Home > 2016 > Formation of the Indian Nation-State and the Future of North-East

Mainstream, VOL LIV No 11 New Delhi March 5, 2016

Formation of the Indian Nation-State and the Future of North-East

Wednesday 9 March 2016, by J.J. Roy Burman

Perception about India of Intellectuals and the Colonial Legacy

Almost all the Indian historians and scholars like D.D. Kosambi, Amartya Sen, Sudipto Kaviraj wrote about the idea of India in terms of an ancient civilisation or a political boundary formed after British colonisation. In their writings they prominently mentioned about Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore and Bankimchandra. Bankim’s writings do not mention anywhere about India, Bharat, Hindustan or Bengali. He rather wrote about arming the Hindus for their resurgence. Nehru could not discover the Mizos and Nagas in his famous treatise, Discovery of India. None seem to be conscious of the fact that the Indian nation-state as we know today was formed on August 15, 1947 or founded on that day with the withdrawal of the British rather than becoming independent.

Historically, the area covered by British India also included present-day Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Prior to that there was the Mughal empire which did not include any part of South India or North-East India. Before that the political boundary of the Ashokan empire stretched from Persia to parts of South-East Asia. The seats of the Indus Valley Civilisation, Mahenjodaro, Harappa and Taxilla, which Indians take pride of, are located in Pakistan. Majority of the 600 princely states that merged with India did not join the anti-colonial struggle and rather had sided with the British. The Nizam of Hyderabad or the King of Manipur barely fought the British and resisted only when the new India tried ‘forced merger’. At the time of partition 67.4 per cent of the tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts voted in the referendum to join with India, but the British agent, Radcliffe, arbitrarily clubbed them with the erstwhile East Pakistan (maybe with sinister designs blocking a direct access from the North- East to the blue waters through the Chittagong port). On the other hand the Nagas refused to do so as they stated that they were never subjugated by India and rightfully feared that they will get marginalised in the Indian nation-state with the departure of the British. But they did not realise that there never existed any India in history as we know today and that all the constituent States of it formed an Union without any historical precedence. The Nagas are not to be blamed as they had seen nationalist leaders like Tilak professing Hindu nationalism and even Gandhi sticking to rigid Hinduism and singing Hindu psalms and following the vegetarian food habit which is an anathema for the Dalits and tribals. They had watched States being formed in British India on the logic of population. Right now Nagaland has one seat in the Lok Sabha in a House of 545 members.

Some of the intelligentsia from Manipur argue that the British cut out political boundaries with the intent of exploiting natural resources and not on the population logic. I wonder which natural resources did the British exploit from the United Provinces and Punjab. The resource base was rather located in many of the princely states predominated by tribal peoples (most of which are now the Fifth Schedule Areas)—on the fringes of State borders covered with forests that offered buffer zones between kingdoms. The dense forest zones of the North-East were deliberately retained out of political expediency and not for resource exploitaton. The forests over there were deliberately left untouched by the British out of a strategy to have a buffer between the French who had colonised large tracts of South-East Asia. In the tribal predominated States like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, tribes are spread over a larger terrain but numerically outnumbered by the non-tribals, mostly inhabiting the urban centres. Demo-graphic marginalisation has seen outsiders controlling the State power.

The overwhelming majority of the Indian polity, without realising the historical truth, formed a Parliament on the basis of the population logic—a colonial legacy. While the eight States of the North-East have 25 seats in the Lok Sabha, Uttar Pradesh alone has 80 seats. This automatically results in a North Indian hegemony. (It is on record that Mulayam Singh Yadav, a non-BJP, parochial leader, without the vision of the Indian nation-state, urged Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then PM, to deliver his speech in Hindi when Bill Clinton was invited to address Parliament. Vajpyee himself made a statement earlier as a Foreign Minister citing the example of the erstwhile Soviet Union which had Russian as the state language and so he justified the case of Hindi in India. The Russian language could not stave off the USSR’s decimation into pieces. It is often not realised that India is a political-economic entity and not a cultural state. In a newly formed nation-state, a just confederation should have led to equal representation in the Lok Sabha or formation of an apex confederational body.

