Archive for March, 2007

Oh Churachandpur! The Town Of Our Birth

By: ABEL HMAR A Ccpurian

The Little town of Churachandpur, tucked away in the State of Manipur in the North Eastern Part of India. Hardly known to the world outside is a beautiful picturesque town cradled by the Hills on all sides. The natural beauty of this town is comparable to a Painter painting his master-piece and taking every bit of care to ensure that his painting is indeed the best and that it stands out from the rest.
The Painter for the unsurpassed beauty of Churachandpur is the Creator Himself. The way he has molded and shaped, and colored the hills and the trees that surrounds this beautiful valley town is simply breath taking. I think the Lord (the Creator) must have complimented himself after He created the scenic town of Churachandpur. It may not be the ultimate in beauty for others, or for outsiders, but as a Ccpurians this is our town and it sure is beautiful in our sight.
This picturesque town (the second biggest town in Manipur after Imphal) is inhabited by the beautiful people of Paites, Hmars, Kukis, Lushais, Gangtes, Vaipheis, Zo, Chin, Simte etc. And also a handful of VAIS (outsiders), and few Sardarjis who have made Churachandpur (Lamka) their own hometown. Churachandpur is a hometown for all these beautiful people. And both time and destiny had woven all the above mentioned communities into one to form the unique multi lingual, multi culture and peculiar social fabric of Churachandpur town. All the communities inhabiting this town are like their other North-Eastern Brothers and sisters are of Mongoloid races.It is said that everyday in Ccpur is a ‘Pentecost day’, or that Pentecost day is celebrated everyday in this town. I think we all know what happened on the Pentecost day in the Bible, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers from different parts of the world. And the believers from different parts of Asia and the world were able to communicate to each other in their own languages.
The same holds true for the people of this town – for the Ccpurians. Very much unlike the other towns and the capitals of the North Eastern States – The Ccpurians communicate with each other in their own respective languages. Ccpur is quite a cosmopolitan town in its own way. The Lingua Franca for this town is ones own language.And the Communities here are predominantly Christian, which is quite evident from the fact that there are Churches of all shapes and sizes in every locality of Ccpur. Let us go back in time to the early 80′ and also all the decades before that. Ccpur was the most beautiful and the most peaceful town. Fear was an unknown word back then. They say that A Lady could walk alone at night with nothing to fear. The only cause of concern for the kids and the Women Folks were Local Drunkards in their drunken stupor belting out the latest Hindi film songs as they walk down the streets of Ccpur in their inimitable ‘drunken style’.Beautiful Young Girls and Boys, walking down the streets of Ccpur town, with Guitars in hand, singing a song of serenade in gay abandon under a star-lit night was a common and a beautiful sight.
But Alas! Things have changed drastically now, the tables have been completely turned. As fear envelops this beautiful town, the sweet strain of the acoustic guitar is rarely heard now. The sounds of Automatic guns have taken over, as fear and uncertainty lurks around in ever nook and corner of this once ‘so peaceful town’.The beautiful people of this picturesque town live out their lives in constant fear now. After the unfortunate ethnic clash (Paite/Kuki), people now prefer to stay inside locked doors once the night falls. And Security forces the Guardians of Peace patrol every inch of the town. Young-Men suspected to be ‘Extremists’ are often rounded up, unnecessarily harassed and often subjected to the anger of the security forces. Body Bags and folded shawls have become the order of the day. Hatred pulls the trigger, another life is taken, another body lying in a pool of blood. With various Extremist outfits like K.N.F (and its various factions), ZRA, and HPC (D) having their own are of influence. Ccpur is now a far cry from what it used to be in the past’ When fear was an unknown word’An Yale Graduate friend of mine wrote an article about Ccpur in a newsletter once. He actually compared it with Uganda. He wrote ‘ Two places, green with hills, red with blood and Alive with Hope’. The most striking sentence of the Article that has stayed with me all these years ‘ My brothers and sisters are carrying automatic guns killing each other and they call themselves Christians’This hit me on the head like a 1000-ton hammer. We all claim and profess ourselves to be Christians – Followers of Christ. And we all know that one of the Commandments given in the 10 commandments listed in the Bible is ‘ Thou shall not kill’. May be we have lost touch with Christianity? Or are we just Christians for convenience? All I know is Christianity is not a religion of convenience and that involves a lot of sacrifices and not compromising with the hypocrisy in the Church or with the World.Jesus gave us a commandment, a new commandment He gave unto us ‘That we love one another as He has loved us and that by all this will men know that we are His disciples’. But I guess we Ccpurians (Lamkaites) miss this very important commandment or we have interpreted it wrongly.
We love one another aren’t we? We are loving our neighbors and our brothers, we are loving them with AK-47 and 9 mm pistols.The Church as an institution in our society has failed completely. If we cannot be united because we speak different languages or belong to different communities, then why cannnot we be united as Christians – we should be united at least as followers of the Cross. We proclaimed ourselves to be believers in Christ when the life that we lead is a far cry from what Christians should be. What we are trying to say is that we may not be united under the banner or Mizo, Zomis, Kukis, Chins, or any other names that you can come up with. But we should be united as fellow Christians as a member of the Family of Christ.We need to get back to basics, we need to remind ourselves how fragile we humans are. And that we all need each other support to survive in this uncertain and unfriendly world because ‘ No man is an Island’. No race or Community can live alone, No countries can stand on its own. We are all inter-dependent on each other and need each other to exist in this world.We need to redefine our relationships with each other. How can we go on with suspicious minds? Let us re-affirm our faith in the Lord Jesus and in each other. Let us try and work together in building a better Ccpur, a better Lamka. Let us try and heal the old wounds, though the scars may remain, let us forgive even though we may not forget. The Change can come from you and me. At the same time let us not be under the illusion that ‘ the change’ will come over night. But in our own little way we can rebuild “CCPUR’ and restore it to its rightful place. After all ‘ A Drop of water’ can make an ocean.So my friends I appeal to you all to be Ccpurians, Lamkaites first and foremost above everything. We the students of today are the future leaders of tomorrow, the future torchbearers of our society. How long shall we allow ourselves to be divided and fragmented by narrow domestic walls? Because I can say without any shadow of a doubt that there will be ‘No Paites, No Hmars, No Kukis, No Gangtes, No Lushais and No whatever in our eternal Home – Heaven. Let us make Churachandpur a Paradise that it once was. Let us not be Narrow Minded but Nehru Minded and try earnestly to regain this Paradise that we have lost.Every Ccpurians has to really think about this never-ending cycle of Violence, that has our town firmly in its grip? This never ending cycle of Violence have left many our of our brothers homeless, fatherless, widowed, motherless and their lives shattered beyond redemption. How long can we spend our time buying Guns than educating our sons on the need of a peaceful co-existence, mutual non-aggression and brotherhood? How long can we sway to this ‘Symphony of destruction” as our live and town disintegrate around us? How long can we allow ‘Our Lives ‘Our town’ and ‘Our Society’ to disintegrate before our very eyes? How long can we allow Our Christianity to be in Question?’ And when we have became ‘ A Shame’ to Christianity and the faith that we profess. After all we are humans, having the same dream, cherishing the same goals and aspirations for ourselves and for our children. Do you really think we would like to pass this ‘fragmented, fractured and divided Society’ to our Children who will carry on the torch from us someday? What right do we have to take a life that we cannot Create? What right do we have to take a life that we cannot make? What a World have we inherited? What example have we set for the little Children of today who will carry on the flame from us one fine day?
Our streets are filled with blood, as hatred rules our mind, our lust for blood. Our hands are red-stained with blood of innocent lives we have taken. We put a mortal man in control, and we watched him become a god, heads rolled. We turned a Killer into a Hero. Let Christ be our Hero, our anchor. Let Him the foundation on which we base our lives. And not some leaders or politicians who keeps talking about changing the world when they do not even think of changing themselves first. Let us not put our faith on world heroes who will hijack our good intentions for their own cause. We need to remember that even Mohammad Ali has only ‘feet of clay’Let us rise up and build like Nehemiah said in the Bible. So that others do not mock and laugh at our differences. We do not need another civil war or another bloody ethnic clash – it feeds only the rich while it buries the poor. Let us heal this bleeding land of our birth ‘ this bruised and wounded Churachandpur’. ‘ There are no more new frontiers- no more Shangri- Las left. We all have got to make it here, to satisfy our endless needs to justify our bloodied deeds, In the name of destiny in the name of God.So my dear friends, Let us not subject our town to war and attrition again. After all this is the land of our birth where our love ones live, where our dear ones are buried. The town and the society where we will carry out our brief existence, and where they will bury us six feet deep when our faithful work here on earth is done. If we sincerely believe that we can regain the ‘paradise’ that we have lost, then my brethren we surely can – with a little bit of love, care and affection, and a helping hand we can usher in a whole new world, a whole new paradise. Some may say I am ‘ A Dreamer’ but I am sure I am not the only one. And I know someday there will be many to join us.
In the end I would like to share with you this beautiful poem by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore(With due apologies to Sir Rabindranath Tagore)’ Where the mind is without fear / And the Head is held highWhere the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic world Where words come out from depths of truthWhere tireless streaming strength strives towards perfectionWhere the clear streams of reason Has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habitsWhere the mind is lead forward by thee into ever widening thoughts and actionsInto that Heaven of Freedom My Father, Let me and my fellow Ccpurians’ awakeLet us dare to dream of a better Ccpur – A better tomorrow my friends. In the end to quote our President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam ‘Dream will turn into thoughts, thoughts into actions and actions into reality’. Let us heal our bleeding town, and try to regain our Lost Paradise. Remember my friends! The Change can only come from You and Me, and only if we dare to ‘Believe’.


