Mayhem in Manipur: beyond the chest-thumping

Crossing the international boundary to engage with the rebels in foreign land, is it really a change in the approach???? Some terms it as ‘hot pursuit’ and declared it as a ‘Message to Neighbours’. While some are more circumspect about the whole issue saying that it depends upon special circumstances.

Bimol Akoijam

Bimol Akoijam
Bimol Akoijam is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi.

The chest thumping is good for the gallery perhaps…as a Union Minister had expressed his thoughts on the development as ‘56inchrocks’…but some people are more realistic to know the circumstances…Myanmar is no Pakistan or China…and in a way, Manipur or Nagaland is no Kashmir, leave alone Chhattisgarh or those 75 security personnel who were killed there.

But reportedly the revenge, the ‘ManipurRevenge’ as the same Union Minister termed it on his twitter, must be taken and has been taken in some way to satisfy the nation’s hunger for the bloods of those who had killed those 18 soldiers…in the form of this unprecedented operation by the special forces of the Indian army which had gone deep inside Myanmar (Burma) and destroyed rebel camps and killed more than 50 Manipuris and Nagas rebels…50 is not enough, some may say…’Dil Maange More’.

Story Ahead…

But I am not sure whether those rebels will also go on their own schemes of retaliations or ‘revenge’ etc…My suspicion is this that we haven’t heard the last of the bloodshed in this hidden war or conflict which has become not only protracted but also gone through mutations over the last half a century or so.

I say this because history tells us that the decision to have the Indian military marched from the western side of Naga hills to the Eastern side in order to subdue what Indian nationalist called those ‘hostiles’ or ‘recalcitrant’ Nagas didn’t work when implemented; over the years. the conflict has become much more bloodier and it survives till date. And in Manipur, despite those bold declaration by the military bosses in early 1980s that ‘backbone’ of the insurgency in Manipur was smashed, following a series of successful military operations at Choro, Tekcham, Kadompokpi etc. then, things did become bigger in 1990s and the first decade of 21st century so much so that parts of Manipur were under the effective control of the rebel groups till recently…

I am aware that the circumstances have changed. Far more than the military action, it is the power of the lure and aspirations of neo-liberal economy, and its ever expanding aspiring class, their new found buying and consumption capacity, their culture of consumerism and fascination for malls-culture etc along with the culture of easy and quick money (contracts, percentage cuts, bribes etc) in the state which, in turn, is not unrelated to the political economy of counter-insurgency, that have eroded the appeal that the rebels (their ideologies) had/have on the people. Interestingly, there are enough signs to see that these aspects of the political economy have also affected the charcater of these rebels themselves.

But there are still these ideas, emotions, and sentiments associated with the idea of Manipur or Nagaland, however one might try to pit one against the other or subvert these ideas, these thoughts and emotions are likely to last (a little) longer than the life of an individual rebel or rebel group who/which can be killed/destroyed.

jingoism on Manipur hot pursuit

And most of those killed deep inside Myanmar are bound to be from that land called Manipur, people who had left their homes and families for the life in Jungle, rather than for Bangaluru or Delhi or London etc.. Whether one calls them ‘rebels’ or ‘insurgents’ or ‘naharols’ (as most Manipuri call them, literally meaning ‘youths’) or ‘terrorists’ as most Indians would prefer to call them, they are still the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters or friends of those people who live as citizens of this country just as those 18 soldiers who are also the husbands, sons and brothers etc…

So, where does this leave us???? May be the mourning of martyred soldiers and celebration of gallantry awards, and chest-thumping shout of ‘Dil Maange More’ for more bloods of Manipuris and Nagas etc (rebels/terrorists/supporters/sympathizers/suspected or whatever they may be termed) is not going to end that soon. And as for the people in Manipur, the cacophonic symphony of violence, estranged relations, easy money and percentage cuts, the lure and orgy of revelry of the life of being fed and frighten shall continue until the time they get some sense of and ability to grapple with what, how, when and why of their own life.

DGMO, the Government of India and the (National) Media said that Special Forces went into Myanmar and destroyed rebel camps and killed substantive number of rebels…

Just as the (National) Media in India went on euphoric narration, quoting sources and Minister to share a Hollywood style achievement of the Indian armed Forces, and for taking ‘revenge’ by killing Manipuri and Naga rebels, there comes the denial from Myanmar that Indian troopers entered into Myanmar’s territory…

Similarly, the rebels have contradicted some of the claims of the military and Govt of India as well…

First casualty in a war/conflict is truth, it is said; but why is that GoI and the (National) media, have acted this way?

