Manipur troops were also tasked to rescue European employees of the Bombay Burmah Company, a logging concern stationed at Kendat in Burma in 1885 when the 3rd Anglo Burmese War broke out.

The second layer of this buffer was Burma which came under the British rule in 1885. Even before this, after the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, the kingdom was more or less a helpless surrogate of the British, as Alastair Lamb implies, waiting to be swallowed by the British. The third layer was, in Curzon’s words: ‘on the extreme north-east the annexation of Upper Burma has brought to us the heritage of a fringe of protected States known as the Upper Shan States’.27 Beyond the protectorates of the Shan States and the State of Siam, lay the ‘Spheres of Interest’ of another great European Power, France.28

 

Independent India and the Inner Line

After independence this British legacy of separate administrations for the hills and valley remained unchanged in multi-ethnic Assam. The divide also came to be accentuated because of a peculiar turn of linguistic politics in Assam. The Inner Line was retained and the territories enclosed by it were accommodated in special political arrangements different from the mainstream. This arrangement is spelled out in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution which seeks to leave these tribal populations of Assam in Autonomous District Councils where they would be given a degree of freedom to govern themselves under their customary laws, but within the larger administrative cover of Assam. The Nagas turned down this arrangement and soon began a struggle for self-determination and secession from the newly independent Indian Union. In the effort to reach a truce with the Nagas, the Naga Hills district of Assam was made a separate state in 1963, christened Nagaland, though this did not end the Naga struggle for sovereignty. When it was transformed into a state, Nagaland was also given special status under Article 371-A, which makes customary laws and land ownership patterns of the Naga tribes virtually off limits of laws made by the Parliament, except with the assent of the state assembly. Meghalaya too was separated from Assam and became a state in 1972, and was followed by Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh which too became separate states in 1986. Though Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills also were once beyond the Inner Line, they continued to remain as Assam districts, though enjoying Sixth Schedule status. Though separate states, Meghalaya and Mizoram still retain their Sixth Schedule ADCs.

Manipur and Tripura were always separate kingdoms. But they too ultimately adopted laws that gave similar autonomy to their hill tribes in the way the Sixth Schedule does. In Tripura it was Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council Act of 1979, passed by the Indian Parliament under the Sixth Schedule following agitation by tribal communities of the state. In Manipur it was The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act of 1971. This Act was passed by the Parliament while Manipur was still a Union Territory. It paved the way for establishment of the six Autonomous District Councils in the state. Today there is a demand in the Manipur hill districts for bringing these ADCs directly under the Sixth Schedule as the latter arrangement is seen as equipped with more power.

The situation of Manipur is interesting. An explanation of the peculiar geography of the state and a revenue management laws that evolved corresponding to this geography will be helpful. When the British took over Manipur in 1891 without actually drawing an Inner Line as of Assam, they tried replicating the well tested system of separating revenue from non-revenue territories. Again as in Assam, this meant putting only the revenue valley districts, the traditional home of by then largely Hindu Meiteis, who by the Indian Constitution do not fall in the Scheduled Tribe category, under the local administration. The non-revenue Manipur hills, inhabited largely by Naga and Kuki tribes, were left largely un-administered but under the charge of a British officer, the President Manipur State Durbar (PMSD). In Assam, as we have seen, the PMSD’s role was taken by the province’s Governor, unlike Assam, the Manipur valley revenue district is far smaller in area. In actuality, it is just about 2000sq km, forming only a tenth of the total area of the state, and is surrounded on all sides by hill tracts, predicating in many ways the state’s current peculiar and complex problems of ethnic frictions and demographic pressures.