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Allegations Against Truth

By: Elf Hmar

The comical allegation of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) that was published in The Sangai Express on the 3rd of May where it states–“The recent rape allegations of 21 Hmar women at Lungthulien by 18 cadres of the MPA and KCP is one such atrocious allegations raised in cahoots with the Indian Government” is another blatant uttering where it fails to realize that such accusation holds no ground when truth firmly surfaces and face them resolutely. How much one tries to subdue truth, it always resurfaces again and again to strongly fight back falsity, grasping it by its neck and wrestling it down until it can no longer move and lays rotted where it falls. It’s amusing though–how the game has been planned and played once one perceives thoroughly–the misty yet un-foolproof plans. The UNLF, rather than continuing on its denial propaganda to hypnotize the already hooded valley civil society groups, should try different strategy to dilute and pacify its heinous ‘mistakes’ by accepting the crime of what it’s Meiranba, Machaton, Ali Khan, Nuhrul, Nanaocha, Dablo, Irabot, etc had done to the Hmar populace in Parbung sub-division. Will such denial heal? No. Will such allegation truly serve the purpose of the UNLF? No. Such steadfast denials and allegations of the UNLF can only turn into a doom for its own. What alternative does that proposes? Definitely a rethinking and reformation of itself and its failed policy. It should not blame its failure to the Indian Army intelligence for it only demonstrate with shame their inefficiency and ineffectiveness in fighting its ‘enemy’. Such rhetoric statements can only flatten it’s own self-esteem. And then again for those who have by now accepted the fact that the mass rape had indeed taken place but who still doubt the involvement of the UNLF in the act–the following will be a food for their hungry thoughts. The UNLF in its first press statement on the issue of mass rape (The Sangai Express, March 7, 2006) acknowledged the presence of a platoon of its MPA cadres along with 12 cadres of the KCP in their ‘battefield’ Parbung and that on January 16, 2006 (late) 2nd Lt Meiranba along with 6 other MPA cadres and 12 KCP cadres went to Lungthulien village and had beaten up the villagers. The UNLF denied that its cadres tortured the villagers and raped the Hmar women in the same statement, which is of course what is expected from them to hide their disgraced image. There would definitely be suspicion within them right from the start that the ‘allegation’ can be genuine. And then again on January 23, 2006 (The Sangai Express), the UNLF through its press statement salutes its three cadres 2nd Lt L Meiranba alias Dinesh, private K Machaton alias Roshan and private Md Ali Khan alias Lashkar who died fighting the Indian security personnel at Parbung village on January 20, 2006. Is not this self-evident that the UNLF and KCP cadres were indeed involved in human rights violations against the Hmar people during their annexation period of the remote villages? Is their desperate attempt to save their self ‘tarnished image’ more important than the 21 rape victims and many molested? Is their self-tarnished image more important than the 23 innocent lives killed by the landmines planted by them? Is the reclaiming of their self-tarnished image more important than the thousands of helpless villagers who were displaced to Mizoram to become refugees?The continuing exodus of Hmar villagers from the areas is also without doubt not an allegation. Neither are the refugee camps that exist today in Mizoram; nor the thousands of them who are taking and continue to take refuge inside these camps. The displaced Hmar villagers are bon-a-fide citizens of state. The law of the land prohibits them to be forcefully displaced. They have no right to flee to Mizoram. And they have no right to permanently settle there. The displaced Hmar people’s only right is to be repatriated and settled back on their rightful land–peacefully without anymore outsiders’ interference on their lands. They have their absolute rights over their lands. Their sacred lands should not be a regarded and be made ‘battlefields’ for revolutionary groups battling the Indian Army or rival revolutionary groups. This total lookdown and disregard of the hills, lands and soil of the Hmar is a direct insult to the Hmars in Manipur. The encroachers should either be driven off or if there are any right-thinkers amongst them, should pull off completely from the areas without further exploring to only exploit the lands and the people and which would only jeopardize the already fragile relationship more, as a result of the revolutionary groups’ acts of monstrous crime.Such lame excuses the ‘devta’ UNLF continues to construct around its already flimsy protective crust only unwrap more of its insidious policies, one of which unashamedly is to make use of the mass rape issue (as it has already been nationalized and internationalized) to pursue its now questionable struggle of ‘liberating Manipur’ from the clutches of the ‘Indian Mahajans’. Nevertheless, such policy already undermines its so-called struggles as it evidently illustrates how fictitious it is its claimed struggle for the hill peoples in Manipur is. Let the hill peoples be, for once, their own selves and choose their own course of action. A sub-insurgency struggle is not a thing recommended at all. Neither does the group tries to heal the pains that it’s lustful, inhumane and barbarian cadres continues to inflict against the hill peoples, nor does it tries to amend its ways. It instead draws a well-structured ‘Laksman Rekha’ on how to continue on befriending, after which explore and exploit the hill peoples in Manipur. This ‘X-rated File’ of the UNLF had been carefully tucked somewhere in some underground strongbox, safe and away from prying eyes. Fortunately, so as to mention, the red-file had been incidentally unearthed and uncovered and made public for the good of all. If the UNLF, along with KCP and other so-called revolutionary groups having their presence in the hills, is truly for integrating and liberating Manipur – they should accept their ongoing transgression against the Hmars. If a demilitarization of the Tipaimukh is being sought, they should without fail and any hesitation, call off its every single cadre before the Indian military completely militarize the hills to make their grounds and establishment for pending projects which may or may not be in the interest of the indigenous peoples living over the areas. The same suggestion goes for the other valley-based insurgent groups who had taken refuge in the hills of Manipur. It will serve the revolutionary groups from the valleys three ways – firstly, the hill-based revolutionary groups will have to handle their tidbits by their own self and in the process annihilate themselves fighting the ‘evil’ Indian Army and secondly, they can come back to the hills to continue on occupying and establishing their safe bases and re-terrorize the hills after the Indian Army demilitarize, and thirdly, they will be able to build the relationship with the hill peoples that is a must for liberating Manipur. One cannot think of the materialization of a liberated Manipur without the complete backing of the peoples in the hills. It is nonsense to even think about it. And under the present context, it is just impossible. Time to wake up.It is indeed interesting to make a note of the suggestion made by the banned militant outfit, the UNLF, of the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene and verify the involvement of the UNLF on the ‘alleged’ mass rape of Hmar women in Tipaimukh. This was first suggested by the UNLF on 9th April 2006 that appeared in several newspapers. Again on 3rd May 2006 (The Sangai Express), the UNLF contented that “an independent body like the International Red Cross Society be roped in to verify the charges has been turned down by those who have raised the allegations. This shows that there is a sinister design behind the whole game plan.” However, the Hmar Inpui – an apex body of all Hmar organisations, released a press statement as a rejoinder to the UNLF suggestion of the ICRC on 13th April, 2006 (The Sangai Express) stating that, “…it has no objection to the involvement of any international organisation of repute in the eventuality of Central/ State Government’s complete apathy and inability to handle the matter… while appreciating the ICRC’s role in rehabilitation and in providing assistance and succor in times of natural disasters, conflict situation etc., the Hmar Inpui holds that there are more appropriate UN investigative agencies than ICRC who can handle crimes of rape and torture as in the present case…”. The conscious misinterpretation of the Hmar Inpui statement makes it quite understandable how hollow the allegations of the UNLF turn out to be. Not only did the Hmar Inpui, from the quoted statement, welcome the UNLF suggestion for the intervention of the ICRC, but also even suggest that there are also appropriate United Nations investigative agencies that handle crimes that the UNLF and KCP committed against the Hmar people. And the question remains–why had not the UNLF suggested the appropriate UN agencies at the first place not only to probe into the rape of 21 Hmar women, but also equally serious cases of displacement and landmines which are its own creations? Were there some sinister designs to make-believe the civil societies that its suggestion is a good suggestion? A must point to ponder over.The UNLF ‘childish’ suggestion, if looked at from another angle, does raise an eyebrow on what the motives and interests of the UNLF may be. It may be that the UNLF can twist the hands of the Imphal chapter of the Red Cross, or that they have a mole inside who is none other than an empathizer of its movement? Another possibility may be that the suggestion itself is a planned move to cleverly try to exploit the Hmars sufferings and involve the United Nations to propagate their ‘struggles’. If that is that then, it means that the UNLF by now had privately established the fact that its cadres had indeed committed a serious crime against the Hmars. Knowing this and concluding that whoever (national or international enquiry commission or agencies) may be involved in the probe, they have everything to loose and nothing to gain. And so, the suggestion for involving the ICRC comes in. The UNLF has in mind that the ICRC, being an international agency, could in a way be able to internationalize their “struggle” while in the surface it tries to save a face against its human rights violations, but underneath lies the more carefully planned strategy mentioned. Moreover, the UNLF ought to know that even if it has empathizers within the ICRC, the ICRC is not that foolish to let (even if the ICRC give the green signal to verify the mass rape) anybody who already has contact in Manipur to investigate. It is understandable that the UNLF did not suggest human rights commissions in India, as it would mean discrediting its ‘liberation struggles’ against India’s ‘colonialism’. This is self-explanatory. Though a good one, it is undeniably a bad move, a child’s play. Such immaturity. Let this be an indicator to grow up.A per the notification by Joint Secretary (Home), Government of Manipur (29th April 2006), the time for submission of the Rajkhowa Commission of Inquiry report on the alleged mass rape at Parbung sub-division, has been extended for a month effective from May 17, 2006. That was all to it. No explanation on why the submission time has been extended as to the earlier notification that the report should be submitted within two months (i.e., May 17, 2006) after the institution of the said Judicial Enquiry (PTI, 20th March 2006). Another question is to whom should the Rajkhowa Commission Report be submitted. It will not do much good for any sides if the report is to be submitted to the State administrator alone. The same should be submitted to the Central Government as well as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The irresponsible Manipur state government alone cannot be entrusted to handle such serious crime against humanity. And also, it is in everybody curiosity as to when the report is to be made public. Lets not play futile games that not lessen but increase the pains and sufferings of the common people who are always the end-looser. Lets instead champion their causes genuinely. Lets stop playing games with innocent lives, end the reign of terror, and bring an end to inhumane torture and senseless killings. Let us raise our voice against the discrimination of rights of our fellow humans and discrimination against women. Lets our humane conscience take over and be the sole winner.

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AFSPA: The Question to Democracy

By: David Buhril

The Armed Forces Special Power Act, AFSPA, popularly called the “draconian law” has, once again, become the favourite toy in the politicians’ cradle. As the fever of the 9th Manipur Legislative Assembly election grips, AFSPA becomes the catchword. As if it is the soul of their political salvation, politicians swear on it without any hesitation. AFSPA becomes the shared agenda for the contesting candidates. As “democratic election” gears up in Manipur, the operation of AFSPA poses a big question to the kind of democracy we are living with. Is free and fair democratic election really valid under such circumstances, when “inhumane” law prevails with unbridled power given to the Armed Forces? If the conduct of election is seen as a continuity of democracy, we are not far from accepting the continuity of AFSPA as democratic. The election, which is supposed to be a democratic means of empowering the people, is, however, a big contradiction as the secret ballot hangs on the draconian law. The whole drama is a face saving exercise for the mysterious democracy, whose face we have not yet seen. The “concert for democracy” swings without any democracy. If today democracy is seen as following formal procedures to allow dissent and multi-party election, democracy is, then, alive without its heart and soul. India as a flawed democracy is rightly said. The flaw being the inability of its institutions to be accountable and efficient in its operation. What we see in Manipur and in different parts of the North East is a deficit of trust in everything. What not?The party politics or say the electoral politics has stirred with a temper and tone to repeal AFSPA after the election forms its own house. But with a condition, if they are elected to power. AFSPA has posed a big political challenge not only for the politicians but also for the authorities as well as several NGOs. As everyone battles with what comes first, peace and development or AFSPA, the tone and tenor becomes promising in the ambiguity. Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh belongs to the tribe who believed in the return of peace as the condition for repealing the Act. AFSPA is hidden in the most ambiguous excuse of the absence of peace, when it is already clogged in the spiral from the offshoot that gripped the entire North-East. When that becomes evident, one cannot, but wonder whether the meaning would be delivered with the politicians poking a small but sensitive constituency. When the killing spree in Assam could have a spillover effect on the prospect of AFSPA in Manipur, the campaigning chorus will face more orchestration even if everyone sits with power. The politicians’ race for mileage would turn out to be a mute tirade when none of them has a concrete design to repeal the Act.That, once again, proved that the AFSPA chorus is situation created. It has to be when they failed to provide regular electricity, road and connectivity, safe drinking water, healthcare, institutions, playgrounds and what not. I was told only about 15.1 percent household in Manipur get access to safe drinking water. Nature is good to the rest. Imagine two hours of power supply in forty-eight hours. Imagine also the spine chilling record of over 400 cases of bloody violence in Manipur in the last four years. In the year 2006, there was a record of 418 cases of violence by undergrounds accounting for death of 73 civilians and 27 security personnel.The question is what and where is the leverage? There is a need to test and run in every situation, which should be the alternative. A realist approach should substitute the soft stand that has been representing the region with AFSPA hatching no change at all. That would eventually allow any change a chance to take place in the space clogged with inhumane colonial Act stagnating the prospect for democracy and development. Fifty-seven years of swaying to merely fit into the political game of power quest has delivered nothing. The Act seems to be taken as a dead end in itself. One thing very clear is that peace or stability would not be established by strengthening the Armed Forces. But the land has been militarised. The rest is supposedly seen as militants if not victims of that. The unbridge gap of distrust grows evidently bigger. The only progress actually.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier expressed his desire to relief the draconian act by giving a humane touch to it. AFSPA is the new untouchable item in the democratic space. Even though the authorities had shown compelled concern to touch the seemingly untouchable Act, the concern and motives are always suppressed. BP Jeevan Reddy Report as well as the numerous movements from the civil society for its repeal has been putting reasonable pressure. The protest is moving promisingly from Irom Sharmila Chanu to the United Nations. But will it be what it will be. Or is this what it really ought to be? So far a lukewarm response seems to be what it begets as “democracy” is cast once again into the ballot. One thing very popular with the general public in Manipur is the often-asked question, whether things, as they are, are real or not. Right now, politicians battling for power are baking their cake with AFSPA. As the ballot inked the finger of the right hand, AFSPA also wave on the left hand. A big reminder that right is not right. The question remains, is this democracy real or not?