Just Confederation of States and the Naga Political Dynamics

I am sure if this position is accepted, the different peoples of the North-East, including the Nagas, will not find it very difficult to opt for a political future within India. Significantly, similar demands from other States are likely to emerge as we find Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, has already publicly appealed for a just federation with India, a short while ago. As a caveat it must also be realised by the Naga leadership that a Greater Nagalim as per their demand, under the present parliamentary dispensation, will at best fetch them three-to-four seats in the Lok Sabha and they would not find any space in the national polity. The tribes of the North-East will have to bear the torch of humanity and a moral order, when the working class movement in India has failed. After all, the natural resources of the country are located in the tribal regions. But if the Nagas have to form a unified political unit, they will have to evolve a moral order based on a historical fact that there was no Naga nation or Naga nation-state in history. Citing their myths and legends about a common ancestory and migrating from South China and Mongolia will only lead them into an uncomfortable position and denial of their indigenous rights. Besides, like them many other tribes of the North-East make similar claims.

A Naga nationality is now evolving across States and international border.

[Importantly, the Tangkhuls, who did not side with the other Nagas and sign in the Memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission in 1929—urging not to be clubbed with the incumbent Indian nation-state after the departure of the British—while even a Kuki and a Nepalese did so, are today leading the Naga self-determination movement. A little peep into history, situational analysis and the use of theory backed by hermenuetics can very easily explain this ethnic turn around. The adoption of the colonial construct to form the modern Manipur State (the abode of the Tangkhul Nagas) after merger marginalised the Tangkhuls both politically and culturally at one stroke—gaining only 20 seats or less (in the State Assembly of 60 seats) while occupying almost 90 per cent (maybe a little less, as other Naga and Kuki tribes too share the hill territory) of the State territory and being put under the cultural hegemony of the Meiteis, with the imposition of Meiteilon, the Meitei language. Tangkhuls, who formed a part of the ruling elite community, by allying with the Meitei rulers in history, became the displaced elites after the merger and unconsciously adopted the opposite end as a part of their identity management strategy. This process can be analysed in terms of ‘the role of the displaced elites’ in sociological parlance. In West Bengal as well, we witnessed the East Bengal refugees, who lorded over Muslim peasants back in their native villages, turning into landlessness, resorting to communism as a part of the identity manage-ment process, knowingly or not, as in the case of Jyoti Basu, Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal. It is doubtful how many of the Tangkhuls cast their votes in the plebiscite floated by Phizo in 1951.]

Otherwise, the Nagas will need a charismatic leader who could behave like an ethnic manager. Else they will be ruled by fascist dictators supported by armed militia, who may not be from Nagaland, as is the case of Muivah, the supreme leader of the NSCN (IM), a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur; or like Khaplang heading NSCN (K)—a Hemi Naga from Myanmar. After all, Nagaland has 16 major tribes and each with its own history and customary laws.

Vajpayee and Modi failed to realise, while making statements to placate the Nagas, that they enjoyed a unique history. Every community in the world has its own unique history. The Naga nation has no ancient history nor does the modern Indian nation-state have any ancient history. Its history begins from August 15, 1947. Indians 200 years hence (if India still survives), I guess, will refer to the history of the nation from that day and not to colonial India or the Indus Valley Civilisation. After all, civilisations have amorphous domains and the political boundaries of modern nation-states are not necessarily co-terminus with them, as witnessed in the case of the Roman, Greek, Egyptian or Mesopotemian civilisations.

In the case of Manipur as well, the political State formation is new. Forced merger took place in 1949 and the Kabaw Valley was gifted to Burma by Nehru as the Prime Minister. Following the Indian model of democracy, while the tribals occupying 90 per cent of the state territory (in the hills) are represented by 20 members in the State Assembly, the Valley comprising 10 per cent of the territory, predominated by the Meiteis, is represented by 40 seats. Even within the given parameters, the Tangkhuls complain that the average population covered per constituency in the hill is 33,000 while it is 25,000 in the valley. But even by squaring the figures in the hills and the valley there will not be any significant change in the Assembly configuration.