Manipur did not become part of India immediately after independence. Instead it joined the Indian Union only in 1949 under controversial circumstances. This former kingdom was made a Part-C state and placed under the charge of a Dewan. In 1950, Dewan Maj. Gen. Rawal Amar Singh abolished a permit system that once regulated entry of outsiders into the former kingdom. In 1960, while Manipur was still under a territorial council,29 an Act of the Parliament introduced the Manipur Land Revenue & Reforms Act, bringing the revenue of the districts of the small valley under modern land revenue law. The surrounding hills, however, were left untouched. Settlement and land acquisition in these hills by non-scheduled tribes became prohibited as in territories beyond the Inner Line in Assam. The valley, however, remained open to every Indian citizen to settle at will. This asymmetrical arrangement, and the increasing land pressure in the valley, has been bringing about a social repercussion in the present times. The peculiar nature of the demand for the extension of the ILPS to the entire state and the opposition to this demand from the hill population, amongst whom population influx is already prohibited, is informed by this asymmetry of land laws.

It is in the backdrop of a strong public agitation in 2015 in the valley that the Manipur government had introduced three bills which together were meant to do somewhat what the Inner Line Permit System does. Among these bills, only one The Protection of Manipur People Bill of 2015 was freshly drafted. The other two, namely The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, and The Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill of the same year were amendments to existing Acts. The amendments to the last two bill were necessitated to incorporate the provisions of the first bill which controversially defines ‘Manipur People’ as domiciles settled in the state on or before 1951, and to extend the land protection only to ‘Manipur People’ as defined by the first bill. Following violent opposition to the bills from communities in Manipur’s southern district of Churachandpur, the Governor of the state withheld the passage of the bills and referred them to the President of India. The President in turn ultimately rejected The Protection of Manipur People Bill of 2015 and also returned the two other bills for reconsideration. This probably means the removal of all references to the rejected bill, and for these two bills, as noted earlier, only seek minor amendments to existing Acts.

The bills probably caused insecurity amongst sections of the tribal population in the hills for various reasons. But, the least on account migratory lifestyles induced by poor economy of many of them especially in the southern region, defined by unproductive slash and burn agriculture. Many were led to fear this mobility as what was being targeted by the three ILPS bills. Secondly, relating to this lifestyle, there is an apprehension that the cut off year of 1951, sought for deciding which ‘Manipur People’ are unfair, and would leave many of the tribal communities dispossessed and disenfranchised. Indeed, 1951 as the cut off year for defining domicile status may be legally untenable, and this may be strongest reason why the bill was rejected by the President of India. Furthermore, many also doubted the veracity and accuracy of the records of hill communities and villages in the 1951 census. Third, there was the question of Manipur government skipping consultation with the Hill Area Committee, a statutory within the Assembly formed under Article 371-C, and constituting MLAs of the hill districts, for the ‘modifications to be made in the rules of business of the Government and in the rules of procedure of the Legislative Assembly of the State and for any special responsibility of the Governor in order to secure the proper functioning of such committee.’30 The government’s explanation was that not all issues related to the hills, in particular money bills, need such consultations. The ethnic frictions in Manipur and the entire Northeast for that matter, is indeed complicated on one hand, but definitely not beyond comprehension or salvation.

The way forward

What then can be the way forward? This probably is the most challenging question. Difficult as it is, a beginning has to be made. In the sketch of the Northeast’s past, and in the dissection of the genesis of some major issues, some of the possible solutions are implicit. What is also required now is the introspection on the part of communities in the Northeast entangled in the many conflict situations, as well as by the Indian State whose policies can, and have, made the difference between peace or its absence in the region in the past as I have tried to sketch. As much as it is important for the region to resolve and get over its insecurities, it is also vital for the Indian state to understand why these insecurities exist.