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A game called ‘Tipaimukh’

By: Elf Hmar

– Elf Hmar, 9th September 2006

It does feel great when you see the name of your place and stories of your people gets highlighted in the media, be it in the electronic or print. In spite of knowing your land lacks everything in the modernity sense, you someway and somehow feel proud to see that it still found a space in some corner. This is true for the Tipaimukh—a place I call my home and land.

Since the beginning of the year, Tipaimukh has been on the limelight in both national and international levels. I do not know whether to say thanks or a no thanks. But the reason for the publicity is owed to two controversial issues—mass rape and dam. Despite all the exposure it received, the bigger issues tucked underneath are still left untouched. There is deficiency in the understanding and grasping of the ground reality that the Tipaimukh people faced and are made to confront each and every day. We failed to realize and accept the root for all the attention it suddenly found. The root of these issues still lie in wait where there is a need for certain level of understanding of the problems.
Today, when one talk or make mention of Tipaimukh; it is either of the mass rape of Hmar women by the banned UNLF and KCP rebels or a Large Dam that has been proposed to be built in the area. The reason of these two issues been touched is somehow because of the deprivation of rights by the ruling ‘mafia’ to the people in the area. This is truly sad. If this continues unabated, it is not far when the time will come when everything is already late, all too late to reconcile.
It is sad but true how the Tipaimukh Rape issue has been sidelined by the so-called right-thinking majority people in the state’s valleys. I give them credits for their successful intrusion in diverting the issue of Tipaimukh Rape to Tipaimukh Dam. It is so amazing a work well done. What a strategy, I could only stare. And what a scapegoat they make of those fronts that are yet to realise how they are being used and manipulated to serve their own selfish agendas. When they realise so, it will then be too late for them to make amends. I cry for those sincere humble souls who are been mercilessly fooled to provide the food for the pot-bellied greedy manipulators. I can only say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
We eat, drink and sleep Tipaimukh Dam every other day. We talk about the problems it will cause to the people in the area. The people it will displace and the kind of environmental and bio-diversity impacts it will have on the region. We shout all these at the top of our lungs. We cry against the abuses of their rights as loud as we can against the government for taking the people for granted. But we never really care. If we had really cared—the raped, maimed, tortured, killed victims and displaced villagers of Tipaimukh would already have their due justice. But they are far to get that. Instead the abuses to their rights get doubled each passing day. They might not ever get it. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe something at least will be seen in the days to come as the state’s assembly election is round the corner again. It is during such time of events that the people can fight back for their rights; give back the abuses to the abusers of their rights. A government merely uses the people. It never really wants to solve the problems its people face. So whoever gets elected does not matter at all in the long run. The people’s rights remain abused; problems keeps pouring in rather than drying out.
We never want to understand the context and the problems the people in Tipaimukh are already confronting for decades. The sufferings of the people failed to find a space in us. We smash it down and drove it down their throats. We do this because they do not matter to us anyhow, anyway. It will not profit us in anyway, that’s what we say. We failed to realize the consequence of these rejections. Our conscience failed to reason the reasons for the absence of development in any sphere in the region and the why and how of giving them those which have been continuously denied to them for years and years. Only when we allow giving room to this, will we be able to understand the acute pitiable conditions the people in the area leads everyday.
And you know buddy, Big Bro is watching us, he is watching silently. And it does concern you. Big Bro knows the truth. He just smiles at the silly games you play; playing the game along with you just for the game of it, though for just a short while.Do you really understand the game you are playing buddy? The rules of the game, eh? You know, interestingly, I like this game too. I seem to be good in it too. Make your move buddy. It’s not yet my game yet. I like it better when the game gets more complicated and tough. I like to be cornered in the corner. Because that’s usually when I make my move to counter the silly moves you make. And you know, that is when you are to know it’s a game you would not have sat down on.
n “Sanaleipak”, you value and talk of integration. What a wonderful intriguing word it is—integration. But whose integration and in what colours does it adorn itself? Is not it black? And what is this? Integration of those which is not yours? Integration with those you don’t give a damn? That’s so sweet. Excuse me please, but are not all your talks and acts fulfilling disintegration instead? Think about it. The most dreaded word for “Sanaleipak” — disintegration, which your people—the Meitei people shy away from and looked at it gingerly is actually what you and your people are propagating and supporting. Matter of fact, that’s the game you have been playing so playfully all the while. How nice and romantic it sounds. Doesn’t it? I doubt whether it will remains so.
Co-incidences do occur. Co-incidences are also man-made. And when certain co-incidences occur, it is only natural that the curiosity takes over to disclose the reasons for those co-incidences. Such is the case between the extensive human rights abuses in Tipaimukh by non-state actors and Tipaimukh Dam issue by state actors. It is funny to see how the Tipaimukh Dam issue has been making headlines while the rape issue gets subjugated to take a backseat. It’s funny and it’s not funny at all. The people who are suffering and are to suffer more are the butt of the joke. They are kicked to the far corner and made to take the brunt of all things ugly as if they are sub-human beings or some lowly animals.
You see, you need to rethink your actions. What usually is the cause of disintegration? I ought to tell you this before, but I thought you would grasp it by now. But your actions do not seem to indicate your knowledge of such. Let me just as well tell you. Why beat about the bushes, right? The causes are deprivation, marginalization and abuses of the rights of people. You see now? Let me give you a couple of hints to make your view clearer. Do you read anything in the signing of the Deed of Commitment by armed Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribal groups, pledging their commitment to ban anti-personnel landmines? What of the recent forming of the United People’s Front by the same tribal groups? Let me give you space for your thoughts. I played my part. The ball is in your court.

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Christianity, ethnicity and structural violence: The north-east India case

By: Parratt


The majority of former colonies may fairly be described as colonial constructs, in that their borders and the ethnic composition of their populations (and thus the resulting stresses of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict) were determined by the historical processes of colonial expansion. India, by contrast, could not unreasonably be called a post-colonial construct (1). Negotiations for its independence involved not only partition (ostensibly on religious grounds) but also the beginnings of the incorporation into the newly independent India of the princely states and other (mostly tribal) territories which were only very loosely administered by Britain. This process was still ongoing in 1975 (with the taking over of Sikkim). Around two fifths of present day India was never directly part of the British Empire, and only joined the Indian Union by processes of negotiation, backed up in several cases by intimidation and military action (2). This process (which came to the attention of the international community specially in the cases of Hyderabad, Kashmir and Goa) also significantly affected the north eastern region of India. Of the seven states in the northeast, only Assam (which then included the present Magalaya) was fully administered by the British. The princely native states of Manipur and Tripura became independent in 1947, and the tribal areas of the Naga Hills (which became the basis of the present Nagaland), Lushai Hills (now Mizoram), and NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) were loosely administered but not fully integrated into British India (3).

The northeastern region in general is in fact sharply different from the remainder of the sub-continent. In contrast to the broad Aryan-Dravidian peoples of the heartlands of India, the peoples of the northeast are ethnically Mongoloid, and the bulk of its peoples migrated into the region from the east. Its languages furthermore are not related to Sanskrit, but belong to the quite different Tibeto-Burman language group. Its cultures, despite influence from the Indian subcontinent, in many ways resemble more those of east Asia. Historically, too, the region was never part of the great empires of the subcontinent, nor was it greatly involved in the Indian Congress struggle for independence. After Indian independence in 1947 ethnic, historical and cultural differences were reinforced by geographical isolation. With the removal of West Bengal to become East Pakistan (and subsequently Bangladesh) the northeast became tenuously linked to the rest of India only by the 14 km wide Siliguri corridor, so that now less than 1% of its borders are with the rest of India. The Congress policy of aggressive integrationism after 1947, paradoxically, reinforced this isolation. Foreign investment is practically non-existent, internal investment very limited, and all communications go through Delhi or Calcutta. Much of the region has been declared a ?restricted area?, foreigners are scarcely permitted access, the international media and human rights organisations are explicitly excluded, and some areas are off limits even to Indian nationals.

This isolation is reinforced by a form of narrow ethnocenticism which assumed the Hindi speaking ?Aryan? tradition represented the only valid form of Indianness. The resulting ?integrationist? policies, which lasted until comparatively recently, thus presssurised a region which is ethnically and linguistically quite different to conform to what has been called the culture of the Hindi cow-belt. While the distinctiveness of the ?Dravidian? south had to be recognised, the peculiarities of the Mongoloid cultures of the north east (which have an equally great cultural history) have never yet been fully acknowledged (4). As Verghese comments: ?the dominant Aryan bent of national thinking has accommodated the Dravidian reality but has yet to appreciate the Mongoloid feature of the Indian ethos? (Verghese (1997:281). It is symptomatic that though the Mongoloid languages are the largest single language group in India, none was listed in the 8th schedule as an official language until as late as 1993, when Manipuri (after years of demonstrations) was finally included.

The claim that India is unified by an underlying Hindu cultural tradition, often used by integrationists, is unconvincing. As far as the northeast is concerned it is only the Brahmaputra valley and the Valley of Manipur which were extensively hinduised. Even in the latter Hinduism is a comparatively recent importation, and Meitei (ie plains people as opposed to hill tribals) society now shows many signs of becoming post-Hindu, as political identity has become entangled with religious identity (5). The hills, which were never hinduised, are today mainly Christian, with Mizoram and Nagaland being around 80% Christian, and Meghalaya also having a large Christian population. Arunachal?s peoples seem largely to have withstood the efforts of Hindu missionaries, and it also has a substantial minority of Chakma Buddhists (resettled there after 1947).

