Monday, June 07, 2010


Not the Gaza blockade, of which much has been said. I'm talking about the Manipur blockade.

If you haven't heard of it, I'm sure you're not alone. I first heard of it in a magazine article a couple of weeks ago, and today I read this article on rediff.

The situation is that the main (essentially, only) highway into Manipur has been blocked by Naga rebels for over 50 days now. As a result, the Manipuris are short of petrol, medicines, and other essential supplies.

I can't imagine even a five-day blockade occurred in a "mainland" India state: the government would intervene, by force if need be. But a 50 day blockade of Manipur does not even register on the national consciousness.


Space Bar said...

oh yes! i was hoping someone would blog this (i've been intending to for a few days now).

in the mainstream consciousness, the ne and j&k might as well not exist. it's amazing, under the circs, how much people resist secessionist arguments.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

sb - you blog too! It's an important story.

Not that I think Manipur would be better off as a separate country. But if it is part of India, it should be treated as one.

Space Bar said...

yes, of course. i'm not making a case for seccession; i'm just amazed how quick most people are to say no to it when most of the time they don't even think about the peripheries.

will blog...time!

Biswajit said...

Ones definition of periphery varies with ones location. I'm sure most people in north India consider anything east and south of UP as the periphery. The people in the northeast consider (or used to before the advent of TV) anything west of Assam/Bengal as peripheral to their existence. That's quite unrelated to the secessionist movements in northeastern states.

In the mainstream consciousness you, as a scientist(?), may as well not exist. But you seem to imply that you belong to the center (mainstream?). How can you be so sure? We tend to make normative judgments with our personal experiences as the norm. However, that may not be useful in making sense of the Manipur situation.

A history of the Naga movement going back to pre-independence times will definitely be helpful. And such histories, I presume, do exist.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Biswajit - I don't understand what you are saying. Tamil Nadu gets covered in newspapers in Delhi (and, I presume, Lucknow). Uttar Pradesh gets covered in newspapers in Chennai. My point is that the north-east doesn't seem to get extended the same courtesy, unless it's some sort of fatal disaster, and even then it's just for a day or two and then it's forgotten.

(I don't see where I implied I belong to the centre, either.)

Biswajit said...

Sorry Rahul, should have mentioned that I was commenting on Space Bar's comment that "in the mainstream consciousness, the ne and j&k might as well not exist". My point was that such a statement reflected the writer's point of view rather than reality. I hear the same type of statement from New Zealanders regarding India, with "mainstream" converted into "world". It does not matter a whit to the people living in the periphery whether the mainstream are conscious about them. In fact, in some cases, the periphery would prefer not to be in the consciousness of the mainstream :)

I've grown up in Nagaland and Meghalaya and have spent a considerable part of my adult life in Bihar, eastern UP, and Chattisgarh. I don't recall too many newspapers in these areas discussing southern India (except for disasters, of course). But then I wasn't really looking for news from these areas.

The northeast doesn't get reported on for many reasons including lack of interest and lack of easy access. I'm sure it's the same for most ares in Karnataka, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and the list goes on. The newspapers need to sell copy after all.

Space Bar said...

biswajit: Politically and sociologically speaking, sure there are peripheries within every mainstream - including, for instance, how in/visible caste is to people - but wouldn't you say political peripheries are more definable?

People in Bihar may not be very conscious of S.India, etc etc, but in the narrative of the country itself, it is very much present.

My point is, that places like the NE or Kashmir are excluded from precisely this kind of 'general knowledge'. One either consumes these places as exotica or mildly commiserates with the violence without having to experience it.

One reason why the experience of peripherality matters ('That's quite unrelated to the secessionist movements in northeastern states', you said) is it could potentially radicalise those people who aren't actually involved with seccession movements, but who feel the indifference of 'the mainstream'.

You say, "It does not matter a whit to the people living in the periphery whether the mainstream are conscious about them."


That's not the sense I got or still get from students, lecturers, writers from the NE who live in Delhi and other places.

gaddeswarup said...

Space Bar.
This is an impressio from more than thirty years ago when I lived in Shillong. We were 'you Indians' and some I spoke to said that they felt closer to south east asians than Indians. This was different frim the reactions of bureucrats both from North East and in Drlhi I spoke to. May be the group you are speaking about is a similar class or there is some change. In Mizoram, which I only toured for a week, reactions were even stronger. there was the so called 'strtegetic hamleting'

Space Bar said...

We were 'you Indians' and some I spoke to said that they felt closer to south east asians than Indians.

Swarup Garu: Exactly. Kashmiris used to routinely ask if visitors were 'from India'. If that is not an experience of peripherality, what is?

(I realise that both you and Biswajit are saying that what the NE experiences is not discontent but indifference. I think this is where we disagree).

Politically, these places *are* in the union of India, despite what social or cultural consciousness says. Until people become diaspora, perhaps the experience of 'mainstream' is only theoretical or abstract.

km said...

Seeing how the Indian media isn't paying attention to the rebels, the blockade must be considered a tactical failure.

//I scoured google for some quality north-east blogs to read, but nothing meaningful comes up. Does anyone else here know any interesting blogs from that region?

gaddeswarup said...

Tentative suggestion. blogbharti hs some links to blogs from north east:
That may give a start.

km said...

gaddeswarup: Thanks for that link. I'll dig around that a little and see if something good comes up.