For one thing, the communities in the Northeast are very small and their fears of being overwhelmed by forces from outside; demographically, culturally, linguistically, economically etc., are not altogether unrealistic. It is important to mention that among the 2540 languages of the world listed by the UNESCO in 2016, on a scale ranging from ‘vulnerable’ to completely ‘extinct’, almost all of the indigenous language of the Northeast, fall in the category of ‘vulnerable’ and a few in the ‘endangered’. Endangered languages are those where children of the respective community have begun to abandon it, as the mother tongue in preference of another. There are also ‘critically endangered’ and ‘definitely endangered’ languages depending on whether this abandoning process began at the parents’ or grandparents’ generations. On the other hand ‘Vulnerable’ languages are those which still spoken as mother tongue by most of the children of the community, but because of the small number of speakers and the restriction of the domain in which the language is spoken, it falls under the category of vulnerable. It must be said it is to the credit of the region that many languages spoken by even a few thousand people have not gone extinct, but the fact is, they are with little exceptions, under threat.31

Insecure past reflected in constitution

The Indian state too has had its own problems. Its traumatic birth as a modern independent nation as Fali S. Nariman points out in his book The State of the Nation, has been a cause for a very fundamental existential insecurity.32The character of the Indian state is still repleted with features shaped by the extreme circumstances of 1947, and many of these needs to be shed, as India of 1947 and India of 2017 are two very different countries. In 1947, India not only suffered the trauma of Partition but also was unsure whether it would be able to integrate with most of the 560 princely states either because of their unwillingness or indifference about joining the Indian Union. It must be noted that it was at this time the Indian Constitution was written and it was expected that this insecurity would have been reflected in it. This unease is most pronouncedly evident in the avoidance of the word federalism. To name a few others, the role of Governor, who is in office at the pleasure of the President as per Article 156 and is the eye and ear of the Centre as implied, though Article 163 specifies he acts on the advice of the state cabinet. There is also Article 356 by which on the recommendation of the governor of the state, the Centre can dissolve the state government and take over its administration for a limited but extendable period. Though the stated objective of the provision is to tackle constitutional crises, like all draconian laws, this Act too has had a history of ending up misused by ruling political parties to serve their power interests so many times. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA-1958 is another piece of legislation which reflects this same state of insecure mind and it is not a coincidence that it too came into being during the early years of India’s independence.

The strongest alibi of this insecurity however is Article 3 of the constitution as it is argued by Nariman. This article gives the Centre the power to not only alter the boundaries or change the name of any state but also to create new states out of existing ones, with or without the consent of the concerned states. When this article was conceived of, this was in all likelihood meant as a warning to the princely states that if they did not fall in line, the Centre has the power to tear them apart or even obliterate their identities completely. Though it is understandable the compelling circumstances of the time would probably have made any nascent nation think of an asymmetrically powerful Centre as a safeguard, the truth is those conditions are long gone. India is a confident and powerful nation now and there is no longer the need to continue to suffer from the same paranoia which was once forced on it. Nariman, however, recommends that these features of the Constitution of India, though cannot be dropped altogether easily now, should be archived, never to be used again.33

 

Cultural container, Look East

One of the fallacies in most studies of the Northeast region in the postcolonial era has been, to see the region exotically as a cultural and geographical island, long insulated from the rest of the world, and therefore happy in a uniquely untouched and unspoilt world of its own till the advent of the modern times. This probably is also the most pronounced weakness of the notion of Zomia that I have discussed earlier in this essay, important though this imagined regional profile is in unravelling the past of the region. No community can or has lived in complete social vacuum, and even neighbouring communities which are hostile to each other have understandably shaped each other’s defining characters. This notwithstanding, and in particular in Indian scholarship, seldom has the Northeast region been looked upon as possibly a product of the larger environment within which it exists, which by the very nature of its physical geography would transcend national boundaries. Often this outlook is determined by an inherent possessive hubris of a national community wanting to see all territories and peoples within its political geography as essentially a part of the national organic being. ‘Every part of India therefore must belong to the India story alone, or the Indian historical mainstream, and any other narrative that does not conform to this standard of national imagining, thereby, becomes deviant and alien, and must ultimately be brought into the mainstream.’34 The flaw of such nationalistic historiography is obvious. As is the case with any other part of the world, the Northeast cannot also be honestly understood in its wholeness, except alongside those of the countries, or regions of those countries, which straddle it on practically all sides. This then is the problem of the story of Northeast at its essence, defined by a core contradiction between what is projected as the Indian national mainstream and the different cultural and political streams that the region expectedly has always also belonged to.35