Indian integrationism is based on what one might call the fallacy of concept of the ?mainstream.? Naorem Sanajaoba (1988:262) quotes a telling comment of Sunanda K. Datta-Ray: speaking of the ignorance of Indians in general about the ?Mongolian? heritage of the north east, Datta-Ray writes: ?Deep in the Indian psyche lies the belief, lately encouraged by obscurantist political groups, that Bharat is really Aryavrata, or the Hindi heartland, and that outlying districts which do not conform to its manners, customs, language and religion are colonial possessions and must be ruled as such until they can be absorbed in a superior code.? The Mongoloid peoples of the north east frequently claim that in the rest of the country they are regarded as foreigners and that an attitude of misplaced racial superiority and disdain has characterised their treatment by ?mainstream? Indians. The parochialism of successive Delhi governments and the widespread ignorance about the region, even on the part of educated Indians, has created a ?them and us? mentality on both sides which has been one contributory factor to civil unrest and armed conflict. As late as 1988 one of the Government?s own reports could speak of a ?two way deficit of understanding with the rest of the country.? It is therefore no surprise that an area as large as the north east, separated as it is from the bulk of the subcontinent by its geography, history, ethnicity, languages, and for a majority by its religion, and which was only marginally affected by the independence struggle, should regard itself as not part of the so-called ?mainstream? as defined by the Delhi-wallah.

Unfortunately central governments have deliberately reinforced the marginalisation of the region by a policy of isolation. It is the only area of India for which special permits are required (6). From soon after independence large tracts have been classified as ?disturbed areas? and subject to oppressive military occupation, without however the formal declaration of an emergency.B.K. Roy Burman (1997:26) has pointed out that claims of neo-colonialism are justified and that there has been a sharp suppression of talk of self-determination. Resentment at political subjection, and economic and social neglect, has understandably given rise to protest, both civil and insurgent (7), both peaceful and violent. This has resulted in turn in the attempt by Delhi to impose its will by military force. Some political advance has been made, notably in Mizoram. But half a century of severe military repression has in the main solved nothing, but rather increased a feeling of alienation, even on the part of peace-loving civil populations. There sadly seems to be little political will on either side to create a climate of basic human rights which alone would make development a possibility.


Protestant Christianity in these states is dominated by the Baptists, and was largely established by the American Baptists, who traditionally have a strongly evangelical and biblicist approach. Catholicism was introduced much later, but has grown in importance largely due to its emphasis on educational work. The removal of foreign missionaries in the 1960s affected the Baptists more than the Catholics, who rely upon a large contingent of south Indian priests, mainly Silesians.The earliest presence of missions in the north east, both Catholic and Protestant, was almost incidental. By the early 1800s western missions were seeking an overland route into China, as access through the eastern sea coast of China was becoming more difficult (8). In pursuance of this land route into south western China the Baptists established a short lived mission in Guwahati in 1829, and later a more permanent one further east at Sadiya. The first mission contact with the Naga tribes was in 1838, and the first Naga Christian community was established, by an Assamese evangelist, among the Ao sub-tribe in 1872. Thereafter other groups were gradually contacted and Kohima (present capital of Nagaland) and Wokha became important centres for Christianity among the Angami Nagas. The other main tribal grouping, the Kukis, only began to convert to Christianity in the first decade of the 20th century. Manipur, as an independent princely state was closed to missionaries until after the Anglo-Manipuri war of 1891. Subsequently mission work was permitted only in the hills (over which the British retained some control after the war), but was forbidden among the hinduised plains Meiteis. The first evangelism was carried out among the Tangkhul Nagas in Ukhrul, and subsequently at Kangpokpi (which became a centre for Kuki Christianity).Despite early reluctance Christianity spread among both tribal groups. There was a substantial increase due to the so called Manipur revival which began in 1916. This actually began in the Chin (Lushai) Hills (the present Mizoram) and at first affected mainly the Kukis, but by the 1920s had spread to Manipuri Nagas. In the beginning there was some persecution of Christians by the traditionalists, and mutual suspicion between the Naga subgroups was only slowly broken down. Despite the acceptance of a common faith the age old antagonism between Naga and Kuki continued, fuelled by such anti-colonial movements as the Kuki rebellion and the Jadonong-Gaidinlui cult. While it is true, as Downs (1992:132) indicates, that Christianity has been a unifying factor, it has nonetheless been singularly unsuccessful in eradicating completely inter- and intra-tribal conflict (9). The relationship between the evangelical Baptists of the CBNEI and the Catholics has not been smooth (10).While figures are difficult to assess, there can be no doubt that Christianity has become the ?official religion? (Downs) of Nagaland and Mizoram, and probably 80% of the population of these states would regard themselves as Christian. In Manipur most of the Naga and Kuki tribals, who make up around a third of the population of some 2 million, may also be regarded as Christian. There is also a small, but growing, interest in Christianity among the Meiteis. This may in part be a political, as well as a religious, protest against the Indian mainstream (11). However Manipur, like other parts of the northeast, has been the recipient in recent years of a wholly counterproductive proliferation of fundamentalist splinter groups, usually financed from America, which has resulted in the emergence of a confusing (to the non-Christian) number of mini-churches.Furthermore some of the American financing is being used for purposes quite other than Christian work.


The area known as the Naga Hills (the present Nagaland less the Tuenseng tract) was only loosely administered by the British. On the independence of India in 1947, Naga leaders made it clear that in their view the Naga people had never historically been part of India and that they did not wish to join the Indian Union. The Hydari agreement (12) recognised their right to develope separately during a ten year period under the general superintendence of the governor of Assam, and that the final decision regarding union or independence would be made thereafter. The Indian Government unilaterally reinterpreted this to mean that after ten years full integration would be effected. Meantime in August 1947 the National Nagaland Council declared independence for the region, and held a plebiscite which gave absolute support for this declaration. India naturally rejected the plebiscite, and the Nagas then boycotted the Indian elections. Nehru paid a flying visit to both Nagaland and Manipur in 1953, but ignored the voice of the people in both states. Integration, master minded by Sirdar Patel and his henchman V.P. Menon, was put into brutal effect. Repressive measures began in 1953. Three years later the Indian army occupied towns and villages, some civilians were shot and their corpses displayed publicly as a warning to insurgents. That same year the NNC set up its rival government. The Indian Government gave some ground. The Tuenseng tract was joined to the Naga Hills in 1956 and the region given some autonomy. Nagaland became the first of the smaller northeastern regions to be granted statehood in 1963.Manipur, meanwhile, despite being able to trace its history as an independent kingdom back nearly two thousand years, and being the first state on the Indian sub-continent to hold full and free elections, was summarily annexed in 1949. It was to be 1972 before Mrs Gandhi bowed to mounting pressure both within and outside Manipur to restore it to full statehood, but now within the Indian Union. Underground insurgent groups, whose origins reach back before 1947, reemerged in the 1960s and remain a potent force (Parratt & Parratt 2000).

In 1972 the NNC and the ?Federal Government of Nagaland? were declared unlawful. The Indian Government negotiated the Shillong Accord with moderates in 1975, and this caused a split within the Naga elite. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland was formed by a group of leaders (including Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga from Ukhrul in Manipur) and went underground as a guerilla organisation. Attacks on Indian army and para-military personnel increased. In-fighting between the insurgent groups took place (often fuelled by ethnic sub-divisions). In 1980 Indian and Myanmar armies inflicted a severe defeat in the NSCN, but it subsequently regrouped and remains a powerful insurgent force. Some attempts, with varying degrees of success, have been made to bring together the chaotic mix of insurgency movements in both northeast India and Myanmar. The situation is however fraught with intra and inter-ethnic rivalries, which have manifested themselves in periodic explosions of violence (eg. the splits in the NSCN and the sporadic flaring up of Naga-Kuki animosity).


It is not our purpose in this paper to detail the abuses of human rights which have been perpetrated under the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA see below), and in any case a full inventory of the atrocities committed by the military and paramilitary forces is not possible. Many acts go unreported, especially in rural areas and where victims have neither the education nor political understanding to report them, and in those cases where complaints are made there is hardly ever any redress. India?s ?closed door? policy towards the northeast also means that foreign journalists and human rights workers are kept out, and that reports which appear in the Indian press are often heavily sanitised (13). The local press reports on deaths, disappearances, abuses and protests on a very regular basis, but more often than not blandly and without editorial comment. Abuses are often directed not towards suspects but at innocent civilians, including women and juveniles. Civil rights workers have frequently been targeted in order to attempt to silence them. The Meitei women?s movement, Meira Paibi, (14) has often been met with physical violence on the part of the paramilitaries, even against pregnant and very elderly women. Detailed accounts of the worst abuses are therefore difficult to get access to. However I shall refer subsequently to some of the more public examples to indicate the scale of structural violence. Theses are only a sample of an abuse which involves a continuous depressing catalogue of random shootings of civilians, deaths in custody, disappearances, detainings contrary even to AFSPA, rapes, arrests and torture, all of which occur regularly (15). What characterises almost all cases is that they are simple acts of revenge visited upon an unarmed and non-violent civilian population as revenge for attacks on paramilitaries by insurgency groups. One has to ask whether it has become a policy to attempt to restrain insurgency by the abuse of non-combatants. This is simply, as an AI paper put it, a pattern of violence.

As Pradip Phanjoubam (1999:7) points out, there are two levels of violence in situations such as obtain in Manipur. The higher is the disregard for basic human life on the part of those whose official role should be one of protection, in the illegal detentions, the indiscriminate retaliatory shootings, and other forms of violent physical abuse. This is a structural, or institutional, violence sanctioned by AFSPA (see below). The second level is less overt but just as real. This is the sense of unease which disrupts normal life, business and social activities, in which ?security? forces are seen as agents of an oppressive psychological intimidation and insecurity, which renders a truly human life all but impossible.In 1980, following the deaths of two CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel in an insurgency attack, the CRPF conducted what the security forces euphemistically term ?sweep? or ?combing? of villages. The inhabitants of Patsoi village, men and women of all ages, were forced to strip naked, over 50 males (some as young as 16, others over 60) were so severely beaten that a number were disfigured for life. Many were subjected to torture, causing three deaths, including one woman. All the livestock was slaughtered, and possession (worth over Rs 1 lakh) were looted. (It was this event that led to the setting up of the Meira Paibi).Four years later, again after an attack on the CRPF, they retaliated by spraying bullets at a crowd watching a football match at Heirangthong in Imphal. 26 spectators were killed.

The CRPF were involved in another massacre in Jan 1995. A group of insurgents fired on the CRPF in the RMC hospital in Imphal. The CRPF called in reinforcements, who arrived after the insurgents had fled. These began firing indiscriminately on hospital staff and bystanders. Of the nine who died one was a medical student, another a cleaner. and six were auto rickshaw drivers. These were shot in two separate incidents. A commission of Inquiry found that none of the victims was armed, two were shot after they had raised their hands and all six rickshaw drivers were taken behind a building and shot at close range; further that all shootings took place after the hostiles had fled, that non-Manipuris (ie Indians from outside the region) were escorted out unmolested, and that the CRPF had uttered the order ?kill all the Manipuris.? The official security forces? report, as is usual, claimed the civilians were killed in cross fire.

Also in 1995 (April) was a massacre in the Nagaland capital Kohima. Incredible as this may seem the Rastriya (National) Rifles mistook a tyre burst in their own convoy for a bomb attack and began firing indiscriminately in the town. The Assam Rifles (another paramilitary) and CRPF hearing the shooting hastened to the scene and joined in. The firing from these security forces lasted for a hour, and resulted in the death of seven innocent civilians and the serious injury to over twenty others. The dead included two young girls (aged 3 and 8) and seven other children were among the injured. Even mortars were used in this attack on a non-existent enemy, though their use in civilian areas is strictly forbidden under army rules.

