Ethnic-nationalist Agency, Women’s Non-violent Resistance, and Migrating from a ‘Disturbed’ Manipur, India

Tuesday Seminar
Vibha Arora
Date and Time: 
Tue, 22/10/2019 - 12:00am
03:30 PM to 05:00 PM
LH 534 (Unusual venue)

Conflicting visions of ethnic-nationalism are competing in contemporary India. Micro-nationalism of ethnic and religious minorities in India indicates their lack of socio-cultural identification, emotional and symbolic integration. Among these submerged nationalities is the identity of the former kingdom of Manipur that was integrated in India in 1949, and given full statehood in 1972. Located on the border with Myanmar, it is inhabited by three main ethnic groups (Naga, Kuki and the Meitei). The locale is plagued by ethnic conflict, insurgencies and secessionist aspirations of the Naga and the Meitei groups, and was proclaimed to be a disturbed area in 1980. I discuss the implications of democratic exceptionalism and denial of coeval citizenship to the Manipuri (and others who live in disturbed areas) people under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The guns of the state, brutality of the military under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (henceforth AFSPA), impunity of the army and lack of legal redress in a militarized terrain, and the rape of women has provoked a strong non-violent civil society response in Manipur.
This paper untangles women’s ingenuous resistance and Irom Sharmila’s non-violent struggle against the mighty power of the Indian state and the Indian army. I discuss the emigration of Manipuri people due to the ‘bare life’ available in a militarized Manipur, although ostensibly it is governed by an elected state government. The migrant’s narratives bring forth the underlying pathos, and their aspiration for a dignified life and access to civil liberties. The interviewee’s help us understand Irom Sharmila’s political debacle after she broke her nearly sixteen-year long hunger strike in 2016, contested elections against the Chief Minister in 2017 from Thoubal, and lost with a heavy margin.

Vibha Arora is currently serving as an Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi where she has been working since 2006. She has also taught at the University of Delhi (2005-06) after completing her doctoral research as a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Oxford
(2000-2004) and also worked in the international development sector. She has received prestigious scholarships and fellowships such at the national and international level such as the Commonwealth Scholarship, MSH (Paris), Fellowship at IIAS Shimla, Ron Lister Fellowship at Univ of Otago (declined), the Al-Sagar Outstanding Young Faculty Fellowship (IIT Delhi), and the M.N. Srinivas Memorial Prize of the Indian Sociological Society.
Vibha’s teaching and research interests lie at the intersection of Environmental Sociology, Identity and Indigenous groups, Ethnicity and Nationalism, Water and Development Politics, Sociology of Religion, Migration and Diaspora, Research Methods and Visual Anthropology.
Ethnographically, Vibha has expertise in Sociology of India and in Himalayan studies (including Tibetan Diaspora settled here) and widely published on the same.
She has co-edited three journal issues on ‘Ecocriticism’
(Reconstruction, 2007, 7.1), Development of Democratic Routes in the Himalayan ‘Borderlands’ (Sociological Bulletin, 2009, 58.1) and ‘Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research’ (Reconstruction, 2009, 9.1) .
She has edited 'Human Responses and Understanding Subjectivity'
(SummerHill Indian Institute of Advanced Study Review Winter volume, 2018). She is co-editor of Routeing Democracy in the Himalayas (Routledge, 2013), and Democratization in the Himalayas (Routledge, 2017, reprinted in 2019). She has to her credit around 40 articles published in eminent journals, and in various edited volumes.