Is it a reflection of contempt for a neighbouring country that you think play around or looks down upon, a country you don’t care what they feel? Because it’s no China or Pakistan for you?
Why do the media go on with file pictures and video the flying machine or training of troops as it narrates the fantastic story of a Navy Seal act by the troopers which reportedly attacked the rebel camps inside Myanmar? Why not the actual pictures or recording…flying machines do record when they fire the mounted guns????

Was it all a Bollywood moment for the melodramatic nation to sense its revengeful emotion of ’saa**, mein tera khun pijaunga’????

This reminds me…it seems popular and National Award winning film ’Mary Kom’ seems to have missed the awards at the celebrated IIFA Awards, this time held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…all the top awards went to films like Queen, PK, Haider…


  1. I am afraid I wasn’t much impressed by the author’s commentary.
    For one thing, he is clearly not proficient in English: we have bloopers like ‘bloods’; ‘more bloodier’; ’till date’ which can only diminish the image of ‘India Resists’.
    For another, the author has said nothing new, offered no fresh insights. We are told that the army claims to have crossed into Myanmar and killed more than 50 Manipuris and Nagas. But both Myanmar and the rebels are denying the army version of events. So how do we find the truth?
    Next the author says that the neo-lib economy and the lure of consumerism have altered the character of the rebels themselves. How? And how will it impact their strategy?
    There is no mention of the AFSPA and how the army or commandos use it today. I have heard the Manipur women are different from those of the mainland. What have they to say today?
    What of the sovereignty issue? How much autonomy do the Manipuris want? Why is the Delhi bosses so vengeful? The Indian army is pretty undistinguished in their encounters with real opposition such as Pakistan or China. All they can do is bully and terrorise hapless Indian minorities whether in Kashmir, Chattisgarh, Orissa or the North East. I understand that Nehru even ordered the air force to bomb part of Manipur.
    The tragedy is that the BJPwalas simply lack the social graces and communication skills to open up a respectful dialogue and negotiate with minority groups of different cultures like the Manipuris and Nagas.
    Why shouldn’t such groups be granted a high degree of autonomy if they so desire?

  2. Yes, the military lost a few lives in the line of duty !But whether we do enough to recover, salvage or redeem the loss is to read in this universal dilemma the particularism of the search and destroy objective?We fight wars no more in the way we did of yore.Instead it is always happening. They are short skirmishes,continued unheralded confrontations quietly in the countryside or unreachable and inaccessible terrains.Covert and normally unreported.Mostly clandestine.

    Once again, then, we need to revisit our ideas of the military and its role in a Democracy.As someone so pithily said ‘Power comes out of a barrel of a gun, but politics in Command’ ! It is great to satisfy our atavistic and sometimes primal repressed sense for power and muscle:of being a successful hunter and getting the kill.But in modern day politics one has to answer the delicate question of incipient transgression of sovereignty of smaller countries whose own legitimacy to exist is dubious.One has to also question the exhibition of might which presupposes a certain overburdened military expenditure in a country that desperately needs finances to balance and uplift its majoritarian poor.The nuclear bravado of the past does come to mind in which the entire political community including the parliamentary left were climbing on each others shoulder to get into a self congratulatory photograph.At another remove one would also debate the participation of India in the UN Peacekeeping Forces.And surely the corollary to all this is the clear hearted support of Israeli style of surgical operations deep inside so called ‘enemy territory”(read the wide world) anywhere and anytime.We have quite obviously dropped Palestine from our mailing and friend’s list.Azad Kashmir, the Chinese frontier,Nepal,Bangladesh,Srilanka, the immediate neighbourhood is within the scope of our sights.

    Beware is what Modi says today!And in the last twenty, thirty years the Congress dabbled hesitatingly and mostly unsuccessfully with such strategies.Modi gives this vacillating machismo the full thrust of a bull in the heat.The military acquisitions and the attractive spends to add to the inventory of the Army, Air Force and the Navy also is a pay back of sorts to the rich friends in the inside and the outside.A few more generals and rank badges, some free jaunts for the gung ho in uniform, some memorials,jai hinds,fragrant wreaths for those no more.The bureaucracy,politico. corporate combine would be laughing in the end and all the way to the bank.That the poor cries for the blood of the enemy,too is the tragedy and farce, twice over though. That we are run as surrogates of the USA and Israel as pointsman in all matters is to state the obvious.We now see the South China seas in the east and the mountains of Kandahar in the west as our unwritten boundaries is the fantastic truth that a new India has been led on to believe in.That we are prepared to run and hunt as trained foxes and hunting dogs with our new masters on horsebacks is a kind of surreal truth.Only in this very twisted reality we are all becoming equal partners without recognising the deep, dark demon within seeking vengeance and not justice.

    Batman Begins was about just one man.But then, that was another story……

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