Should Meiteis agree to adopt a federal structure within the State, much of the ethnic discord will automatically disappear—and this will have serious implications for the Naga movement. The Meitei anxiety about territorial integrity will also be staved off. If the Meiteis continue to be adamant with their unintended hegemonic notions, the road accesses to the Valley from Assam passing through the Naga- dominated areas will continue to be fructuous forever. They should be comforted by the fact that the Manipur King in history took military support of the Naga and Kuki tribes when confronting the Burmese. Unfortunately the Manipur State has adopted the same strategy as the Centre since its merger with India and this has led to a hegemony over the tribal minority. Meiteilon has been imposed over them as the State language. Due to a similar language policy in Assam the predominant tribal areas broke off to form new States. It will be important for the Meiteis to learn that in a newly formed State like Sikkim, where there is 70 per cent Nepalese and 30 per cent tribal peoples, English is the State language. In Nagaland too Nagamese is the common lingua franca between different tribes but English is the State language. In Manipur, though Meiteilon is the common lingua franca between all communities, English should have been adopted as the State language to deter any sense of ethnic hegemony.

Kings in Tribal Areas — Kings Without Kingdom: Ethnic Managers, the Case of Manipur

It is seriously missed out that the Manipuri King was more of an ethnic manager than being an all-powerful monarch. He had a tiny little regular Army and had to a large extent depend on the lallup system during crisis. The lallup system led to voluntary labour provided to the king in rotation by men from every household and each village. (It may be pointed out that in many of the tribal states of Chhota Nagpur, there existed Caucasoid, non-tribal kings balancing the interest of different tribes dwelling in the kingdom. Marrine Carrin, a French anthropologist, terms this kind of arrangement as ‘kings without kingdom’—the kings being ethnic managers.)

The Chogyal of Sikkim, regarded as Dharma-raja, was not an all powerful monarch but an ethnic manager— balancing the striking roles of the Bhutia, Lepcha and Limbu, three major ethnic entities of the State—and also considered to be the best dispenser of gifts (by three Buddhist Lamas during the coronation of the first Chogyal at Yuksom in West Sikkim), meaning one who could manage trade and barter along the long distance trade routes leading to Central Asia. (The Dalai Lama in Tibet too was considered to be a Dharmaraja balancing political dynamics of diverse ethnic groups and nationalities within the region.)

The British played a significant role in the conversion of the Manipuri King to paramountcy.

Artificially formed Nation-States and the Need of Charismatic Leaders or Control of Fascist Forces or Military Dictatorship

It must be realised that all multi-ethnic nation-states, which have been formed artificially, need charismatic leaders conveying humanistic ethos cutting across the state and the global order as has been the case of Nasser in Egypt, Tito in Yugoslavia, Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Fidel Castro in Cuba. The alternative has been takeover by the military dictatorship as in Egypt or withering away of the state, as seen in Yugoslavia.

In the case of Pakistan, it is not surprising that it needed Jinnah, an outsider, to found an artificial nation-state which has three discrete ethnic nationalities, occupying Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan. In a similar vein Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir and Musharraf—all with antecedence from this side of the border—played a neutral role balancing the ethnic dynamics. The alternative to that has been the military dictatorship. Not surprisingly, the present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with Punjabi origin has yielded much of the political space to Raheel Sharif, the Army Chief.

In the case of India itself, it started with Ashoka who promoted multi-ethnicity and Buddhism. Buddhism is the greatest trading religion in the world (which flourished along the ancient trade routes) and has been instrumental in laying the foundation of the biggest trading nations like Japan, South Korea, and China (to a lesser extent). Stanley Tambiah, a Sri Lankan anthropologist based in the USA, has established this conviction with aplomb in his book, World Renouncers and World Conquerors. Ashoka converted himself to Buddhism and through the principle of renunciation expanded his empire to both East and West—mainly along the ancient trade routes—by sea and by land. Tribals were an important constituent of his retinue along the trade routes. This understanding has a bearing for the North-Eastern States including Manipur. Julian Burger coined the term, ‘Frontier Peoples’, to designate the indigenous peoples.