The nation in this context becomes akin to a cultural container.36 Nothing is expected to spill outside it and conversely, nothing from outside is expected to spills into it. Any historical stream that tends not to fit perfectly into this container becomes problematic. Furthermore, it is another characteristic of the state to be suspicious of these deviant and non-mainstream histories and peoples. The Indian State has been no exception. India’s first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s letter of 7 November 1950, to the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru is just one alibi of this. In this letter, the leader reverentially referred as the Iron Man, is unambiguous of an irredentist suspicion of the ‘non-mainstream’ Northeast.37

Indeed, the conceptualisation of nation as a cultural container becomes extremely problematic in the context of a multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi religion country like India. Especially in dealing with peripheral provinces such as the Northeast, an approximate 98 percent of the physical boundary of which are international, there can be no other way of studying the place, its histories, and peoples, without doing so in consonance with those of territories and peoples beyond these international borders.38

From this standpoint, the Look/Act ‘East Policy’ acquires deeper relevance. This project should no longer be just about commerce, but equally of psychologically freeing the Northeast region from its claustrophobic landlocked mentality. If only commerce were to be the goal, as indeed it seems to be the thrust currently, a maritime project to link the richer South East Asian countries and ports in the eastern coasts of the Indian subcontinent would be the preferred option. True to anticipation it is coming to be precisely this, and so while India’s trade volume with ASEAN is growing respectably, the contribution to this growth by trades through the Northeast land routes is still negligible. The Look/Act ‘East Policy’ then perhaps should have two components. One that takes advantage of the commerce potential with ASEAN and East Asia through sea routes, and the other should be about linking up the natural economic and cultural sub-region of Northeast India, North Myanmar, North Thailand, and Laos, etc. It is not a coincidence that this map too somewhat resembles Zomia, reinforcing the contention that geography predicates war and peace. This project could be modelled on the Asian Bank’s ambitious Greater Mekong Sub-region initiative with its motto of reaping peace dividends through promotion of connectivity, competitiveness and community. Without compromising national sovereignties of any of the countries involved, the idea should be to soften borders to give space for growth of natural economic regions broken up and fractured in the dawning of modern post-colonial nation states in the mid-twentieth century.

Moderating ethnic homelands and identity

If these are some problem areas on the larger canvas of the Indian State, there are also much to be settled on the smaller conflict arenas within the Northeast. One of these, and perhaps the thorniest, has had to do with the idea of exclusive ethnic homelands, and the question of ethnic identities being inalienably linked to this notion of homeland. Since the territories which constitute these ethnic homelands are seldom inhabited by any particular ethnic group alone, very often many groups separately end up claiming same stretches of land as not just their homelands, but their exclusive homelands, thus the conflict becomes more potential. Again it is Assam and Manipur which have witnessed some of the most deadliest of these conflicts in the recent past, and the worst part is that, the potential for more conflicts have hardly been put to rest. Much of the territories claimed as homelands by these ethnic groups are largely uninhabited and therefore these homelands are notional, rather than an ownership determined by actual physical occupation. This being so, it becomes even more easy for geographies of homelands to overlap.

 

Whose Land?

