IMPHAL (India): Promoted in official tourist brochures as the “jewel of India,” the tiny state of Manipur seems closer to an ignored family heirloom than a proudly coveted gem.

“Backwards,” “marginalised,” “isolated,” “insurgency-wracked:” the adjectives that most frequently precede any mention of Manipur for all its stunning natural beauty are overwhelmingly negative.

And for many Manipuris, the concept of being “of India” in any meaningful sense is one they find difficult to entertain.

“Why should I care about India when India does not care about me,” says Jiangam Kamei, a 22-year-old history student in the state capital Imphal.

Such expressions of alienation are common in a number of the “Seven Sisters” the group of northeastern states encircled by five other countries and connected to the rest of India by a sliver of land that arches over Bangladesh.

Their relative isolation is not just geographical, but also ethnic, linguistic, economic and political.

“We look so different to start with,” said Kshetrimayum Onil, who works for a local human rights group in Manipur and also runs a youth network called ReachOut.

“We are often mistaken for Chinese or Koreans because of our Mongol roots,” Onil said.

One of India’s smallest states with a population of just 2.7 million inhabitants, Manipur borders Myanmar and its people have always tended to look eastwards in their search for cultural links.

“We are virtually cut off from mainland India,” said Shyam Singh, a history professor in Imphal. “Culturally and socially, we identify ourselves more with the countries of Southeast Asia as they are closer to home.” One striking example is the massive popularity in Manipur of Korean movies, soap operas and pop music, which have filled the vacuum caused by a separatist-led boycott of Bollywood films.

Separatist violence has been part of daily life in Manipur for decades, as it has been in most of the northeastern states that have spawned more than 100 militant groups whose demands range from autonomy to secession.

Manipur was incorporated into the Indian Union on Oct 15, 1949, two years after the country won independence from British rule.—AFP

Opinion

Editorial

Road to perdition
Updated 01 Feb, 2023

Road to perdition

This is also the time of reckoning for those who sowed the seeds of a disastrous policy against militants.
Transport tragedies
01 Feb, 2023

Transport tragedies

TWO tragedies over the weekend illustrate the weak protocols governing the safety of transport in Pakistan. In fact,...
Disqualifying Jam Awais
01 Feb, 2023

Disqualifying Jam Awais

IT appears that there may be some kind of small punishment after all for PPP lawmaker Jam Awais, who was pardoned ...
Police Lines bombing
Updated 31 Jan, 2023

Police Lines bombing

Where the menace of terrorism is concerned, the government and opposition need to close ranks and put up a united front.
Oil price hike
31 Jan, 2023

Oil price hike

THE record single-day increase in petrol prices, preceded by massive currency depreciation, signifies the ...
Babar Azam’s award
31 Jan, 2023

Babar Azam’s award

BABAR Azam might not have lifted many trophies as Pakistan’s all-format captain in the last year but the star...