Spurn Thy Neighbour: The Politics of Indigeneity in Manipur

Published date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
Subject MatterArticles
Spurn Thy Neighbour:
The Politics of Indigeneity in Manipur
Thongkholal Haokip1
This article examines the recurrent ‘politics of indigeneity’ in Manipur with the emerging notions of
space and territoriality, and the increasing demand for ‘political space’ by marginal groups. The perpe-
tual xenophobic anxiety and perceived threat of ‘homogenization’, which aroused the drive for ‘ethnic
revivalism’ in recent years, have been dominating the state’s day-to-day ethno-political life. Treating
‘tribes as indigenous people’ and the synonymous usage of ‘indigenous people as original inhabitant’, the
ethno-politics of territory translates into the ‘politics of indigeneity’. The emergent ‘indigenous tribe’
politics is a strategy not only to claim further rights and entitlements from the state but also to question
the ‘indigeneity’ of certain marginal ‘others’ in the state and their rights.
Manipur, indigeneity, ethnic politics, territoriality
When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) released its ‘Vision Document’, a variant of election manifesto,
for Delhi Assembly election on 3 February 2015, an epithet attached to northeasterners residing in Delhi
sparked a horde of protests. In attempting to address the grievances of people hailing from the northeastern
states who have been the target of racial attacks in Delhi, and other cities of India, the BJP had referred
to them as ‘immigrants’ in the heading ‘North Eastern Immigrants to be Protected’. While the BJP may
refer it to migration within India, from the northeast to Delhi, and later clarified it as a ‘clerical mistake’,
the vociferous protests apparently demonstrate the sensitivity of the northeastern people on ‘belonging-
ness’ and the question of being indigenous to a particular place.
Moving back further to about 2 years, the International Meeteis Forum (IMF), founded in 2012,
declared on 10 March 2013 its intention to, in the words of the forum, ‘launch a signature campaign
against the Kuki tribe claiming to be one of the indigenous communities settled in Manipur’ (The Sangai
Express, 11 March 2013b). Another new group, which was also formed in the latter part of 2012 under
the banner Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur Valley demands Scheduled Tribe (ST) status
Studies in Indian Politics
4(2) 178–190
© 2016 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2321023016665526
1 Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Thongkholal Haokip, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi 110067, India.
E-mail: th.robert@yahoo.co.in

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