NEGOTIATING IDENTITY POLITICS: CRAFTING THE FUTURE OF A FRACTURED FRATERNITY

By A. Bimol Akoijam
This article, a copy from the UA Shimray memorial lecture, was published on 29 July 2012 by the Imphal Free Press 


Chairperson, distinguished invitees, friends, and ladies and gentlemen.

There are lots of academic professionals in this world. But there are few amongst them who pursue their vocation with a gifted intellectual competence and endearing commitment and style that draw the attention of not only the members of the academic tribe but also that of the larger society. Dr. UA Shimray was definitely on the way to becoming, if not already, one of those rare professionals. I knew of him as one of the most promising minds, particularly from my home state Manipur. Couple of times, I have met him in seminars, including one in Imphal as well. He came to me as a gentle and perhaps not a very vivacious person. Though partly that impression could be due to, I suspect, his deference towards me as someone who is senior, professionally or otherwise, to him. But still I could sense the fertile mind and the passion, which I knew of him through his works, in an informal conversation that I had once with him in one of those seminars as we waited together for the dinner to be served. Although that conversation came about after we were amply rejuvenated by the much welcomed pre-dinner drinks, I must insist that my judgment of this man cannot be faulted. After all I am not the only one who will testify the same about this man on whose memory I stand here to deliver this lecture on a theme, I suppose, he would have continued to engage and pursue had he been alive.

Before I go further with the lecture, allow me to convey my condolence to his parents, family and friends. His untimely death is a great loss, particularly for his community and Manipur at large. In fact, rather than delivering a lecture in his memory this way, I would have preferred to be presenting a paper in a seminar or giving a talk/speech in a public meeting in which he also partakes as a fellow participant I say this because, with people like him, that would have provided us with an opportunity to engage in a much needed debate and dialogue in order to make sense of our own wretched of the earth called Manipur. Vested propaganda and hearsays cannot provide us insights or solutions or exorcise the ghosts of the past, particularly the remnants of feudal and colonial imprints that informed and nurtured our fractured society and polity today. And debates and dialogues to craft and secure a life with dignity and well-being for the people in this part of the world could only be pursued, I believe, with people like him.

It is with this belief that I have accepted the invitation to deliver this lecture. And I intend to share today certain concerns, which, I suppose, also have resonance with issues that confront us in India's northeast in general to provoke and promote ideas and values to craft the future of this land beyond the mess that marks the present It is with this purpose in mind, I have titled this memorial lecture as "Negotiating Identity Politics: Crafting the future of a fractured fraternity"

Implosion of terminology and its distortions

India's northeast is home to a myriad of communities. So is the state of Manipur. This fact can be asserted as a statement of celebration of 'differences' or the beauty of diversity. In fact, sometimes we do that, mostly in symbolic or rhetorical manner and rarely perhaps with real intent However, as it stands today, more often than not, this fact has come to be flagged off as the cause as well as the symptom of identity politics that presides over the 'ethnic conundrum' in India's northeast and more so in

Manipur. Almost all issues of public concerns are more or less tended to be framed within the parameter of identity politics and its 'ethnic' contestation. Even the articulation of concern on the popular Human Rights issues gets mediated by this or that 'ethnic' group interests. Take for instance, some of the responses during the height of the outcry against the alleged rape and murder of Manorama under custody of state security agency. Throwing the basic tenets of Human Rights principles that a man or woman, including hardened criminals, cannot be killed or raped, certain sections of the Human Rights and civil society groups expressed resentment (or surprise) against the attention given by the Government of India's to what they termed the 'hue and cry' over the dead of a 'confirmed' underground cadre from the valley of Manipur.

On the other hand, many tend to treat the 'ethnic conundrum' as an inherent character of India's northeast which come in the way of its development and progress. In fact, just as western scholars tend to see 'tribalism' in Africa and 'communalism' in South Asia as inherent characters of those societies which come in the way of their modernization and progress, 'ethnicity' has more or less come to be seen as the one for India's northeast There are enough scholarships amongst African and South Asians who argued that such perspectives are parts of the Eurocentric scholarship and that these phenomena ('tribalism' and 'communalism') as parts of the structural aspects of colonial and imperial discourses and practices. In a similar sense, the essentilization of 'ethnicity' in this part of the world can be seen as structurally produced aspects of the post-colonial Indian State, its discourses and practices.