In the land tenure system of a modern state, all land within the territorial boundary of the state is deemed to belong to the state. Individual land owners are only tenants leasing the little plots of land their homesteads or farms sit on from the state with certain rights of ownership over them and for a specified amount of tax depending on the size and category of land they take possession. This ownership however is not absolute. The state can if it considers necessary in the interest of public good, acquire the land back from its tenants by the legal principle of eminent domain after paying fair and due compensation. Obviously, different states have different land laws, but the basic principle defining this relationship remains the same. The modern system is pretty clear cut and there is hardly any chances of dispute within its jurisdiction which cannot be settled by plain application of the rule of law. It is when we enter the world of customary indigenous laws that things get a little nebulous and messy. This is because, first, there are as many different customary laws as there are indigenous ethnic communities and many of these customs are opposed to each other. In most of the cases of Northeast, these ethnic communities literally rub shoulders, so antagonistically placed outlooks to indigenous rights have big potential for causing conflicts. Second, often these customary laws transgress modern notions of justice and jurisprudence. This often is the case in areas of gender rights and equality of citizens. The ugly tension in Nagaland in 2016 over the implementation of the national norm for reservation of seats in urban local self-governing bodies for women is evidence of these discords embedded within. While it is universally acknowledged now that indigenous peoples cannot be unthinkingly put at the mercy of modern laws that they are not prepared for yet, the indigenous customary laws themselves need plenty of moderation within. The United Nations adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007, reflects this. As UN declaration, it is still not a legally binding instrument under international law, but this Declaration ‘represents the dynamic development of international legal norms and it reflects the commitment of the UN’s members to move in certain directions’39

All mixed population of Northeast states, Assam and Manipur in particular, have both these notions of land and land ownership coexisting. While there has been little or no problem settling dispute within the land administered by modern law, this is not so in what are considered traditional lands. Here boundaries are sought to be demarcated on intangible notions such as ancestral land. In Manipur for instance, the conflict situation arising out of the demand for Greater Nagaland, the demand and opposition to the ILPS or the creation of new districts by the state government in 2016 which resulted in a prolonged blockade of the state by Naga groups in Manipur are just some examples. The question is, in case of this demarcation becomes absolutely necessary, what would be the criterion that defines ancestral land? Would it be in terms of actual physical occupation of a particular tract of land for a particular length of time? As mentioned earlier, a majority of the lands in Manipur hills would be physically unoccupied, and if modern law were to be applied, these would be government land. Or would it be defined in terms of occurrences in myths and legends of the communities? In this case too, much of these tracts of land and mountains would occur in the ancient myths of many different communities. The psychological demarcation of territories between hills and valley, and the association of each of these geographical regions with different ethnic communities in absolute terms, as has been argued earlier, is as recent as the drawing of the Inner Line in Assam in 1873. The truth is, the nomadic herder, the shift cultivator, the settled agriculturist, the hunter gatherer, the Zomianpaddy states, all will have different notions of homeland, and in physical terms, these homelands can be the same stretch of land. For instance, for the nomadic tribesman, wherever he moves and pitches his tentis his land and for the Zomian feudal state, its boundaries extend till as far as its domains enter the spheres of interest of other feudal states which challenge and stop it from gazing any farther. Arbitrating claims of homelands in such a scenario thus becomes only a matter of privileging one outlook over the others. This being so, if at all there has to be a demarcation of boundaries between these homelands, it would have to be by modern parameters of justice aimed at safeguarding the survival needs of all. The resolution could also be in terms of a shared homeland based on an aggregate of the different concerns and notions of the contesting groups. Coexistence in this sense should be about sharing and not segregating.

In arriving at this equilibrium, all stake holders have equal responsibility to shoulder. The danger has always been, in such situations, victims and victimisers can reverse positions easily. Indeed, both can also end up with a sense of being the victim in the same bargain. Coexistence must have to be about a shared sense of destiny compelled by geography and existential essentials predetermined by it. The challenge is also about having to come to terms with the changing times. Hence it is about discarding anachronistic and problematic old paradigms that could explain past challenges but not the new and modern ones. It is also about evolving working formulas whereby each can have the most, without infringing into the other’s legitimate and private spheres. It also further entails that the understanding of what is legitimate will have to be periodically negotiated and renegotiated to keep it sharply tuned to the needs of the changing times. There is no other way to begin this journey of self-discovery than to first come to terms with the reality of the Northeast as a multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-religion society. Let it also be remembered that if the ethnic world continues to hang on to redundant symbols to define their identities, their identities too would be in danger of becoming redundant sooner than later for no other reason that the fact that the context against which identity is defined is always in a flux. The battles of the present cannot possibly be fought with any hope for success on the slogans of half a century ago.

