Manipur—2023: Not A Christian Response, But A Christian Responsibility

Dr John Mohan Razu

Manipur, 2023 incident, is indeed complex, fluid, and volatile. We will have to go beyond the sexual abuse, molestation and parading naked of two tribal women, who were given a choice of death or shedding their clothes on a country road and in village field around B Phainom village in Kangopokpi district. Manipur--2023 raises a few important questions – unprecedented internet shutdown till date; bodies of women are not just acts of aggression, but represent acts of humiliation to show not just who is weaker or strong, but which group is more entitled; not whether PM Modi spoke on this issue earlier or later or did not speak at all, but what did he speak (contents) and what actions followed thereafter.

If we apply within the rubric of ‘responsibility’ it goes from the state government of Manipur to the Centre government of P M Narendra Modi – double-engine ‘sarkar’, wherein the entire government machinery failed in their ‘responsibility’ that includes law-enforcing agencies as well. Therefore, the question of responsibility goes beyond pointing at the abusers both from top-down or bottom-up. Manipur—2023 should take us back to the Oinam tragedy of 1987, when security forces went on a rampage after a deadly attack by an armed Naga group; Iron sharmila’s 16-year epic hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) and the campaigns over the shooting of Manorama Devi that triggered the naked protest by women before Kangla. The searing images should bring to us a collective memory and consciousness.  

The upsurge led to government-mandated review of AFSPA and the Centre was forced to respond 16 years later lifting AFSPA, though not repealed from more part of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. As against this background the protection of non-combatants; those vulnerable groups such as children, displaced persons (50,000) live in relief camps; and those lost their homes and livelihoods. Because of this incident there are thousands of students who cannot continue their studies in schools and colleges, not knowing when would this impasse end.  

It has been pointed by Sanjoy Hazarika, a renowned researcher and an author in North-Eastern studies that “Before the first riots and targeted violence broke out, Manipur – or at least the Imphal Valley – appeared to be moving forward, both in terms of aspiration as well as infrastructure and investments. Their hard work and labor of decades went up in smoke in a few days. Not only has the energy of the Act East policy dissipated, but investors will ask tough questions about safety, infrastructure and connectivity to south-east Asia which was to be through Manipur”. Given the armed confrontation, access to weapons, widespread mutual suspicion and hatred, Mnipur—2023 has pushed back to earlier conflict-ridden decades. Manipur-2023 mayhem has given fresh impetus to underground militant groups working in the valley and the hills, fueling insecurity and fragility, compounding insurgent activity, drug trade, and free-flow of arms and ammunition between Myanmar and China. For peace and security, and to bringing back Manipur to normalcy, it is going to be a long haul.

Usually the term ‘response’ refers to the duty of something that has been said or done or a response to a question or an answer or reply in a word or action. When it comes closely linked term, ‘responsibility’, it has a different connotation. ‘Responsibility’ per se refers to the duty of having authority the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, and accountable or something that is your job or duty to deal with or a state of being responsible. Usually, we tend to respond or make a response and with that everything comes to an end, whereas, ‘responsibility’ asks for our commitment to act or respond to a situation concretely  

At this point, the basic questions that emerge are what are the consequential effects or implications of Christian faith for our actions? What should be the Christian attitude and responsibility toward Manipur atrocities, where we confront dilemmas and confusions? Usually, our judgments operate in a climate of uncertainty. We probably invoke intrinsic goodness as against evil of particular kinds of acts, practices, traditions, institutions or systems. However, the only intrinsic value fits or fitting is ‘agape’ – self-giving, self-sacrificing, self-emptying love. When it comes to ‘responsibility’, how then are we to decide? 

Utilitarianism believes in the principle of ‘greatest good for the largest number’. Whereas Fletcher moves further that the ‘level of accounting for the relationship ‘between agape, the only intrinsic good, and the specific ends sought in relation to the world of nature and of human institutions.’ As Kantian ethic of ‘what we ought to be’. It is indeed a theological question.  It is by virtue of the fact that “… for the Christian by faith in God’s action in Jesus Christ, in which-by-which Christian lives ….”   While grappling with how to comprehend the good or responsibility to be sought through our actions, Paul Lehman articulates that “… it is that of analyzing the new life, the new maturity of those who have been transformed by God’s action in Jesus Christ … The question is not what I ought to do, but rather what I am to do.”

Elaborating on Christian motivation and responsibility, he adds that “… God’s activity to humanize humanity, must involve more personal and collective thinking about the implications of this faith in the world of decision-making.”  Situation like Manipur—2023 makes us to come together as disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed and called for specific vocation as responsible Christians. Therefore, “Christians grow in maturity as they live in this reality in the koiinonia. Their actions, then, are simply an expression of their mature humanity. They are to do what they are: ‘To do what I am is to act in every situation in accordance with what it has been given to me to be, the will of God is doing what I am’.”  For a question: What God is doing in Manipur—23. Our response perhaps is: God is humanizing the de-humanized, and our responsibility shall be: ‘to make and keep human life human in the world’.