Besides, having internalized such worldviews, many seem to have, if I may say, recklessly invoked the conceptual categories such as 'ethnic group' while talking about various communities in this part of the world That these terms have historical baggage rooted in certain intellectual and political contexts. For instance, the underlying subtext of migration which is implicitly implicated in the expression (especially in the North American context) and the emergence of this term as a preferred substitute for the expression 'race' amongst many western scholars are rarely understood Incidentally, many seems to be oblivious of the fact that this term has been used largely, if not exclusively, in this country with reference to the communities in India's northeast. In fact, the specificity of deployment of the term with reference to this part of the world is deeply related to a specific exclusion of India's northeast as the 'other' in the very imagination of Indian nationhood. The issue here is not merely that of the semantics; it about understands the political and economic contexts within which these concepts and terminologies get deployed And that the very act of deploying these terms is also an act of reproducing and reifying realities. This can be seen in a phenomenon that has come to represent the 'ethnic conundrum' in India's northeast demands for 'homeland'.

Politics of Homeland

House is not home. To be a 'home', it requires something more than its physical structure. And that something is fundamentally subjective in nature; only when a matrix of ide as and sentiments are imputed to that physical structure; it becomes a 'home'. In a similar sense, land is merely a physical reality, a material space where one may live or work. Only when such physical space has been invested with some ideas and sentiments, it can become a 'homeland'. Indeed, in a critical sense, the 'land' which is implicated in 'homeland' is not given but constituted through some ideas and feelings. Historically speaking, such ideas and feelings are parts/ products of myths, political ideologies and mobilizations.

Modern Ideas and Fusion of Land and People

Over and above the plethora of 'homeIand' demands and conflicts thereof in contemporary India's northeast, the evolution of the Indian 'nation-state' as a geo-political entity stands as testimony to the above constitutive nature of 'homeland'. The idea of 'home rule', which was flagged off during freedom struggle, was about running a 'home' called 'India'. And that this 'India' was constituted through the nationalist struggle is a well accepted historical reality. That the 'land' in the idea of 'homeland' is constituted through a mobilization that involved a spatial imagination that goes beyond mere physical space where one lives or works, and that such imagination has to be simultaneously informed by and fused with some notion of 'people' can be seen from an off quoted episode in Nehru's Discovery of India. When a group of people greeted Nehru with "a great roar" of Bharat Mata ki Jai-Victory to Mother India", he would asked them as to "who is this Bharat Mata, Mother India, whose victory they wanted?" What follows is instructive for us. In Nehru's own words,

"My question would amuse them and surprise them, and then, not knowing exactly what to answer, they would look at each other and at me ... a vigorous [at, wedded to the soil from immemorial generations, would say that it was the dharti...What earth? Their particular village patch, or all the patches in the district or province, or in the whole of India? ... question and answer went on, till they would ask me impatiently to tell them about it I would endeavour to ... explain that India was all this that they had thought...[t]he mountains and the rivers ... the forests and the broad fields, which gave us food. were all dear to us, but what counted ultimately were the people .. .like them and me, who were spread out all over this vast land Bharat Mata, Mother India, was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people.. ."

This passage points to the historical moment of nationalist ideology and mobilization that constructed 'India, that is Bharat' as a geo-political entity. There are two crucial aspects that one can note here. First, the passage reveals a particutlar mode of spatial imagination that seeks to connect different physical spaces. The 'village', which may, in all probability, a part of the native sense of that [at who was 'wedded to the soil', to the juridico-politically organized 'district' and 'province', the nationalist seeks to relate/integrate these different spaces into a conception of a larger spatial unit called 'whole of India'. Second. in a critical sense, the passage also points to a conception wherein the physical space and the people are not only fused together but also emphasize the people as Bharat Mata. The attempt to define Bharat Mata in terms of the people, and fusion between that people and the physical space called 'the whole of India' is a crucial aspect of modern political imagination.