A more recent massacre took place at Tonsen in October 1999. This was again in retaliation for an earlier attack on the CRPF by the MPA, and again the killings took place after the insurgents had fled the scene. CRPF forces then stopped a bus passing through the area which contained 37 polling officials for a local election (all of course unarmed). They were called out from the vehicle and shot. There were a number of deaths and many were seriously wounded. Also killed were innocent bystanders, including women, and two men who were later dragged from a truck and shot at close range. The disturbances in Imphal as a result of the ill-considered geographical extension of the cease-fire agreement with the Muivah faction of the NSCN resulted, in June 2001, in another fifteen deaths and over two hundred injured.The characteristic feature of all these cases (and they could be multiplied) is that they were not operations conducted against insurgents, but were waged against unarmed civilians, usually long after the insurgents have fled the scene. Perhaps more seriously these are attacks, almost certainly partially racially motivated, by a central security force, which (as we shall see) is not able to be brought to account for its actions.

The most infamous case however concerned the Assam Rifles (another paramilitary) at the Naga village of Oinam in the north Manipur hills. This is one of very few cases in the north east to have been the subject of an Amnesty International report, based largely on the brave witness of Christian Manipuri Naga victims and human rights workers, despite extreme intimidation. Oinam is a very remote village, difficult of access especially in the monsoon season. In July 1982 there was a serious attack on a military post by the NSCN, in which some soldiers were killed and a large quantity of arms stolen. The response from the AR was delayed. Indian official army reports called Operation Bluebird ?a highly disciplined? response under Maj-Gen. P.L.Kukrety, the GOC Manipur Sector. It was in reality anything but that, as the Manipur authorities – after being denied access to a part of their own state for a period – eventually found out. In the sweep 15 civilians were killed in cold blood, four of them being over 50. There was no respect even for the state authorities, one MLA (member of the State parliament) was arrested, the Minister of Education?s house was raided without warrant. In Phuba village 26 people were severly tortured, some sustaining permanent injury, and houses demolished. At Phaibung Khullen a similar number were tortured. Oinam itself suffered the worst. When the state medical officer was permitted to visit the village late in July he found no one: all had been confined for several weeks either in schools or the church, or in the open air. Children, the elderly and pregnant women were not spared; several women gave birth and lost children in these conditions. Numerous women were raped by the AR (one young women later committed suicide), and others compelled to do forced labour for the AR. Many were subjected to torture to extract false confessions and to intimidate them from reporting the violence. Boys as young as 15 were subjected to electric shock torture. Of the 15 persons deliberately murdered, the official post mortems demonstrated that some had been shot at close range (some in the back) and others hanged. Oinam remains an appalling stain on the conscience of the world?s largest democracy, but one which has consistently been denied by the military authorities despite overwhelming evidence.

The military presence is massive. In Manipur for example (a state of around two million) there are ten army battalions (of roughly 1000 men each). There are a comparable number of paramilitary forces. (After the disturbances over the ceasefire agreement in June 2001 it has been calculated that there is in Manipur one armed member of the security forces for every five of the population). Nagaland, with a population of around a million, has a comparable military presence. Of the paramilitaries, the Central Reserve Police Force is probably the most hated, and have a reputation for arrogance and lack of discipline, and they have been responsible for much of the brutalising and killing of civilians. Among their other duties they often guard public buildings, but their inability to speak Manipuri, Nagamese or English, and their general attitude, engenders mistrust on both sides. Besides these there are the Assam Rifles and (on the border) the Border Security Force. The presence of the security forces is felt in all areas of life. Markets and urban streets are patrolled by armed guncarriers as well as footsoldiers, and there is a pervasive sense of an armed presence which, despite its official role, engenders more suspicion and insecurity than confidence. Crucially none of these bodies has any real training to control civil unrest, retaliation rather than confidence building is their usual response.


The conflict between the Indian security forces and the insurgency groups in the northeast is sometimes portrayed as a persecution of a Christian minority in a country which, though professedly secular, is largely in its mainstream dominated by hinduised values. The high percentage of Christians in the northeast as compared with all other parts of India except Kerala, does indeed on the surface make it look as though there are religious motives involved in the violence perpetrated on civilian populations. This view finds support in that the Delhi Government has from time to time criticised the churches for being anti-Indian. Furthermore churches have often been targetted, and occupied by troops and para-militaries, and even used as places of detention, torture, rape and murder.

In reality, however, the situation is much more complex than this, and ethnicity plays as large a role in the equation as religion. In northeast India, like Myanmar, Thailand and some other SE Asian countries, Christianity was often adopted not by the mainstream of the population but by tribal peoples. Consequently alienation from the mainstream on the ground of ethnicity has tended to be reinforced by a second alienation on the ground of religion. At root the suppression and violation of human rights in north east India is ethnic – it would not be mistaken to call it racial: religious difference has reinforced this.

Nevertheless it is clear that the Naga insurgency movements in India, like the comparable Chin and Karen independence movements in Myanmar, do have to a degree a Christian ideological base. From the beginning Christianity was perceived as a cement which would bring together the various Naga sub-tribes. It was therefore a prominent element in their Naga identity in contrast to what was seen as neo-colonialism by Hindu India. It is significant the Rev Michael Scott, one of the members of the earlier abortive Peace Mission, was widely perceived as being the Nagas? spokesman. Phizo (the first Naga independence leader) was a convinced Baptist. In the earlier period a substantial number of pastors joined the underground. The insurgents did not fight on Sundays unless attacked (Horam 1988:76-77). The slogan ?Nagaland for Christ? was a recognised rallying cry, and to some extent still is. Overtly Christian elements have appeared in official statements. The Constitution of the Federal Government of Nagaland, while it guaranteed free profession and practice of any religion, declared that Christianity would be the religion of the Naga state (Horam 1988:61). It was not averse to using religion as propaganda tool either, when it claimed that the ?Hindu government? of India had adopted a policy of stopping Nagas eating meat. In the earlier days of the movement (Phanjoubam 1993:125) volunteer gospel teams preached under armed guard (one might almost say gun in one hand Bible in the other), and the conduct of the jungle camps was (and to some extent remains, like those in Myanmar) ordered by Christian spiritual activities. As with the non-Christian Meitei movements, the NSCN tended towards puritannical life style, banning alcohol and drugs, and discouraging sexual immorality. Provision of social amenities, like schools and clinics, goes hand in hand with religious teaching. The Naga groups operate not only in Nagaland itself, but frequently recruit and have bases in neighbouring states. The northern hill areas of Manipur have especially been the locations for Naga insurgents? bases and attacks on the security forces.

The Meitei insurgency movements, of course, do not share this Christian factor. Religious protest in their case, such as it is, is tied up with a broad cultural renaissance, which began in the 1930s (Parratt & Parratt 1999).In one sense, of course, the question whether this is religious persecution or not is not the central issue. The violence of the region is essentially a matter of human rights, of the violent suppression of ethnic minorities by state power. This oppression is indeed to some extent random, at the hands of undisciplined troops and paramilitaries, often under officers who either turn a blind eye or are themselves co-perpetrators of violence. The fundamental issue however is not just one of random violence. It is rather that violence against civilians is underpinned by institutional means.


The situation is a result not simply of the inherent sinfulness of individuals and groups, but because the political, legal and social structures permit violence to go unchecked and indeed actively underpin it. Structural (or institutional) violence may be defined as a situation in which the political, social and legal structures are such as to permit, or encourage, the suppression of ethnic, social or religious minorities under the guise of keeping law and order within the state. There are at least three main aspects of structural violence in the northeastern region of India today. These are: (i) the massive presence of so called ?security forces? which prevents the civilian state governments from functioning normally; (ii) the powerlessness of the law courts in the region to bring the security forces to account for abuses, which is exacerbated by procrastination and subservience to the political authority of the central courts; and (iii) the virtual absence of any practical application of human rights agreements. The structure which underlies all these aspects is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (16).

The designation of Nagaland and Manipur along with other parts of the northeast as ?disturbed areas? has effectively meant that they have been subject to an undeclared state of emergency. This circumscribes not only the liberties of individual citizens, but it also seriously limits the freedom of the State governments. Successive governors of military or police background, and even more the military brigadiers who have overall control of security policy and personnel, have not infrequently acted against the State governments and at times accused them of inaction and even collusion with the insurgents. In effect the State governments have had their teeth drawn and can exist only in uneasy subjection to a hostile central controlling presence. The same may be said of the due processes of law, for security personnel are not subject to normal restraints and cannot be charged under civil law for any acts, however heinous, claimed to have been carried out in the course of their duty. This situation has resulted from the application of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to the northeast. The origins of this act go back to 1942, and it was intended to enable the British to take action against internal subversion during the Second World war, and it applied throughout India. Like a number of other repressive colonial enactments, it was later used by an independent India to repress what it saw as dissent within its own borders, specifically in the northeastern region. In 1958 it was declared to apply to those areas designated as ?disturbed? in all of present seven states of the northeast, and at that time the Naga Hills and the Ukhrul District of Manipur were so designated. In 1970, 1975, and 1978 the designation ?disturbed areas? was progressively extended over other divisions of Manipur and in September 1980 the whole state was declared a ?disturbed area.? The act has remained in force throughout the states up to the present. The 1958 act (amended in 1972) goes much further than the 1942 British legislation. Crucially, it replaced the term ?emergency? with ?disturbed areas.? Originally the status of ?disturbed area? could only be declared by the particular state government concerned, but in 1972 this power was given to the central Government. As important, however, was the fact that whereas the 1942 act gave special powers under the act only to those with the military rank of captain and above, the 1972 amendment extended this to ?any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, or any of equivalent rank? (ie. any soldier except the lowest private). These powers are in effect powers over life and death. They include the right ?to fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, on any person who is acting in contravention of any law?; to arrest without warrant anyone suspected of being about to commit an offence; to enter, search and destroy any premises suspected of being used for storing arms; and in each case the soldier ?may use for that purpose force as may be necessary? (AFSPA 1972 (4)). As we have seen ?no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of Central Government against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this act? (AFSPA 1972 (6) our italics).

Human rights organisations have been powerless to curtail these draconian powers. In 1980 the Human Rights Forum (Manipur) was formed in Delhi and submitted to the Supreme Court (under Public Interest Litigation Process) a petition challenging the legality of AFSPA. Two years later the Naga People?s Movement for Human Rights submitted a similar petition. As is common in India these disappeared down legal black holes, and the latter was not dealt with until November 1997. The Supreme Court ruling upheld the act as constitutional and broadly followed the government line that the act did not grant to the military powers which were excessive, though it did underline the responsibilities of the security forces (especially in surrendering any suspect to the civil police within 24 hours), and issued a series of ?do?s? and ?don?ts.? Such guidelines have little force and are not seldom ignored by the security personnel. The ruling failed to address the crucial issue, that what is essentially emergency legislation intended for times of war (and indeed applied throughout India during the wars with China and Pakistan) has been applied selectively to the northeast region for decades.


A context of structural violence is, in Gutierrez?s phrase, a sinful situation. As such it demands a theological response. This response will of course be partially shaped by the fact that a substantial number of those who suffer under this situation are themselves Christians, and there are indications that at the very least in some incidents the security authorities show contempt for churches and Christian spokespersons. However Christian don’t have the monopoly of suffering, and as we have seen the abuses are equally directed towards those, like the majority of Meiteis, who are not Christian. Overall the religious affiliation is only one factor, a much greater one is the contempt which is felt by too many in so called Indian mainstream for the Mongoloid northeast as a whole. It is therefore fundamentally an ethnic or racial violence. But whatever the complexities of the situation, any theological response has to speak for all oppressed communities, not just the Christian ones.