So as Ashoka established his empire based on the Buddhist principle of renunciation and moral order, we had Akbar, born in Sindh with Central Asian antecedence, who significantly balanced the pulls and pushes of the so-called Hindu kings with diverse ethnicity from different regions. He evolved the syncretic religion, Din Illahi, to encompass peoples of all hues.

After the formation of the Indian nation-state we had Nehru at the helm of political affairs (for 16 years) ruling on the principle of Panch Sheel, both internally and externally, stressing greatest autonomy within and amorphous borders without. He linked this up by reinforcing the global moral order of humanism.

After Nehru, Indira Gandhi took up the cudgels to retain the humanist order, but in the face of stiff opposition from political leaders with American leaning, was compelled to turn into a benevolent dictator.

With significant political developments, later we saw Sonia Gandhi, an Italian (an outsider) playing the role of an ethnic manager to politically balance the pulls and pushes of the Congress leaders with diverse background and by projecting Manmohan Singh (who is neither a Hindu nor a Muslim, a minority, offering a neutral position) as the Prime Minister.

With the penetration of neoliberalism much of the moral elan of the humanistic order whithered away and a void was created which necessitated the emergence of the BJP, a fascist party, to control the Centre-state of a multi-etnic nation-state, rather than the control by a military dictatorship. I have no complaints against the BJP per se. In the political vacuum and economic plunder of the tribal areas, any other fascist force would have taken over, if not the military. The existing democratic dispensation in the country itself promotes regional hegemony rather than any Hindu domination. Even Mayawati as a PM (if it were to be so) would become a part of North Indian hegemony. Hindu fanaticism is just an instrument of control. The Brahminical hegemony of India is a misplaced notion.

BJP-NPF -NSCN (IM) Alliance: Confluence of Fascist Forces

The BJP-NPF alliance in Nagaland is nothing but a confluence of fascist forces. The NPF has no opposition in the State Assembly and is fully backed up by the NSCN (IM), a party that brooks no opposition. Dissenters are physically targeted. The journalist writing the Congress-I pamphlet conveying the truth about Naga history at the instance of S.C. Jamir, was brutally attacked. S.C Jamir, the then Congress-I CM, himself narrowly escaped as an attempt on his life was made by the NSCN (IM) cadres in New Delhi. While the BJP sticks to the principle of One Nation, One State or Hindi Bhasha, Hindu Rashtra, the NSCN (IM) vouches for Nagalim for Christ. Both the parties have Western linkage—connection with powers like the USA, France and UK. The US has the history of eliminating the indigenous peoples within the country, killing millions of peoples at one go by using nuclear weapons in Japan and then maiming the Third World countries globally and liquidating the nation-states in the Middle East so as to pilfer oil. The UK and France share almost similar antecedence.

While last year the BJP Government invited Obama for the Republic Day parade, Hollande was present this year. We will not be surprised to see Cameron, the British Prime Minister, being invited in the coming year. The BJP is seeking a permanent membership of the Security Council in the hegemonic United Nations, a privilege shared by the five most plundering nations of the world—the US, UK, France, Russia and China. Russia thrives on the export of hydrocarbon located in the hinterland predominated by the indigenous peoples or the erstwhile ethnic Soviets. China is the worst history-sheeter that excells on exploitation of resources located in the tribal areas. While tribes form six per cent of the total population of China, they occupy 60 per cent of the state territory. Tibet is an added largesse. Along with internal colonisation, China has now stepped into the realms of external colonisation in the Third World countries of Asia and Africa. They will ultimately beat all others in the coming years. The BJP strongly intends to join this ring of collective loot and plunder. The ‘Make In India’ slogan manifests best the strategy of internal and external colonisation. Modi’s call to the Indian corporates to operate in Myanmar is not beyond the pail of its avowed strategy. Just imagine what would be the plight of the tribals and minority peoples concentrated in the resource-rich areas of Myanmar, where our corporates would be mostly operating. (China has already entered into the fray in a very big manner.) Their marginalisation will only accentuate the ethnic discord on both sides of the border. Many of the Kuki tribes have already fled to Manipur and Mizoram, threatening the future of the indigenous peoples in these States. The Inner Line Permit issue as raised by the Meiteis of Manipur, therefore needs a proper and wider scrutiny. In Nagaland and Manipur, the ILP could not deter the influx of outsiders. Between 1991-2001 Nagaland witnessed the largest population growth among all the States of India, followed by Mizoram. In Arunachal Pradesh, which has ILP, the tribal population is just 68 per cent of the total population and Nepalese are the single largest ethnic entity. In Mizoram during the militancy period, the Mizo National Army cadres opposed the State administration from deporting Nepalese wood-cutters engaged by Mizo contr-actors at Kawnpui village, 50 kms from Aizawl, since they received ‘foreigners tax’ from them. Similar instances were brought to me from many other places in Mizoram.