Indeed, the emergence of the liberal idea of ' we the people' as a key concept that gives legitimacy to a modern polity, and the advent of modern (state) power as a disciplinary and regulatory regime to govern life (Michel Foucault calls it 'bio-power', a power that seeks to discipline the individual and regulate the population that coterminous with what he describes as a shift in the conception of the state from the 'territorial state' to the 'population state' or an increasing saliency of the latter over the former in modern period)-both have contributed to the fusion between land and people as a salient feature of modern political imagination.

It is an imagination that informs the idea of 'nation-state' - a notion of one people, one nation and one state. This imagination that binds people and land together is critically implicated in many territorial conflicts between states as well as 'homeland' demands all over the world. The experience in this part of the world is no exception. The expressions such as 'Bodoland', 'Nagaland' or 'Nagalim, 'Kukiland' ~ are pointers to the realities of that imagination.

Another crucial aspect of such an imagination is the idea of history as a narrative that seeks to articulate a collective selfhood by selecting, inventing, organizing and weaving events from the past Just as individual self becomes intelligible to the self by weaving 'experiences' together in a coherent (and linear) narrative, history provides a similar function in making a collectivity (e.g., nation) intelligible to itself. Since the idea of nation has political inflection (e.g., nation is intimately associated with the idea of nation-state), most history tends to be state- centric. It is in this sense that many historians note that the very act of writing history is an act of power.

Incidentally, against the European Enlightenment world-views that postulate the non-European world (such as those peoples in Africa) as 'people without history', many nationalists in South Asia discovered and insisted on 'Indian civilization' and 'history.

In fact, Bengali nationalist Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya declared, "We don't have a history. We must have a history"! That the Nagas insisted on the idea of history (e.g., that Govt of India must accept the uniqueness of Naga history) indicates the centrality of this idea of history.

Here, it is worth noting that in many territorial conflicts the world over, history has also been invoked to articulate a sense of wrong having been done to the people or to re-claim territories which have been wrongly taken away from that people. Such invocation of history can be seen in many homeland demands in India's northeast For instance, from articulating a national identity of the Nagas through a 'unique history', to the 'historical' claims of wrongs having been done to them by the British and 'Indians' (e.g., 'dividing' their 'land'), the demand for 'Nagalim' or 'Greater Nagaland' has all these ingredients of deploying history in homeland demands.

That homeland demands in the Northeast is critically shaped by the arrival of such modern ideas which have not only created and reified categories of people (as anthropologist Bernard Cohn have brilliantly articulated in his famous essay, The Census, Social Structure and Objectification in South Asia) but also come to substitute the categories of the 'traditional' or 'indigenous' word-views of the people in the region. Subsequently, the people in this part of the globe also experience what Ashis Nandy, a well-known political psychologist, calls "loss of self under colonialism" - loss precisely because this new consciousness implicates a way of looking at oneself in other's rather than one's own terms. This is only a part of the story. What has critically shaped the tone and tenor of the homeland demands and associated 'ethnic conundrum' in the region has been the ideas and practices of the postcolonial Indian state.

Dynamics of a Postcolonial State

An idea of India, which is informed by a notion of 'Indic civilization with all its racial and cultural/religious inflections, has made the people in the region the other in the 'Indian nation. With a dominant suspicion of the racial/cultural other, as exemplified by Sadar Patel's letter to Nehru on 7 November,1950 wherein he described 'these people' in the Northeast as lacking 'loyalty' to India and accuied them of having 'pro-mongoloid prejudices', and a need to have this region as a buffer zone to deal with the Chinese have led to a 'strategic' outlook towards the region. Consequently, deploying a militaristic paradigm (with regular deployment of military in what is supposedly a 'domestic' space) has undermined any possibility of a genuine democratic ethos in the region.