While Christians as a whole might be agreed about the nature of a sinful situation they are rarely in agreement as to what to do about it. Sadly theological discussion in the northeast has been constrained almost to the point of non-existence, and structural violence has never been clearly on the theological agenda. One might characterise the widespread attitude as retreat into pietism and a concern with a non-political cultural theology. The only substantial tribal theology to appear from the northeast (and that, one has to say fairly unoriginal) scarcely mentions the issue of oppression (Takatenjen 1998:only at the end of the book on p 140 does he suggest the political situation is the place to start). Even the book edited by Chatterji (1996, of the CISRS, which has been involved in political issues since its inception) only contains a few lines of pious hope for political education. There are no doubt reasons for this. Tribal theology in the northeast is very undeveloped, and much of its thinking is derivative of the North American evangelical Baptist tradition (17). Theological criticism of the Goverment and security forces may also increase the perception of the Church as anti-Indian. However the nettle will have to be grasped sooner rather than later if the church is to have any relevance. A retreat into pietism and a purely cultural theology, coupled with a tacit acceptance of the political status quo, will not do much to address a situation of structural violence which has now operated for over half a century.

Those who followed the South African theological debate on the violations to basic human rights resulting from aparteid, will recall that the essence of the argument of the Kairos Document was that when a government puts in place unjust structures by legislation, backed by the law courts and the security forces, which violate basic human rights, it forfeits its legitimacy. For basic human rights to life also have a theological underpinning, derived from the Christian doctrines of creation and redemption. In such circumstances Christians have the right, even the duty, to resist the illegitimate structures of government. In the South African situation the illegitimacy of government clearly applied to the whole state. In northeast India the position is somewhat different, for the Indian Constitution does in fact grant basic rights to all the population. It could then be argued that what is at stake here is not the illegitimacy of government as a whole, but of that specific legislation (ie AFSPA) which has created structural violence in the states of the northeast.

There are of course those who would argue that the inclusion into India of both Nagaland (which was very loosely administered by the British) and Manipur (which was never administered by them) was a case of neo-colonial annexation (somewhat akin to East Timor). This position, which seems to me to be quite correct from a historical perspective, was of course was the original rationale for the insurgency movements, some of which (though not all) still seek complete independence. Against this must be weighed the question of whether it is not too late to turn the clock back to the pre-1947 situation, and also the practical issue of whether such an agenda is likely to succeed. While it seems to me there may be some theological justification for regarding such an armed struggle as a ?just war,? there does not seem to be a realistic possibility of India letting the smaller states go without appalling bloodshed (unless of course the Indian Union as a whole breaks up, as some more radical political scientists would argue). The most that can be expected is greater autonomy (as happened after a bloody and prolonged insurgency in Mizoram, also mainly Christian). The original vision of the NSCN of an independent Christian state of Nagaland (which, according to some, should be expanded by incorporating much of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where there are substantial Naga populations) certainly will not do. Despite some gains, the Naga insurgency movements have been riven by dissention and have forfeited much of the claim they had to be regarded as Christian protest movements.

If then the options of an apolitical quiescence and of armed revolution are difficult to defend on theological grounds, what is left? Three other approaches have been tried, those of peace initiatives, of legal constitutional challenge, and of civil disobedience.Peace initiatives go back to the very earliest period after 1947. It was Naga Baptist ministers who urged the Government to set up a Peace Mission in the 1960s. They initiated another Peace Council in 1974, and have from time to time made other individual and collective attempts to broker a peace. None of these has succeeded, partly because of the church?s inability to carry the more extreme radicals with them, partly because Delhi based politicians accused Christian leaders of being too seccessionist. It has been a bitter tight rope for church leaders to walk.


Legal challenges to structural violence have been mounted with great regularity, mainly by Human Rights organisations (which of course often include Christians) but also from time to time by church bodies. We have already alluded to the challenges to the legality of AFSPA in the Delhi High Court above, but cases against the security forces have also been brought for specific incidents. The biggest problem, indeed the insuperable problem, here is that AFSPA specifically prevents any case being brought against any member of the forces while in pursuance of his duties unless this is specifically approved by the Central Government. Since permission from Central Government has never been granted, this in effect this means that the security forces are above the civil law. Technically therefore any charges against the security forces, whether of murder, abduction, rape or other forms of violence, can only be tried by court martial, to which civil lawyers cannot easily gain access. This seldom happens even when evidence is overwhelming. In the rare cases when it does occur no report is made public. The opportunities for redress against the armed forces are virtually non-existent. The most the State Governments can do is to order an inquiry. This they have frequently done, though more often than not such inquiries run into the sand or findings are not made public. In cases of detentions and disappearances courts have been asked to order a habeas corpus. This has sometimes produced results, though more often than not the security forces simply claim the detainee was released from their custody. In the many cases where the victims are later discovered murdered responsibility is denied. Claims for compensation do sometimes succeed in the courts, though the judgements are usually ignored by the forces. After the Oinam atrocities, for example the Naga People?s Movement for Human Rights filed petitions against the AR in the High Court in Guwahati and the court directed that detainees should be released and there should be reparations. Shortly thereafter the Manipur Baptist Convention?s Women?s Union filed on behalf of women who had been sexually assaulted and subjected to forced labour. Sometimes Christian women have appealed directly to the source of power, as when the Kohima Women?s Baptist Assembly wrote to Mrs Gandhi protesting against the rape of Naga girls by the 1st Maratha Battalion – an abuse which actually happened in a church. Other cases of a similar nature have been filed in state and High Courts. Compensation, when granted, is usually small, intimidation of witnesses is routine and often brutal, and heavy military presence in uniform at hearings is a further way to silence witnesses. It is to the credit of lawyers and civilians (many of them with little education) that such cases are sometimes won. By and large the legal option runs up against the fact that AFSPA effectively puts the security forces outside the law, however heinous their actions might be.It is this perceived exclusion of civilian victims from recourse to the law where the security forces are concerned that more than anything else has led to widespread alienation from things ?Indian?, for rightly or wrongly the security forces are identified with the Central government. Thus the spiral of violence is given another turn.


Civil rights groups protest at great risk to their safety. In Manipur these are mainly Meitei (therefore not predominantly Christian). Foremost among them have been the All Manipur Students? Union (which is frequently banned), Civilians Against Atrocities, and most effective of all the Meira Paibi. All these groups have been subjected to banning of peaceful demonstrations, beatings and detentions, and occasional loss of life. It must be emphasised that there are movements elsewhere in India, especially in Delhi, which have taken on up the need to restore human rights in the NE (18). India signed up to the UN agreement on Human Rights in 1991, and three years later stationed a Manipuri Human Rights representative in Imphal. However, his remit is entirely civil, since AFSPA explicitly excludes all security personnel from charges of human rights violations. India also signed the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (adopted by the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights). This committed signatories to ?abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations of human rights… and to prosecute such violations, thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law.? When AFSPA has been subjected to scrutiny and severe criticism by UN committees on human rights India has consistently claimed that AFSPA does not violate basic rights and that it is necessary for the peace of the country as a whole.However AFSPA does blatantly violate international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on Economic and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Body of Principles for Protection of All Persons Under any form of Detention, and the UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal and Summary Executions. Security forces have also frequently violated sections of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (19).It has also been pointed out that AFSPA violates sections of the Indian Constitution, especially articles 21 (on the right to life) and 22 (protection against arrest), as well as sections of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code.


Human rights are a theological issue. As Moltmann (1997:119) rightly points out, after World War II it has been recognised that the way a country treats its people is not a matter only for the country itself but for all. The excuse of ?not interfering in internal affairs? is no longer a valid defence. The situation today in northeast India is sadly all too common in today?s world despite the plethora of human rights agreements. This paper may not have looked very different if had dealt with Myanmar, Sudan or a dozen other countries where ethnic and religious human rights are being daily violated – except for the very important fact that India claims to be a democracy and has had a long tradition of protest against oppression. Christians in northeast India have largely been left on their own in dealing with the structural violence of their region. I would suggest that this challenge now needs to be taken up at the national level, that is within India, and also at the wider ecumenical level.A couple of decades ago a bombshell was dropped upon the playground of the Indian theologians. The sanskritic tradition of doing Christian theology in India, which indeed had had a long and remarkable history and had occupied some brilliant minds, found itself challenged to the point of being dismissed as irrelevant by the irruption of Dalit theology. The sanskritic theological tradition is actually very little threat to the underlying Hindu culture of India: it uses Hindu concepts, largely obeys Hindu philosophical categories, and is eager for dialogue. Its disadvantage is that it is elitist and largely irrelevant to the majority of Christian, around 70% of whom do not belong to the upper castes. Dalit theology sharply rejected the sanskritic approach. In the political power game dalits also had been, largely against their will, incorporated into the Hindu system as a kind of fifth caste (hence were called by the Indian constitution ?scheduled castes’). Political and religious leaders (including Gandhi) argued strongly for keeping them within the overall socio-religious categories of Hinduism. Significantly the Indian Constitution makes a similar implicit assumption about the tribals by calling them ?scheduled tribes,? and the fluidity between scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in some Indian states is evident from census data. However the tribal peoples of the northeast are different (a fact recognised by Albert Minz:1996). They have never been hinduised and have always been quite distinct from Hindu societies (20). Tribal theology can no more be absorbed by the sanskritic ?mainstream? of Indian theology than tribals themselves can be absorbed into the hinduised cultural mainstream. Nor, despite the common lot of oppression, can tribal theology be subsumed under Dalit theology (as some tribals in the Indian heartland seem to be in danger of doing (notably Nirmal Minz (1994) and James Massey (1999)). A second radical shift in theological thinking in India is demanded, to recognise and indeed to celebrate the fact that a coherent and valid tribal theology will be manifestly different from both the sanskritic and the dalit traditions. But it must build on the long tradition that both have of political involvement – from those who like Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya at the beginning of the century became involved in the independence struggle, through to the Gandhian Christians, the CISRS, and now the dalits. My own feeling, however, is that African theology, which is successfully beginning to marry the cultural with the political agenda, is a rather better mentor (though till now totally neglected) for tribal Christians than anything which has yet emerged from the sub-continent itself.


