Manipur’s violence and the ‘institutionalised riot system’: The limits of an integrationist and majoritarian agenda

The talk will examine the causes and nature of violence that has erupted in Manipur since 3 May. I contend that the spate of violence which transforms large parts of the state into killing fields follows a similar pattern of violent riots that broke out in other parts of India which Paul Brass characterized as an ‘institutionalised riot system’.
Unlike other parts of India, this violence is not caused by religious conflicts although deliberate attempts are made to give a religious colour to the violence. Like other parts of India, however, the preparatory grounds of the violence were prepared by the aggressive integrationist and majoritarian agenda of Biren Singh-led BJP government in Manipur to either sidestep or dissolve extant sub-State constitutional asymmetrical arrangements under, inter alia, Article 371C and district councils that recognize and accommodate distinctive tribal rights on land and identities.
This agenda feeds into a larger institutional ecosystem where militant armed groups and civil societies amenable to such an agenda are galvanized in ways which mutually complement and reinforce one another to selectively target and malign the Kuki-Zomi groups as its ‘antagonistic other’.

I shall flesh out the limits of such an integrationist and majoritarian agenda and flag some of the plausible ways out by leveraging the merits of the accommodationist framework as an alternative. Unless the merits of an accommodationist framework as the most capacious and defensible framework to hold together deeply divided societies is recognised, this agenda runs the risk of entailing outbreak of violence. I shall situate the case of Manipur within a larger universe of cases evident in the literature on comparative federalism to make sense of the problematics at hand.

Kham Khan Suan Hausing

Kham Khan Suan Hausing is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, India. He earned his Master, MPhil and PhD degrees from the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Hausing previously taught Political Science at the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi for over eight years. He was a Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2012-13 at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Hausing’s works have been published in peer-reviewed journals including Contributions to Indian Sociology, Economic and Political Weekly, Indian Journal of Public Administration, India Review, Regional and Federal Studies, Studies in Indian Politics.. His article titled, ‘Autonomy and the territorial management of ethnic conflicts in Northeast India,’ won the prestigious Territory, Politics, Governance Best Paper Award, 2023 of the UK-based Regional Studies Association. He has also published opinion pieces in leading newspapers including The Hindu, The Indian Express, Livemint, The Statesman and The Quint.

Hausing is an honorary Senior Fellow, Centre for Multilevel Federalism, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. His research interest includes, among others, federalism, ethnic conflicts, nationalism and Indian politics with a particular focus on Northeast India.

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