The deployment of the military to deal with the Nagas' assertion as a separate 'nation' to the creation of 'Nagaland' as a 'state' under the constitution in 1963 as a response to the violent uprising by the Nagas while denying the same status to Manipur, which had also been demanding for decades the status through peaceful means, are indications of the militaristic approach towards the region. That the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the executive to deploy military in the internal affairs6fthe state, has been initially conceptualized for the region and that it has been invoked in many areas of the region for more than 60 years now only re-affirms the militaristic as well as the mistrust and suspicion towards the people in this region. Over and above this, instigation and or arming of different communities in the region to fight against each other as a counter-insurgency measures have also been reported in the media. It is this language of violence that has come to rule the roost today in the region. Consequently, 'homeland' demands often carry the spectre of violent 'ethnic' conflicts in the region. Amidst the language of violence, the creation of a state (Nagaland) on tribal ''ethnic' line, in contrast to the linguistic state-re-organization carried out in the rest of the country, has inaugurated a process of balkanization of the northeast on ethnic lines. Indeed, that the political aspirations have come to be solely organized in terms of tribal ethnic lines and that too, with a concomitant threat or actual use of armed movement in the region has to be understood in this context Consolidating such a politics has been the nature of economy and the role of the local elites. Almost all the states in the Northeast (perhaps, with the exception of Assam) are primarily liven by a donor driven economy with 90% of their annual budget being grant-in-aid from New Delhi. Such an economy has induced dependence, if not slavish mentality, amongst the local elites as well as the people. Consequently, the local elites are accustomed to this economy which does not depend for its health on the ingenuity and labour of the local elites/leaders and '-People. Under such an economy and having been groomed under the political patronage of the leaders in New Delhi, to serve what New elhi thinks as 'national interests' in the region, the trick the seem to have learnt is to blackmail the leaders in New Delhi o matter relating to 'national security' and extract as much one as possible from the same. And people in New Delhi seem to be happy as long as these local leaders are responsible towards them rather than the people who elected them.

Under such political culture marked by mistrust and patron- client relation between New Delhi and state capitals, and a donor driven economy, competition amongst local elites could shape a motive amongst them to try for maximum benefits from such a situation by stroking ethnic politics and demanding autonomous institution or homeland under the constitution of the country for some tribe/ethnic group or the other. That there is a need to interrogate and analyze such structural and empirical facts relating to the policies and working of the institutions and the role of the elites across communities and ethnic groups, to deal with the development deficits in the region is hardly acknowledged Under such a scenario, elites playing a role in the ethnicization and communalization of discourses to demand for new juridico-political institutions to be created in the name of tribe/ethnic 'homeland' to ensure their direct access to money from New Delhi cannot be ruled out After all creating such institution may not solve development deficits or empower the people or smooth running of institutions as can be seen from the superfluous nature of overlapping institutions (e.g., within a small area, traditional institutions are juxtaposed with autonomous local councils, and such arrangement is even retained in a 'tribal' state like Meghalaya with a legislative body).

Thus, the question of 'homeland' is not simply a question of attachment to a piece of land where one lives or works to sustain life. It is a part of a politics, the ideas and sentiments that come with it As a politics, it involves political mobilization and there is a historicity of such mobilizations.

Homeland is not a given reality but a mobilized entity, and there is nothing inherent about the ethnic conundrum in the region. As I have noted earlier, we must remember that western scholars tend to essentialize 'tribalism' as an inherent character of the peoples in Africa that comes in the way of their inability to develop a modern economy and polity just as 'communalism' is seen as its counterpart for the people in South Asia (read, India). Needless to say that essentializing 'ethnicity' as a similar character of the people in India's northeast will be nothing more than a politically motivated and flawed understanding just as the above two cases. It is time to change the language we use to constitute and articulate the collective life in the region.