AFSPA Armed Forces Special Powers Act
AR Assam Rifles (para-military armed force)
CBCNEI Council of Baptist Churches in North East India
CISRS Christian Institute for Religion and Society
CRPF Central Reserve Police Force (para-military armed force)
MLA Manipur Legislative Assembly (State Parliament)
MPA Manipur People?s Army
NNC National Nagaland Council
NSCN National Socialist Council of Nagaland


1. A point acknowledged by Sunil Khilnani The Idea of India (London 1997).
2. Menon?s highly partisan and sanitised The Integration of the Indian States (New Delhi 1956) is an ‘official’ history which skates over the real issues of conflict. His date for the absorption of Manipur and Tripura is two years too early.
3. The same holds for some of the tribal hill areas of Burma (Myanmar)which have also experienced similar movements for self-determination since 1947.
4. The northeast is often virtually ignored in standard works on Indian history and politics: this may partly be because access for research is difficult, even for Indians.
5. As long ago as 1980 Sarin (1980:116) could claim that ?of late Meiteis are refusing to be recognised as Hindus?, and the revival of the pre-Hindu Sanamahi religion continues to apace (Parratt & Parratt 1999).
6. It is true that these restrictions (like much other oppressive legislation) built upon colonial regulations, in this case the ?inner line.? The inner line restrictions were originally meant to preserve tribals from exploitation by Indians from the rest of the subcontinent. Its present operation certainly does not succeed in doing that, and there are justifiable complaints (especially from Manipur) that outsiders dominate the economy out of all proportion to their numbers, and flood the region unwanted unskilled labour. The modern version of the inner line, ?restricted areas?, functions simply to prevent outside access to sensitive areas and thus prevent the dissemination in the media of the true conditions in those states.
7. The term ?insurgency? is far from satisfactory, since there is within it the implication of illegitimacy and that the insurgent is an insurrectionist. B.K. Roy Burman (1997:21) rightly points out that ?insurgency is a circuit of reciprocal violence (out italics), where the players are the state establishment and the challengers of the same.? Pakem (1997:3) states that in his informal meetings with leaders of these movements they had never described themselves as ?insurgents? but rather as patriots, freedom fighters, defenders of their people and so on. ?Insurgent? is therefore not a self-designation but a term generally applied by their opponents. A similar problem is raised by the use of the phrase ?security forces.? It is clear that sympathisers of insurgents (whether passive or active) do not regard the military, para-militaries and sometimes the civil police as contributing to their personal security, but rather as sources of institutional violence. The use of both these terms is very problematic. However since this terminology seems to have established itself in the literature I shall use it for the purposes of this paper.
8.There is ample evidence both from early traditions and from documentary sources that a land route through Assam to Yunnan via northern Burma existed from pre-Christian times. There appear to have been two main routes, one through the northern end of the Brahmaputra Valley and another, more southerly route, through the Valley of Manipur, and it was no doubt along these routes that the earliest Mongoloid Thai-Shan settlers to north east India entered.
9. most recently in Kuki-Naga massacres of the 1990s, and the in-fighting among different sub-groups in the NSCN.
10. indeed Syiemlieh (1990:75) claims that a persecution of Catholic Nagas was provoked by the largely Baptist NSCN underground.
11. K.M.Singh (1991:421) rightly points out that the dramatic impact of the Second World War on Manipur had the effect of breaking down the barriers between Hindus and others and bringing the about greater understanding of Christianity on the part of the Meiteis.
12. an agreement made between Sir Akbar Hydari, Governor of Assam, and the Naga leaders.
13. In the 1960s all foreigners were removed, and for long periods admission was very tightly restricted for the whole region. Some areas have more recently been opened up to a degree, but the states of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal remain virtually closed to non-Indians, and even restricted of access to nationals. These restrictions are rigidly enforced. Permits are technically granted only in Delhi, and the bureaucratic inertia of the Indian civil service usually ensures that applications are seldom responded to. When granted they are commonly valid only for three days, and for cultural visits or for visitation of Allied and Japanese war cemetaries.
14. a women’s passive resistance movement against atrocities: see Meira Paibi (in Manipuri; National Research Centre, Imphal 2000).
15. sources: for a list of 147 acts of violence committed between Feb to June 1973 see the MRG report India and the Nagas pp 28-30; the Human Rights Forum, Manipur, paper on Death of Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights in Manipur, Delhi dated 20th Nov 1980 gives other early cases; Tarapot Phanjoubam (1993:147ff) gives a large number of cases in the 1980s; the statement of the UNLF to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Geneva July/Aug 1996 gives a further cases, including ten of custodial deaths; see also Interim Report (dated 26th October 2000) of the Independent People?s Inquiry Commission, Manipur, headed by H. Suresh (Bombay High Court Judge); and several papers of the Committee on Human Rights (COHR) including ?Right to Life? (Imphal 1997) and ?The Killings Continue? (a report on the summary execution of civilians, during 1997), also its National Seminar on Human Rights (Imphal 1994). More recently Manipur Update has begun to document fully abuses, and the journal of the Manipur Research Centre Orient Vision gives a check list of main events.
16. AFSPA was approved despite very strong opposition in Parliament (by members from several different regions of India) on the grounds that it violated fundamental human rights, that it gave what were in effect emergency powers to lower ranking security personnel without the formal declaration of an emergency, and that it was specifically applied only at the northeastern region of India (despite there being equally ?disturbed? areas elsewhere. One of the two Manipuri members of the Lower House in his speech against the bill gave examples of how the armed forces had already been guilty of rape and wanton occupation of churches. The equally draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) was approved in 1985 and applied to large number of states and Union territories. It was extended on four occasions, and a more severe version of the act is currently being considered. This act also violates several aspects of basic human rights.
17. However evangelicals, even the more conservative end of the spectrum, are elsewhere taking a substantial role is seeking to analyze and grapple with political issues, and there is certainly nothing inherent in evangelicalism which makes it any less able than other theological stance to speak prophetically about political issues.18. One of these is the Solidarity Group for the Support of Civil and Democratic Rights Movements in the northeast. Last year Uma Sharma, the exponent of Kathak dance, gave a performance in Imphal in aid of human rights. 19. For an excellent legal assessment of the Act see ?Armed Forces Special Powers Act: a study in national security tyranny? produced by the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre ( This paper also discusses UN criticisms of the act. The UN International Human Rights Committee (eg. CCPR/C/79/Add.81 4th August 1997) has levelled severe criticisms of India because of AFSPA, and has repeatedly called for security forces to be subject to civil law in cases of abuse of civilians.
20. The Inner Line kept plains Indians out: Nagaland had virtually no contact with Hindus till 1947, Meitei Hindus never made any attempt to hinduise tribals.
21. I am reliably informed that when a delegation of tribal Christians approached one of the directors of the WCC, who was himself an Indian, a few years ago about the problems of the northeastern region his response was dismissive.


Burman, B.K. Roy (1997) ?Insurgency: its dynamics and vision for Northeast India? in B. Pakem op cit pp. 21-28.
Chatterji, S.K. (1996) Society and Culture in North East India (New Delhi)
Chaube, S.K. (1997) ?Insurgency in Northeast India: a heretical; view? in B. Pakem op cit pp. 29-36.Downs, F (1992) The History of Christianity in India vol V/5 (Bangalore)
Downs, F (1971) The Mighty Works of God (Gauhati)
Gopalakrishnan, R (1995) Insurgent North Eastern Region of India (New Delhi)
Horam, B (1988) Naga Insurgency (New Delhi)
Horam, B (1977) Social and cultural life of the Nagas (New Delhi)
The Kairos Document: Challenge to the Church (Braamfontein 1986, 5th ed.)
Khilnani, Sunil (1997) The Idea of India (London)
Lal Dena (1998) Christian Missions and Colonialism (Shillong)
Massey, J (1999) Minorities in a Democracy (New Delhi)
Menon, V.P. (1956) The Integration of the Indian States (New Delhi)
Moltmann, J (1997) God for a Secular Society (London)
Minz, Albert (1996) ?Dalits and tribal: a search for solidarity? in V. Devasahayam ed. Frontiers of Dalit theology (Gurukhul)
Minz, Nirmal (1994) ?Dalit-tribal: a search for a common ideology? in Indigenous People: Dalits ed. J. Massey (Delhi)
Minz, Nirmal (1987) ?Theology of tribal Reality in India? in Religion and Society 34(4)
National Research Centre (2000) Meira Paibi (in Manipuri) (Imphal)`Pakem, B ed. (1997) Insurgency in North East India (New Delhi)Pan-Manipuri Youth League (1971) Manipur Today (Imphal) Parratt, Saroj N. Arambam & John Parratt (1999) ?Reclaiming the gods: a neo-traditional protest movement in Manipur? in Archiv Orientalni vol 67 (1999) pp. 241-248.Parratt , John & Saroj Arambam Parratt (2000) ‘Hijam Irabot and the radical socialist democratic movement in Manipur’ in Internationales Asienforum vol. 31 (2000) 3/4pp. 275-288.Phanjoubam, Pradip (1999) ?And the Pattern of Abuse? in Manipur Update vol. 1 no. 1 pp 7-9Phanjoubam, Tarapot (1993) Insurgency Movement in North Eastern India (New Delhi 1993)Sanajaoba, Naorem ed. (1988) ?The Genesis of Insurgency? in Manipur Past and Present vol. 1 (New Delhi 1988) pp. 245-290.Sanajaoba, Naorem (2000) Mioibagi Hak (Human Rights) (in Manipuri)(Imphal) `Sarin, V.I.K. (1980) India?s North East in Flames (New Delhi)Singh, Karam Manimohan (1991) History of Christian Missions in Manipur and other neighbouring states (New Delhi)Syiemlieh, D (1990) A brief History of the Catholic Church in Nagaland (Shillong)Takatemjen (1998) Studies on theology and Naga culture (Delhi)Thomas, M.M and R.W.Taylor (1965) Tribal Awakening (Bangalore)Verghese, B.G. (1997) India?s Northeast Resurgent: ethnicity, insurgency, governance, development (New Delhi, second edition)ParrattFrom: Interpreting Contemporary Christianity: Global Processess and Local Identities

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A note on the theory of Bhuddhism in Manipur