Nobody looks into the factors that led to the influx of outsiders. The Nepalese, Hajongs and Chakmas were encouraged to settle in Arunachal as a part of the security strategy (rightly or wrongly indigenous Arunachalis are presently raising vociferous opposition against these settlers). Similarly, the Nepalese and Adivasis (ex-tea plantation tribal labourers migrating from Chhota Nagpur) were encouraged to settle in the forests bordering Assam and Nagaland to offer a buffer between the two States. This strategy too has backfired after massive deforestation and there is constant tension along both sides of the border. Arunachal is now facing ethnic deluge due to the construction of several hydel power projects. Most worrying is the entry of outsiders to Senapati district of Manipur where an iron ore mine has been recently started, and severely affected the lives of the local Naga tribes.

Modi’s recent public propaganda for opening large industries in the North-East as a part of the ‘Look East Policy’, without looking into the need for a federal political order, is therefore to be accepted with a pinch of salt. Even issues regarding agriculture like banning of jhum to be replaced by settled cultivation and horticulture, as encouraged by the North-East Council, has led to large-scale illegal immigration all over the region (As particularly noticed in Mizoram where at the instance of Lalthanhawla, the Congress-I CM, jhum has been banned turning the State into a parasitic existence and free flow of Central grants are now attracting illegal immigrants into it from all directions— Myanmar, Bangladesh and Tripura.)

Indigenous Forces in History and the Puzzle about Zapu Angami Phizo

However, I still foresee that it will be the indigenous peoples of the North-East who would be the torch-bearers of the humanist ethos indispensable for the stability of a nation-state formed on the principles of moral order and not coercive state power. After all, the Nagas, Khasis and sundry other tribes of Assam offered military support to Lachit Borphukan, the Assamese General, to halt the Mughal onslaught. We should also not forget that the Ahom King, Piyali Phukan, sent his emissaries in 1830 to the Nagas, Manipuris, Khamtis, Singphos, Mishings, Miris, Khasis and Jainitias to form a confederation to oust the British.

The most startling fact not known to many in India is that Zapu Angami Phizo, the father of the Naga nation, had joined the INA (Indian National Army formed by Subhas Chandra Bose) for a while to fight the British. But we are unaware of the factors that led him to make a drastic political switch-over to go against the Indian nation-state in the later years. What went wrong?

Caveat about Recent BJP Policies towards North-East

On their part, the people of the North-East, particularly the elites, should not be carried away by the so-called increased attention to the region by the Centre. The BJP has recently arbitrarily removed the Congress Government in Arunachal Pradesh knowing very well that it is one of the most resource-rich regions of the North-East. The Marwaris controlling the trade and business in all the States of the North-East —who are the BJP’s biggest supporters along with the corporates and multinationals—will gain easy access to loot and plunder under the aegis of the ‘Look East Policy’ and ‘Make In India’ slogan.