Towards a Resurgent Manipur

The news of 'Magnificent' Mary making it to the London Olympics brings cheers and a sense of pride to the people of Manipur. As the images of this demeanor daughter of Manipur, sweating it out in the boxing ring of the global sports extravaganza, hit the television screens, millions of sport lovers in this country will be on their feet while many in Manipur will feel her heart beats as well And whatever may be the outcomes of the competitions, these Olympics moments are bound to generate a moment of visibility as the state shall emerge once again from its relative anonymity through her denizens like Mary Kom. And, as the visibility brings a sense of being 'recognized', the London Olympics shall be another occasion for the people of the state to take pride in something called "Manipur. Indeed, some kind of 'patriotic' sentiments, emotions and thoughts shall fill in the air. For some, it might even rekindle nostalgia: the excitement, the expectation and the sense of participation that they had gone through as they stayed up late in the night or got up in the wee hours of morning to catch a glimpse of Nilkarnal the first Olympian from Manipur, on the fiekis during the 1984 Los Angeles Games. In fact, the sense of visibility that some might experience during this coming London Olympics may not be very different from the one that came along as the flickering images of this gutsy goalkeeper of Indian hockey team appeared on the tiny television screen that dotted a few houses then in the state.

But what is this 'Manipur' that we often talk ofwith such feelings and thoughts? What is this Manipur about which we talk of with such pride as we refer to the 'rich culture' (dance, theatre, cinema etc), sports or whenever some people achieve something in their life or professions? I suspect that solutions for many of our contemporary problems will entail some answer to such questions.

Manipur as a Historically Evolved Geo-political Entity

As it stands today, Manipur is one of the states that constitute India, albeit some may accept or challenge this status. It is a constitutionally recognized geo-political entity that constitutes the Republic of India. But this entity is a historically evolved entity that preceded the birth of Republic of India. Incidentally, the Constitution acknowledges this fact as its First Schedule defines Manipur as "[tjhe territory which immediately before the commencement of this Constitution was being administered as it were a Chief Commissioner's Province under the name Manipur". This definition is replete with historical aspects that have critical bearings on the contemporary Manipur as well Take for instance, the two issues which have rocked the state for decades now: the decades-old armed insurgency that demands 'sovereignty' for Manipur or the 'territorial integrity' of the state. These two issues have to cb with 'Manipur, a geo-political entity as defined by the Constitution. Whether it is the issue of 'secessionist' or 'national liberation', expressions that one might use depending on which side of the politic~ spectrum or the 'territorial integrity' of the state, both the Issues are deeply connected to the historicity of this geo-political entity as hinted by this definition of the state in the Constitution.

This Constitution defines Manipur as a 'territory'. But insofar it has been referred to as a 'Chief Commissioner's Province', this 'territory' has been defined specifically in terms of a juridico- political category rather than merely as a physical space. And the implicated juridico-political aspects point to the historical evolution of the state. For instance, the status of being a 'Chief Commissioner's Province' immediately brings in the order is issued by the Dominion of India on 15th October, 1949 and subsequently it takes us to its preceding status of being a 'Princely State', and which, in turn, ultimately leads us to the trajectory of the evolution of the entity through the fusions and fissions of principalities and villages in the bygone eras. Seeking solution to the vexed issue of armed insurgency, especially when one insists on a 'political solution' to the same, is bound to bring in the issues implicated in the historical aspects of the geo-political entity called Manipur. In a similar sense, the question of 'territorial integrity' will have something to do with the juridico-political character of the 'territory' implicated in the definition of Manipur. Incidentally, it is a historical irony, and a question of legitimacy at the same time, that the very existence of this geo-political entity that existed before the 'commencement' of the Constitution can be destroyed/altered by the same Constitution.

However, seeking solutions to the above two issues that have haunted Manipur for decades without I(ferring to these issues can be only achieved by denying or destroying the very idea of Manipur and its associated sentiments, emotions and thoughts, such as those I have mentioned earlier, which are palpable amongst the large sections of the population in the state.

