About 300 years ago, a time when India’s North East was a hive of tribal chiefdoms and tiny kingdoms, Manipur was invaded by Tripura. After a pitched battle, Manipur defeated the invaders. The aggressors were on the run, the Manipuris in pursuit, when a seer reminded Manipur’s ruler King Pamheiba that a sacred Manipuri code forbade attacks on retreating enemies.The king called his troops off. The Tripuris were fed, given new clothes and allowed to go back safely. After that gesture from Pamheiba, ties improved between the two kingdoms, so much so that they started seeing matrimonial alliances.
Cut to the present. There’s another rule of engagement being discussed again in the region.
Last week, as an army convoy was ambushed in Manipur, it became clear that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act – which gives the military near-absolute immunity in areas labelled “disturbed” – has failed to bring peace to the state even after 60 years. It has in fact contributed to the spiral of violence, turning Manipur into one of the most lawless parts of India.
How does the state break out of this deadly pattern? One answer to that can be found in Manipur itself, in understanding the sacred code the seer reminded King Pamheiba of.
also see this earlier story on AFSPA’s imprint on Manipur.