By: Parratt
The theory that Buddhism was widespread in Manipur before the hinduisation of the State in the 18th century has been advanced by a minority of scholars, and has also on occasion been proposed in the popular press. In this short paper I shall the examine the arguments for and against this thesis.
What may be called the Buddhist theory has probably found its most aggressive advocate in the archeologist A.K. Sharma. Sharma?s Manipur: the Glorious Past evidently has a hidden agenda, namely that what he calls ?Indian culture? dominates over ?Chinese culture? in Manipur. It also displays the all too familiar inability of main stream Indian scholars to see the north east through any other lens than that of the Indian sub-continent. Sharma?s thesis revolves around two main arguments:
1.That there were very early trade routes from India through Assam and Manipur into Burma, and thence further east. This would suggest to him that Buddhism spread eastwards through these routes and that consequently Manipur would have come under the influence of this religion (Sharma 1994:15ff.)
2.Artifacts discovered in Manipur, especially at the Sekta and Pungdongbam secondary burial sites, are identified by Sharma as of ?typical Buddhist origin? (1994:25). He especially refers to the ?relic casket? (1) and the beautiful horse. In addition there are the numerous Buddhist icons discovered in various parts of the Valley. In Sharma?s view ?the evidence of prevalence of Buddhism in the valley is available at Sekta in the form of a bronze casket from period V. As this could be dated to 100-200AD it appears the religion reached Manipur at around the beginning of the Christian era or even a little earlier? (Sharma 1994:77).
Both these arguments seem to me to be seriously flawed. With regard to the first, it is of course true that there is substantial evidence for an early northerly trade route through the Assam into China, and for a more southerly route through Manipur. This is too well documented to deny, and incidentally must have been the route through which the earliest inbahitants of Manipur entered from Yunnan. However it is historically wrong to claim that this was the way Buddhism expanded eastwards from India. All authorities are agreed that Theravada Buddhism spread east by sea, from south India to Ceylon and then later to Burma. This was an established ancient trade route, which was utilised by the Buddhist missionaries possibly as early as the first century AD. The land route through which Buddhism spread was not via northeast India, but via the northwest, along the famour Silk Route, which went north of the Himalayas through central Asia into China. Only in the 5th century AD at the earliest did Buddhism, now in its Mahayana form, begin to return westwards from China to reach Tibet and subsequently the Bay of Bengal. The Buddhist pilgrim routes followed the same course, that is either along the Silk Route or by sea. There is no evidence whatsoever of any Buddhist influence along the route from Manipur eastwards.
Sharma?s second argument is no more convincing, and is indeed extremely confused. His chronology is wildly speculative, in that he dates the occupation of Sekta between 200BC and 400AD. He can offer no scientific evidence for this, and his dating is based on the very insecure ground of a vague comparison with Tripura. His dates seem far too early. Furthermore his argumentation is very muddled. The primary finds in Sekta and Pungdongbam are the extraordinary materials connected with the practice of secondary burial, including the ossuaries (in this case earthen pots) and the death masks in copper, silver and gold which cover some of the skulls. Also present were items which can reasonably be regarded as being interred with the bodies or bones, namely beads, ornaments, cups and vases. The latter are of traditional design, colour and materials, which are still found in some parts of the valley today. The 7kg gold death mask recovered from Lamboiching, furthermore, was buried along with weapons.
Secondary burial has nothing directly to do with Buddhism. It is widespread throughout several cultures, and has been recorded in South America, Australasia, Melanesia and China (de Groot 1982 vol III: 1057ff.) The latter connection is especially interesting, and might provide a key to the Manipur usage. Secondary burial has also been recorded among the Kukis and the Khasis (though the latter cremated, rather than buried, the bones) (2). Significantly I can find no evidence of it on the Indian sub-continent. This would suggest (contrary to Sharma) that the early inhabitants of manipur adopted the practice from China, not India. However that may be, the covering of skulls with masks of precious metal seems to have no documented parallels. Manuscript evidence indicates that this was a very ancient Meitei (or perhaps we should say proto-Meitei) practice (seethe famous Loiyemba Shinyen from the 12th centry, and also Paroi Masin and Thowantha Hira). Taking this into account then, the artifact evidence for Buddhism is limited to the Buddha icons (to which we shall return below), the caskets and the riderless horse. These latter may reflect a style common in Buddhist designs, though Sharma offers no evidence for this and it is not immediately obvious. It seems to me that what we have here are examples of the kind of artifacts which were not uncommon in east Asia in general. Even if it could be demonstrated that they reflect Buddhist motifs it would prove nothing as to the general religion of Manipur, but merely that they had either been imported or that local artisans had adopted this style. We are then left with the Buddhist icons.
Before we examine these it is necessary to mention the silence of the Meiteiron sources on Buddhism. We are fortunate in having a chronicle which purports to trace the history of the state back to the 1st century AD, and which after about the 15th century becomes quite detailed. The the Cheitharol Kumbaba contains multiple references to the traditional lai, and gives us very full information about the hinduisation of the Manipur Valley, and even of the entry of Muslims. It is completely silent as to Buddhism. It is inconceivable, if Buddhism were ever a force in Manipur, that it would not have been mentioned. Even after the suppression of the traditional lai by Garib Niwaz, they are frequently mentioned in the Cheitharol Kumbaba. It is stretching credulity to the limit to believe that for some reason all traces of Buddhism could have been removed from the chronicle. Furthermore, there is no evidence for Buddhism in Manipur in any of the other archaic manuscripts, nor indeed in the writings of those British colonial officers (McCulloch, Brown, Shakespear, Hodson, Higgins) who showed a particular interest in Manipur?s culture and religion. This is a very strong argument from silence.
We turn then to the only substantive evidence for the presence of Buddhism, the Buddha icons which have been found in various parts of the valley. The question raised here is whether these are sacred artifacts which were manufactured by the local population for their own use, and thus provide clear evidence for the practice of Buddhism, or whether they were brought into Manipur by foreign traders or invading forces from the east.
There are six Buddha icons in the State Museum (3). Three of these are made of bronze. One, only 6 inches in height, was found in Imphal. It is provisionally dated in the Museum records as 15th AD, though Kumar Singh (1992) regards it, on comparison with similar Burmese icons, as from the 17th century. The other two are of bronze and are a few inches bigger. They are from Chandel district and are undated. There is also a 12 inch wood icon from Kakching which is also undated. The remaining two are marble. The smaller is about 18 inches and is stated as having been recovered from Utlou Langpok. The Museum dating gives this as 15th century, but Kumar Singh believes this also to be 17th century. The larger marble icon is about 18 inches and was found at Langthabal; Kumar Singh dates this too as 17th century. The images have certain common features. The facial appearance is Mongoloid, suggesting an eastern rather than an Indian origin. The pose is generally with legs crossed, the left hand in the lap, and the right hand hanging free, and with single or double head pieces. The robe position is not always clear but some at least leave the right shoulder bare. O. Kumar Singh also describes an image in the Mutua Museum, which he regards a a boddhisatva. This is bronze, and in a kneeling position. Once again the right shoulder is left bare.
The are a number of points that can be made about these icons. Firstly they all seem, from the style, to emanate from a similar period. Secondly, since marble is not found in Manipur, two of them at least must have been imported. Again, the Mongoloid features suggest an origin to the east of India. More significantly, all are small ? some very small ? and easily carried. Icons made for local use, to judge from Buddha statues in India and Asia generally, are often very large indeed. Small portable images must have been used by travellers (or soldiers) to carry with them, which suggests, again, an origin outside the places where they were found. Most interesting is the folding of the robe under the right armpit to leave the right shoulder bare. According to Eliot (1921 vol III:62) earlier Buddhist custom was to wrap the shawl around both shoulders. In 1698 a controversy arose in Burma because of a new practice of leaving the right shoulder bare. If this is so, then the manipuri images cannot be dated early than the beginning of the 18th century. Even if some of the images were manufactured in Burma before this date we have no clear evidence as to exactly when they were brought into Manipur.
How did they get to the various locations in and around the Valley of Manipur? It is possible of course that some individual Buddhists, most likely from Burma, may have entered as traders and brought them with them. It is more likely however that they were brought in by Burmese troops during the Seven Years Devastation. We know that in 1825 Gumbhir Singh and the Manipur Levy recaptured Manipur with some speed. It seems probable then, that the Buddha icons were left behind by Burmese troops and camp followers when they made their hasty retreat. It is also possible that some of them may have been taken as booty during Manipuri raids into Burmese territory. There is in fact incidental confirmation of the latter possibility in one of the entries to Shakespear?s Tour Diaries (for 19/10/1911). He records there that he received a request from the Pongye of Tamu for the return of a Buddha image apparently stolen in a Manipuri raid and then taken to a Naga village. Shakespear subsequently found this to be untrue (entry for 13/11/1911), but the fact he took the complaint seriously indicates that Buddhist icons, just as much as anything else of value, could be seized in border raids. The mere presence of Buddhist icons in Manipur then is not conclusive proof that they were ever used for religious purposes by the local population, still less that the population of Manipur ever adopted Buddhism as its religion
One other argument which has sometimes been advanced is that some of the temples in Manipur seem to have been built in the style of pagodas, and that this suggests that they were formerly places for Buddhist worship which were later hinduised. This seems to be based on a misunderstanding. We know from the Cheitharol Kumbaba that architects from Burma were employed by the Manipuri kings from quite an early period. The chronicle makes it clear that they designed temples for the lai or for Hindu gods, not for Buddhist worship. Though the style might reflect Buddhist style architecture, their purpose was quite different.
In sum there is no convincing historical or archeological evidence that the population of Manipur ever came under Buddhist influence, or even, apart from the limited period of the Burmese occupation, it even hosted a minority of non-Manipuri Buddhists.
(1) A similar casket was found at Lamboiching in 1980.(2) It was also practised in Medieval Europe, probably because burial grounds were re-used.(3) See also the careful discussion of O. Kumar Singh (1982).
Aneskari, Masahavu Buddhist Art in its relation to Buddhist Ideals (New York 1978) J.J.M. de Groot The Religious Systems of Ancient China vol III (Taipei 1982, reprint of Leiden 1897 edition)Eliot, Sir Charles Hinduism and Buddhism vol III (London 1921)Kumar Singh, O ?Iconographs of Manipur? in Mutua Museum Bulletin no 2 1992, pp 1-18+ivIbungohal Singh, L. and N. Khelachandra Singh eds. Cheitharol Kumbaba (Imphal 1987)Shakespear, John Tour Diary (Manipur State Archives)Sharma, A.K. Manipur: the glorious past (New Delhi 1994)Zirchner, E Buddhism: its origins and spread (London 1962)

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By: T.Siamchinthang

The use of tribal names as political party names could serve as a fragmentation factor of the society.The Paite National Council (PNC) from the Saikal area in Mizoram sent a member to the Mizoram Legislative Assembly.Mizoram State is a melting pot of the Zo people. The population of Mizoram are the descendents of Ciimnuai, Lai, and Bochung.Other Zo people such as Sho or Mru(Myo) also settled in Mizoram. Will the PNC member in the Mizoram Legislative Assembly be concerned only with the affairs of the Paite? The name suggests so. If each other clan groups formed a party such as the Hmar, Sailo, Zahau, Lai, Hualngo, Haokip, Mara, Chawngthu, Lakher, Khumi, Matu, etc. the Mizoram political landscape will look like a land divided into endless people.One clan will be suspicious of the other. Every clan would fight for their benefit and there could be no progress,economic or otherwise. This applies also to the Zomi National Congress in the Tedim district, which competed in the 1990 general election.Would the ZNC member in Burmese Parliament concern with the people who designated themselves as “Zomi” only? That is the problem in Manipur. The authorities recognized each tribal group. In Churachanpur or Lamka district the authorities recognized the Paite,Vaiphei, Hmar, Mizo, Thado or Kuki, and Zo, etc. as tribal groups.Other smaller tribal groups or clans sought recognition thereby making themselves different from other groups so that they could be recognized by the Indian government as tribal groups. In the Lamka district the Paite and the Thado or Kuki are the most numerous tribal groups.The Paite and the Kuki parties therefore were elected to the Manipur Legislative Assembly year after year. After becoming members in the Legislative Assembly any fund available for development projects in the district were given to the people who elected them. Whereas the Paite and the Kuki people generously benefited from grants from the central government, the smaller communities Vaiphei, Lusei, Hmar, etc.went empty handed. Because of this the Paite dominated the Lamka district that created animosity against the Paite by smaller communities.The Paite simply wrote directions in the hospital and public places in Paite dialects although the Paite dialect had not been recognized as the common language. Even the name Lamka was a name recognized by all tribal groups, however the name was slowly changed to Churachanpur, the former name of the government quarter,because the smaler communities hate the dominance of the Paite group and refused to call by the Paite name. The Paite also used Zomi exclusively for themselves and the word Zomi is identified to mean those who are called Paite.Similarly the Thado, who adopted the Bengali name Kuki, always attempted the recognition of their dominance since India’s independence. None of the other tribal groups adopted the name Kuki and refused the Thado dialect as the common language although the Thado consistently promote the Thado dialect o become the common language of the Zo people in Manipur. The communal war between the Paite and the Kuki was the outcome of this pervasive tribal chauvinism of the Paite and Kuki groups.Not only the communal war between the Paite and the Kuki, the Naga took advantage of the fragmentation of the Zo people and they knew the Kuki position in the Zo community. Therefore the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)launched a civil war against the Kuki,driving the Kuki out of their habitatfrom the northern districts of Manipur rendering over 100 000 Kuki landless and homeless. It was understood that had the Kuki not adopted a foreign name and had sought cooperation with other Zo groups, they would not have been harmed by NSCN.

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