Manipur as an Idea of a Polity

To say that Manipur is a geo-political entity is also to say that this entity is marked by a polity. An anachronistic reading of history or a historical consciousness which has become a, prisoner of the pasts rather than being an awareness of one's existence in time are bound to create havocs. Harping on a memory that smacks of an imperial ethos as the basis for Manipur is a reflection of an inability to read the trans formative moments of the 'individuals' from being 'subjects' of a sovereign power to a right (civic, political and social) bearing individuals such as envisaged and implemented in 1948 under the Manipur State Constitution or of the contemporary times. It must be noted that modern state has moved from 'territorial state' to 'population state' as the ideas of 'popular sovereignty' has become the presiding deity of modern polity. The ethos of democracy, the ideas of 'citizens' and 'group rights' etc-all is aspects of the said polity.

Such a move associated with the modern ideas had appeared in mid 1930s and culminated in the 1940s in Manipur. One classic moment was when the then Nikhil Manipuri Hindu Mahasabha dropped the word 'Hindu' from its nomenclature and demanded for responsible government and bringing an end the split in the administration of the state into Hills and Valley in 1938. The thrust had been, like most modern polity, to strive for the dignity of the citizens of the state irrespective of ~s or her habitat, gender, religions etc. And the Manipur Constitution Act 1947 was a culmination of the same as it sought to ensure the rights of not only individuals but also of communities.

Unfortunately, such indigenous churnings and moves of the people were subverted by a re-enactment of an ethos in 1949 that had introduced a rule by bureaucracy under direct control of New Delhi for more than two decades in the postcolonial era. Despite the Constitution of the Republic of India which is based on similar principles, the subsequent subservient political culture that was born out of that subversion has continued to plague the ethos of the polity in the state and its ills till date. Thus, a modern polity that seeks to ensure the status of the rights and dignity of the individuals and communities that honestly acknowledges the historicity of the state must inform the search for a resurgent Manipur.

Caution Against Mischief of Historiography

However, a word of caution needs to be flagged off here: When one insists on acknowledging the historicity of the state is to recognize that Manipur as an entity marked by a hierarchy of loyalty with the King at the top with his officials, the village chiefs and sagei ahals (family patriarchs) below, a state system which is referred to as 'segmentary state', is not the same Mani pur as a state under a democratic and republican order inhabited by equal at least in principle, individual citizens.

The tendency to anachronistically imagined Manipur as if it is temporally and spatially frozen throughout '2000 years history' (e.g., the idea of Manipur as a 'nation' with 'firm boundary' since 'time immemorial') is not an example of acknowledging the historicity of the state. It must go without saying that such an anachronistic imagination restrains us from doing an objective rendering of the evolution of the structure of the political authority or the territory of the state or the shades and spectrum of the people's consciousness in the making of Manipur as we know today. In the process, how different peoples from different spatial locations with different 'cultural' practices have interacted and intermingled under different regimes of power or political authorities in the evolution of the present state, are left outside our purview.

Moreover, it also renders a particular community or group (e.g., the Meiteis) as constituting the 'national mainstream', and reduces the different trajectories and life-forms of the people to a monochromatic narrative of that "mainstream". It has a propensity to propagate implicitly, if not explicitly, the idea that all other communities are mere peripheral appendices to the 'mainstream'. It even nurtures an assumption that the 'mainstream' constitutes the necessary (perhaps even as sufficient) condition that underlies the geo-political reality of Manipur. Incidentally, such a narrative has been propounded by those who seek to negate the historicity of Manipur as a geo- political entity. On the other hand, under such a historiography, 'integration' often informs a wish to have a homogenous entity that comes in direct contradiction with the realities of heterogeneity of life. The alienation and fragmentation of identities in Manipur today is a direct manifestation of that contradiction. In short, the popular history neither captures the historicity of the complexities of the evolution, of Manipur as a geo-political reality nor is it enabling the reality to sustain itself.

