Manipur riots: The chilling methods in the madness
India

Manipur riots: The chilling methods in the madness

The ground for these riots was set by increasing, seemingly concerted attempts both by the state government and valley-based civil society organisations
Manipur riots: The chilling methods in the madness

The large-scale communal riots that have spread like wildfire in Manipur since May 3 are deeply disturbing and have exposed the collapse of law and order in the state. The immediate spark for the violence was provided by the retaliatory destruction of the Anglo-Kuki War Memorial Gate in Leisang and razing of Vaiphei houses in Kangvai village by Meitei mobs following the beating up of a Meitei driver whose tripper truck hit a bike and ran over a stock of water bottles kept for use by peaceful tribal protestors in Lamka on the same day. However, these riots seem to follow an established pattern witnessed in other parts of India. This pattern follows what Paul Brass calls an “institutionalised riot system” (IRS), wherein riots are prepared, activated and sustained with explanatory justifications.

Brass argued that far from being unpredictable, unpreventable and spontaneous, Hindu-Muslim riots are manufactured and sustained by an institutional ecosystem. If early reports about the riots in Manipur are any indication, it could fit as a textbook case of Brass’s IRS.

To put matters into perspective, the preparatory ground for these riots was set by increasing, seemingly concerted attempts both by the state government and valley-based civil society organisations (CSOs) to dilute the intra-state constitutional asymmetry under Article 371C and undermine the historical protection for tribal land rights. After several attempts to extend the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1961 (MLR&LR Act) to the hill areas, a controversial Bill (along with two others) was introduced by the state in 2015 to amend this law. These Bills precipitated an unprecedented tribal uprising. The death of nine tribal protestors — including seven killed in police firing — was seen as the reason to protest for over 632 days to negotiate more secure tribal land rights, without much success. However, tribal dead bodies were used as “symbolic martyrs” and became a powerful rallying force around which tribal unity and solidarity were weaved.

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The ground for these riots was set by increasing, seemingly concerted attempts both by the state government and valley-based civil society organisationshttps://assets-global.website-files.com/64f09a9491a5b2230a3c612b/64f89f575db7efad261c7d49_Clashes-broke-out-in-Manipur-on-May-3-following-th_1684177201305.png