In this context I have to make it clear that the corruption of the Congress party signifies the existence of some sort of barrier of checks and resistance within the system that has to be overcome; this amounts to operational inefficiency. The BJP politics, on the other hand, leads to direct takeover of the system. Sunderlal Patwa, the former BJP Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and the biggest Tendu leaf contractor of the State, on assuming power denationalised the Tendu leaf market and lowered the procurement rate to what it was two years earlier. We cannot avoid noticing Adnani and Mukesh Ambani, the biggest industrialists of India, flying together with Narendra Modi to the USA. This amounts to systemic inefficiency. The BJP needs no corruption.

Possible Strategies of Federalism—Opposing the Global Hegemonic Forces—UN and the Financial Institutions

To begin with the possible alternative to the present impasse, the Meiteis should join hands with the Nagas to fight for a just confederation with the Indian nation-state, not an impossible proposition. The Meitei King in history took support of the Nagas when confronting the Burmese, as mentioned earlier. The confederational arrangement need not necessarily persist forever. The nation-state formed on the principle of moral order for the time being will offer cushion to the sundry communities all over against the onslaught of hegemonic powers and global financial institutions which are attempting to gain direct access to the grassroots in the name of decentralisation—as evinced in the case of Village Development Boards in Nagaland, where the World Bank, ADB and other international finances as loans are routed through the State to the VDBs located at every village of Nagaland and not a paisa is repaid as the State stands as the guarantor; the Central funds used for the loan repayment with interest are mainly raised by plundering the tribal areas from other parts of the country. The Centre’s wealth formation is very insignificant from the Tax component.

Kaka Iralu, a radical Naga scholar, has lamented about this dimension which leads to lack of transparency, corruption and a parasitic State and social formation. The people in the region do not realise that the multinationals invest not out of love but for lust. Unfortunately, the District Councils in Meghalaya are vying for direct dealing with global financial institutions like ADB and World Bank bypassing the State. Muivah’s idea of Greater Nagalim may be sharing similar dreams. But Muivah may also be motivated to take the lead (as a statesman) in the opposite direction as well with the vision of a just confederation of States formed on the principles of moral order. We may not forget the illustration of ‘Balmiki’ on record. (Pu Laldenga, the former Mizo underground leader and CM, turning into a statesman, offered to be an interlocutor between the Nagas and India, but could not do much as his life was cut short by cancer.) Subir Bhowmick, a journalist who specialised on the North-East, briefly hinted at Muivah’s desire for federal relations but did not elaborate what it means. But Naga federalism cannot be achieved in isolation as there would be opposition or similar demands made by other communities and States from the region or the nation as a whole.

Possibility of Manipur to Lead the Nation towards a Federal State

Manipur enjoys the maximum privilage to begin with the possible federal relations with the Nagas and pave the way for an Indian federalism. Nagas and Meiteis can combine together to evolve as a force to reckon with vis- a-vis the Centre. They had combined together in history to confront the adversaries in all directions. Even in recent times, Rishang Kishing, a Tangkhul Naga, was chosen as a Chief Minister to strike a balance between feuding factions with diverse ethnicity within the ruling Congress party. He ruled for three terms as the CM. Even as of now, Gaikhangam, the Deputy Chief Minister of the State, happens to be a Rongmei Naga.

We should also not ignore the treaty signed between the Tangkhul Naga chief and the Meitei King at Hundung, a Tangkhul village near Ukhrul. The event is commemorated every year at the village where a memorial stone engraved with footprints of the two leaders has been erected. Importantly, even now during the Lai Haraoba festival celebrated every year at Segmai, a Loi village 16 kms from Imphal, the presence of a Tangkhul man in traditional attire is indispensable on a particular day. Lai Haraoba is celebrated in a big way every year in over 400 Meitei villages. Where there is no Tangkhul presence, a local Meitei person robed in Tangkhul costume participates in the ceremony. I have heard of many such instances of Meitei-Naga confluence in different parts of Manipur, particularly along the foothills which demarcate the Meitei-Naga borders. The colonial construct of a nation-state forced upon Manipur has blurred many such lived inter-community politico-cultural anarchic arrangements from the minds of both Meiteis and Nagas, leading to fear psychosis all around. It is also felt that the existing Autonomous Hills District Councils in the tribal areas of Manipur too could help in paving the way for forming a federal structure in future.