Closely related to the above mischief of historiography is the way we articulate people hood Take for instance the issue of who are 'Manipuri' There are two broad senses in which this word Manipuri has been usually deployed; One, a geo-political sense and the other, the cultural-linguistic sense. In its geo- political sense, Manipuri refers to something that is to do with Manipur as a geo-political entity; in this sense, it also refers to those native inhabitants of the State. But in its cultural-linguistic sense, the meaning of Manipuri has a strong association with those people whose mother tongue is the language called Manipuri, particularly the one spoken by the Meitei, the largest community that constitutes the majority of the state's population, and by the Pangal as their mother tongue. This cultural-linguistic sense is non-territorial or territorially not confined to the State of Manipur in so far as it includes all those people who speak the language as their mother tongue (in places like Assam, Tripura, Burma, Bangladesh etc). Notion ofa 'national mainstream' tend to often smack of what political sociologist Michael Maan calls 'organic' conception of 'we, the people', which, in turn, is often appropriated by the majority community. Such a conception of peoplehood runs against the liberal conception of people as a collective of citizens.

Here it must also be noted that narratives that seek sharper boundaries between and amongst groups of people by harping on 'differences' rather than similarities or denying shared spaces and linkages are following an 'organic' conception of peoplehood As Michael Maan notes, such approach can only breed impulses for 'ethnic cleansing'.

In contrast to such narratives, crafting the future of the people beyond the present fractured polity and society calls for reaffirming the linkages and shared destinies here on earth. In this regard, while thinking of history, we should be looking for, to borrow historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam's expression, 'connected histories' amongst the people. Even when we seek to write political history, we must be writing, as Partha Chatterjee notes, with a 'confederate' assumption rather than that of a 'singularity'. These are crucial steps that we can take to move beyond the identities which encourage a fractured polity and society.

As a part of such an effort, we must also look for other alternative histories, to use the expression popular amongst the subaltern historians. These alternative histories could be in the form of social histories, 'histories from below', histories of the marginal communities, women etc. One can also think of histories that critically engage with the nationalist and state-centric narratives. Though not a professional historian, I am aware that these are not only popular amongst, but also fairly representative of, much of the works of many contemporary historians. However, to get a flavour of the implications of writing such alternative histories for us in Manipur, allow me to share an example. Let us think of writing a history on the evolution or nature of YU Shungba (brewing of local liquor) in Manipur. In terms of its production and consumption, and cultural meanings and economy, one is likely to come across shared spaces as well as markers of specific enclaves amongst different communities. I believe that the identities we might see throJigh such history wouki be different from the history that produce identities of the modern 'nation-state'. While the former is likely to reveal 'fuzzy' identities, that is, identities those are codified and performed differently in temporally specific spaces for specific purposes, the latter is likely to register and justify reified, bounded and enumerated identities. A work of this kind shall not be a rare specimen, as I have indicated, amongst the contemporary historians.

Taking Note of the Transforming World

Mr Chairperson and ladies and gentlemen, I would like to end this lecture with some comments on the challenges of the emerging works while still being in touch with the contemporary challenges. The 'state of exception' such as deployment of military as a part of regular administration (exemplified by AFSPA) definitely smacks of a colonial hangover and a militaristic thinking. This part of the world called 'Northeast' has distorted our political culture for a long time. Under such a culture, individuals have lived as 'citizens' have also been simultaneously, (to use Giorgio Agarnben's work) homo sacer, a life that can be killed but not sacrifice lived under the whims and fancies of the sovereign power or in simple terms by state agencies with impunity. It is in Insofar as crafting the future entails us to invoke and promote individuals as 'citizens'. Therefore, we all need to fight against such indignity and debilitating political culture. That is a common good for which everyone of us can come together. We must also be informed of the nature of the transforming world, as some call it 'post-Westphalian order', and its neo-liberal economy. Increasing economic interests of the global kind in our place, shifting and emerging strategic alliances and the perennial competition between India and China, we cannot rule out our part of the world becoming military bases along with dams, mining and other economic establishments all around Will our part in such a scenario be to run thriving bars and brothels, punctuated by gang wars of small insurgencies based on tribes and communities? It is a thought that comes to me often. It is not a nice thought But my only solace is to trust that future is not a destination to be arrived at but something that is to be created from the present

Thank you Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen.

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