 

Conclusion: The Cesar Millan lesson

The author concludes with a piece of wisdom on conflict resolution from a very unlikely source. There will not be many who keep dogs as pet who have not watched Cesar Millan’s incredible series Dog Whisperer show. Millan’s understanding of dog behaviour is incredible and his consistent message is that problem-dogs are more often than not a reflection of the owners’ own inhibitions and misconceptions. Millan provides therapy for homes with aggressive dogs and he insists that it is not just the problem-dogs which must undergo therapy, but also their owners. The attitude he recommends for dog owners is to see in terms of: ‘This is my house and I share it with my dog’ and not ‘This is my house and I keep a dog’. The house becomes not an exclusive space of the owner, but equally the dog’s territory. He also says the equation is not as simple as expecting a reciprocation of the love and affection the owner showers on the dog, on the other hand, what works is giving the dog the space it needs as a territorial and pack animal. He also says primacy must be given to respect rather than love in this equation. The latter is necessary, but the former is what the dog reciprocates. Many owners end up devastated because of the failure to understand this equation. There are of course pathological cases, where a dog is innately aggressive, therefore beyond rehabilitation and have to be put down, and Millan’s self-professed mission is to save problem dogs from falsely being classified thus.

There is obviously much to take away from Millan’s lessons not just in dog rearing, but in any project of fostering social harmony.

Published in Articles
Sunday, 06 August 2017 00:00

Swachh Bharat mission observed

From Our Correspondent

CCPUR| Aug 5

A mass cleanliness drive under Swachh Bharat Mission was held at Churachandpur town. It was organised by the District Water and Sanitation Committee, Churachandpur.

The town was divided into four sectors where teams led by the DC, SP, CEO of ADCC and DFO of the district conducted the cleanliness drive. Each team was given aid at their sector by the village authorities concerned.

The drive started at 7 am in which different government officials, civil bodies, philanthropic organisation, VAs and the general public took their part. More than 10000 people took participation in the drive.

Regarding today's exercise, DC of Churachandpur, Shyam Lal Poonia said that the initiative will be sustained with constant public support. A sense of belongingness amongst the citizens is a must and that collective responsibility to keep our surrounding clean will help us in eradicating serious diseases.

“I humbly appeal to the public to put constant efforts to make our town a safer, cleaner and better place to live in,” said the DC who is also the chairman of DWSC.

Published in News

IMPHAL | Aug 5

Health and family welfare minister, L. Jayantakumar has stressed the importance, utility and value of medicinal plants specially found in the state. He maintained that medicinal plants in olden days were as useful as the medicine available these days.

He was speaking at a prize distribution ceremony held at his office chamber at the Old Secretariat building, which was organised by the Manipur State Medicinal Plant Board under the directorate of Ayush, as chief guest.

Cash prize with citations were also distributed to the students who secured positions in different categories of competitions such as drawing, speech, recitation and essay writing held recently under the Manipur State Medicinal Plant Board. Minister also appreciated the winners of the competition and their guardians for their efforts.

The function was attended by Dr A. Guneshwor Sharma, director AYUSH and Rk. Romesh Singh, secretary Foundation of Development for Society, Keisamthong Top Leirak, Imphal as president and guest of honour, respectively.

Published in News
Sunday, 06 August 2017 00:00

AMGSUM condemns rape

KANGPOKPI |Aug 5

All Manipur Gorkha Students’ Union Manipur expressed its strong condemnation over the alleged rape and attempted murder incident of a 15 year student girl on August 1 at in Senapati.

B. Adhikari, president AMGSU appealed to the government of Manipur, home department, legal authority and other concerned to book the culprit at earliest and punish according to the law of the land.

He said that law and order situation in the state has been deteriorating day by day, crime and atrocities against the innocent young men, women, children, generally young student have been victimized in a regularly interval.

He further said that Legal authority should form new and strong Act and law so that the offenders should feel very hard before committing any type of such crimes.

The Union also extented solidity to the victim and her family while stating it will always stand for the cause of delivering justice.

Published in News
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