Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Explaining Manipur’s Breakdown and Mizoram’s Peace: the State and Identities in North East India

I was surprised coming across an article comparing Mizoram & Manipur's development & the role of peace researched by Hassam M Sajjad in London School of Economics, one of the best institutions in the world for studying Economics and Research. Please download from the link given below if you are interested in reading the whole article.-

I once had an interesting conversation with an International Aid consultant from Australia where we discussed about economic development and one thing he mentioned to me that really struck me was that "peace" is a pre requisite for development and I think we will find that to be very true. We can prove this by comparing just two states in India, Mizoram & Manipur.


Manipur is a much bigger, developed state with better infrastructure but has not been able to progress as it should because of the Insurgency problems within the state, Insurgency has more or less become a cottage industry providing employment to both the armed forces & the Insurgents. The only one's who would really benefit would be the army & politicians as the state of chaos & Insurgency provides them more funds for employment & contracts. In the short run, the insurgent groups may be able to extort money from businessmen & the government but ultimately they are the one's who have to pay the price as business, industries, roads, schools, bridges & hospitals are not well developed leading to a stagnant state where development cannot take place. The business man do not think it makes any sense to invest when they know that they will not be able to make a profit due to the tax they have pay to the government & to the insurgents, the government contractors cannot build the needed infrastructure when they already have to pay bribes to politician & bureaucrats in addition to the extortion to the various insurgent groups. A lot of money is invested by the Central Government but Money in itself does not lead to development, Peace to a certain extent can start the process the development but is not an end in itself in the path of development.

Mizoram so far has had a long lasting peace agreement between Government of India & Mizo Naitonal Front since October 22, 1961. 25 years of peace has given Mizoram the chance to develop itself. Mizoram is far from perfect and has many challenges in terms of corruption, rugged terrain & bad infrastructure but is has been able to make some progress. Explaining Manipur’s Breakdown and Mizoram’s Peace: the State and Identities in North East India has been prepared by Sajjad Hassan in 2006 in London School of Economics, one of the most selective Universities in the world with the highest number of alumini with winners of noble prize. If you are interested in development economics of Mizoram & Manipur, you can download the article on the link given in the previous paragraph. Find below the summary of the paper below for us to get an Idea of the paper.

I began this paper by arguing that divergence in violent outcomes between Manipur and Mizoram can be explained best by looking at the processes of state-making in the two states and the contrasting ways in which state-making leaders and those who were opposing them mobilised their constituencies to capture power in the early years of state-making. This had implications for the state’s capacity to govern, and specifically its readiness to respond to group aspirations. Where the state has been responsive and inclusive, it has avoided cycles of conflict and violence. On the other hand, the state’s reluctance to respond to minority aspirations provides the material for sustained violence and breakdown. What are the lessons that we can derive from this analysis?

1. Firstly, the authority of the state depends on where state power lies.
In the state-making period, state elites and key social forces have been engaged in long drawn out struggles over control. Where state elites succeeded in incorporating social forces into state structures, their authority has been augmented, while that of competing social forces has declined. Where social forces were not incorporated, or where the state sought to ride piggyback on pre- existing centres of authority, state power was compromised. The role of the colonial state was significant in this process in both Manipur and Mizoram. What is remarkable is that the colonial administration was employing two very different strategies in its attempt to rule tracts of adjoining territory. In Mizoram, even though the conquest had been designed initially to prevent Lushai chiefs from raiding the plains areas in Bengal, the colonial state was taking a more proactive role and interest. Through ruling by proxy with the help of chiefs, the state sought to get closer to the people and ground itself in Lushai society.
In Manipur, the state remained a distant lord. Its presence in the hills was marginal. Pre- existing institutions and power centres among tribal communities continued to rule with only small adjustments. In the valley, the state was at best an overseer of proceedings. This was partly due to the presence of a developed polity that the colonial state encountered in the state in the form of the Metei kingship. Cultural considerations may also have prevented the state from attempting to ground itself in Hinduized Metei society. In Mizoram, the state actively used Christian missionaries as agents of social change among hitherto animist tribes. Missionary activity helped enhance the state’s legitimacy in society. The colonial state was therefore better integrated in Lushai hills than it was in the Manipur kingdom. The result of this integration was a consolidated state-making exercise.

2. Secondly, the colonial legacy has implications for strategies used by the elite in their post- colonial state-making efforts.
Literature abounds on how ruling coalitions have used a variety of tools for this purpose: from electoral incorporation, to state patronage and programmatic reforms, to developing organisational capacity to govern or simply by repression.117 Where does the Northeast example fit in this context? Are there other strategies that ruling coalitions in Manipur and Mizoram have used for their state-making objectives? Political parties and other elites have frequently politicised ethnic identities in the region in their struggles over power and authority. Ethnic mobilisation, therefore, may be serving objectives that electoral incorporation or land reforms may have served elsewhere. However, empirical material proves that ethnic mobilisation can be a double-edged sword: it can reinforce the state and enhance its overall capacity and legitimacy in society; but it can also diminish its strengths, compromise its legitimacy and further fragment society. That outcome will depend on whether identity construction and mobilisation is inclusive and aggregative, or partisan and exclusionary. The manner of identity mobilisation thus has serious consequences for inter- community relations and violence.

3. Thirdly, the state’s role in managing the aspirations of minority communities plays a big part in how those communities mobilise. Where the state is seen as being accessible to minorities, chances are these communities will have a stake in upholding the system. Administrative arrangements enabling self-governance for minority tribes in Mizoram has meant that elite and even more restive elements from these communities have been incorporated into the state’s political system, thus taking their attention away from the need to mobilise for a share of power. Similar patterns of relationships between elites among minorities and mainstream political parties have also been forged as an outcome of the political process. These relationships have helped reduce intercommunity tensions in Mizoram. Manipur’s heightened contestations could be the outcome of perceptions among minorities that the state was reluctant to share power and resources with them.

4. Lastly, a common strategy used by state elites to enhance state authority has been to develop their organisational capacity. This has usually implied working through political and state institutions. Material from Mizoram demonstrates that beyond state organisations, it is social organisations that elites have fostered to help enhance the state’s capability. The YMA and the Church have had established patterns of relationship with the state in Mizoram. The strength of these organisations has been used by state elites to reinforce the state’s capacity. This state-society bonding, largely an outcome of the historical process, has helped prevent fragmentation in politics. It has fostered stability and order. In Manipur, the state-society break and fragmentation of social forces themselves has led to a rising spiral of competitive mobilisation between different social organisations and the state. Resultant poor state autonomy has led to social forces constraining the state from behaving in ways that could be seen by all groups as fair and objective.

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