Theoretical Underpinning and Prevailing Anarchic Base of the Meitei Society in Manipur Valley

In the theoretical realm, Robert Redfield’s formulation of ‘Cultural Syndicalism’ appears most appropriate to analyse the Manipur ethno-political dynamics. There is a constant tussle going on between the technical order represented by the State and the moral order symbolised by the anarchic communities like between the hare and the hound (Tolstoy, an anarchist, who was vehemently opposed to the idea of nationalism that blurs the tenor of humanism). We have witnessed the rise and fall of civilisations and the emergence of civilisations anew all over the world. David Syiemleh, a prominent Khasi intellectual from Shillong, has closely alluded to this dimension in one of his recent articles.

I must remind that the Valley of Manipur thrives irrespective of the State on the premises of the Marup system that is deeply entrenched into the lives of the people in both rural and urban areas. It operates a parallel economy along with that of the State, by handling phenomenal amount of money and cash transaction. The women play a stellar role in this. Marup also extensively bridges social ties between individuals, communities and surrounding villages on the basis of formation of informal cooperatives or informal micro-finance groups (rather forming amorphous confederations), all over the Meitei principality. The State Government is, on the other hand, bankrupt and corrupt and survives largely due to the Central doles. Besides Marup, the existence of seven exogamous clans among the Meiteis formed on the basis of territorial demarcation within the Valley symbolises formation of a regional constellation based on moral premises and not on the logic of coercive power. Each clan is confined to a particular principality and exogamous marriages ultimately to reinforces inter-principality social solidarity, ultimately covering the entire Valley area. Without these institutions, the Manipur Valley would have been turned into a state of utter anarchy and mayhem—when the links with the Central Government are rudimentary. It is the Marup which sustains the Valley when access routes from outside are blocked for months together.

Existence of the Anarchic Communities and the Trend towards Transcending National Borders

It is globally evident that the moral order represented by the anarchic global communities is vanquished again and again by the technical order represented by the state, only to re-emerge from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix to renew the moral order. I am optimistic that though under the current global political dispensation the moral order will find it difficult to be sustained, it will ultimately prevail with the long history of symbiotic relations between the hill and valley peoples to form multi-community anarchic polities across states and international borders. This corresponds to the state of Zomia peoples inhabiting the hills and valleys of several South-East Asian countries and the North-East, as explained by James Scott in his book, The Art of Not Being Governed. This understanding may even enable the conversion of the Indian nation-state into a moral order based on its commitment to confront the current hegemonic world order through protracted struggles and not co-option. The indigenous peoples have the potential to take the lead in this direction. It should also be realised that we are not frozen in time and should think of times at least 200 years ahead. Civilised peoples will not be bound by physical borders defended by standing armies for all times to come. It is very important to note that Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, flew down to Kolkata to attend the funeral of Jyoti Basu while most other national leaders kept away. Hasina publicly stated that Jyoti Basu was not just a leader of West Bengal but a statesman symbolising the ethos of the entire Bangla nation cutting across borders. She declared a three-day state mourning for Basu in her country.

Back in history, Chinese and Indian civilisations had no structured physical borders. It is only after the British entry that the McMohan Line was drawn. The shackles of a colonial construct may not last forever in the light of demolition of the myth of India. The indigenous peoples and other anarchic communities guarding the borders all around are educating us through their protracted resistance. A wide dissemination of these ideas by public articulation through simple language understood by the common masses, ‘institutiona-lised’ intelligentsia and the elite polity is the need of the hour.

 The present article may appear to have provided several bits of discrete information without any linkage. But a careful reading will make it clear that the entire paper, from beginning to the end, attempts at projection of the anarchic principle to which the indigenous peoples are wedded. Their cosmocentric orientation can be a lesson for other communities and States in other parts of the count1ry. My emphasis has been on hermeneutics—interpretation of facts gathered from 45 years of rigorous single-handed fieldwork struggling all over the country, ploughing a lonely furrow. A little bit of reading of the text and keeping track of the media enabled me to draw convictions which might appear ludicrous for the moment.

The author belongs to the Faculty of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.