ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tribal Land, Customary Law, and the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act

Tribal peoples in Manipur have been maintaining their commons under customary law. Interacting with outsiders has always led to the contestation of their customs, traditions, and beliefs. Tribal societies continue to administer their villages under customary law on the tenet of equity. Their law has even resisted the policies of Manipuri kings and the British administration. In the present day, tribal customary law stands challenged by the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960.

Patterns of Ethnic Conflict in the North-East

Manipur in India's north-east has long been riven by conflicts among ethnic groups on issues of exclusivity, dominance and integration. Identities that shape conflict are not necessarily primordial but are a creation of political necessity and administrative convenience. In recent decades, as the Naga-Kuki conflicts and later between the Kukis and Paites demonstrate identity conflicts have been waged not merely on questions of land, immigration and settlement but also on the overweening fear of loss of identity itself.

Equality as Tradition

In the classless, casteless Naga society, women have traditionally enjoyed a high social position, with a pivotal role in both family and community affairs. In the 'modern' milieu, with the insidious influence of drugs and violence, Naga women's organisations have taken the lead in forming social movements for peace and revitalising customary laws.

Ethnicity and Socio-Political Assertion

Assertion of ethnic identity and the accompanying political unrest is rooted often in fears among minority groups of losing their historical and culturally acquired identities. But such assertions may have several dimensions as seen in Manipur where for long several groups have agitated against the centre and state government's perceived neglect of their needs.

Manipur : How History Repeats Itself

As identities are mobilised to serve the political designs of vested interests, it seems obvious that the idea of a Naga 'nation' and a Manipuri 'nation' behind the 'national liberation'/ 'secessionist' movements in the region is seemingly at least, incompatible with the idea of the Indian 'nation state'. However there is a need to resolve whether the two conceptions, are themselves incompatible with one another. And it is the Indian 'nation state' will have to play the role, not of an enemy but of a powerful and probably benevolent mediator. Manipur, probably the last vestige of a real composite cultural and political character in the Indian subcontinent, should not in the interim become a sacrificial lamb for establishing the political legitimacy of the Indian 'nation state'.
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