Black sheep in the movement for ILPS

Samarjit Kambam *

Sit-In and Rally to protest Killing of Student by Police firing and pro-ILPS on July 20 2015
Sit-In to protest Killing of Student by Police firing and pro-ILPS on July 20 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The alarm bell had already rung decades ago. The panic button already pressed. The movement going on for years. The fear of the people ever rising with each passing day. Distress signals everywhere. The people groping in the dark searching for a ray of hope. Lethargy and uncaring attitude on the part of the government all the way, particularly the previous government.

Every tick of the clock pushing us towards history. Time running out on our side. A bleak future, so bleak that we will be living only as words in the pages of history books and the non-Manipuri students will read out aloud, "Once upon a time there were Meiteis in Manipur...".

It is heartwarming to learn that JCILPS is awaking up after a long slumber alongwith a vibrant announcement to come up with intense stir from September onwards on the ILPS issue. A reliable ILP system is the only solution to prevent the Meiteis from getting extinct like the duck like bird "Dodo" which was found in South Africa. Dodo and we the Manipuris have a lot in common.

The Dodo was a clumsy slow paced bird which was a favourite animal for hunting by the British. We the Meiteis are also clumsy and lethargic, easy to be hunted, not by firearms but by diabolic economic and political weapons. However, there is a silver lining.

Nowadays, many Meitei men and women are taking up manual labours which were considered an anathema a decade or so back. If we possessed this mindset since 50 years back, the influx of illegal migrants could not have assumed such a mammoth and cataclysmic scenario.

Even though we can't forsee the future, the future awaiting us can be ascertained as quite gloomy. The prevailing status quo is paving the way for the indigenous people of Manipur getting drowned in the ocean of ever increasing influx of migrants and immigrants from outside the state. The indigenous Tripuris of Tripura have been sidelined and are almost on the verge of getting wiped out from their own birthplace.

Same is the case with ethnic tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It's a very logical conclusion that Manipur is next. In fact, the marginalisation of the indigenous populace has already started in our state also. We will be sidelined or are sure to become refugees in our own state, or we may become an extinct group of people if the present trend of influx of outsider continues.

And please bear in mind that it is not only impending but is already happening. Course, in Manipur, our birthplace, each one of us has at least a home dwelling. But that doesn't imply that our children will be getting one if the colossal wave of unregulated influx of outsiders continues. They may not even have a place to stand.

Thangal Bazar and Paona Bazar are no more ours. Mantripukhri is swarmed with non-locals. The economy of Moreh town is totally under the control of Madrassis. Jiri town is in an identical potpourri. Many parts of Imphal city are infested with them as tenants. The irony is that many families in Imphal city are keeping flocks of non-local migrant workers.

Go along the stretch of Naga river in Imphal and you'll be shocked to learn that a single landlord rents upto forty to fifty migrant workers in a house with about ten of them packed in a room. And there are many such landlords and rent owners in Imphal area and its vicinity. The same scenario applies to many Lamphel Sana Keithel areas, various leikais of Imphal and other districts viz Thoubal and Bishenpur.

The unpalatable ground reality is that there are lots of hypocrites among us. They take part in the movement for the sensitive people's issue of implementation of ILPS but in the mean time giving shelter to outsiders in their own homes. Like a drug addict shouting 'No to drugs', we have many amongst us who are secretly harbouring the migrants and immigrants. They are the "black sheep" in the people's movement for ILPS.

The ironical fact is that the well-to-do ones just for their personal gains have been clandestinely supporting the outsiders since decades. Their selfish actions have made the state of Manipur a hunting ground for the outsiders with blackwater as byproduct and in connivance with them has sliced mother Manipur part by part and left her to bleed.

Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest holds very true. This is a world of survival of the fittest where one eye is taken for an eye. The pull factor for the huge flow of migrant workers from outside the state is the easy availability of manual works which brings in sufficient income to run a family. As the struggle for survival is harsher outside, our state has become a destination for daily wage job seeking migrant workers as well as illegal immigrants.

An unwanted and gross development may be cited of a village mainly constituted by Bangladeshi immigrants at Heingangthong area of Imphal-Pukhao road. A decade or so back, there were only paddy fields and vast agricultural lands. But due to a selfish minded politician of the constituency, the region adjoining Heingang was given settlement for the Bangladeshi immigrants as vote bank.

Within a short period of time, once what was an open space has become a big village mostly of Bangladeshi origin and are still encroaching lands near hills, open spaces in whatever way they can. They are even claiming that a temple which has been there for many years and is considered a sacred one for the people of Heingang is included in their territory.

They had even tried to burn down the temple but was fortunately saved by the indigenous people of Heingang and Kairang. After some years, they may even demand a separate Bangladeshi homeland if the influx is not controlled. Having no source of income they are relying on drug peddling and smuggling thereby posing a great threat to the growing up teenagers and youths by falling prey to drugs.

This bloodless population warfare against indigenous people of Manipur is gradually progressing like a cancer. The condition will worsen when rail connectivity reaches Imphal. So it is high time that we go for the ILPS till the goal is achieved. The Sangai and Siroy Lily, one of the rarest flora and fauna found in Manipur only are endangered species and are on the verge of extinction if proper conservation steps are not taken.

The same thing applies to the various ethnic groups co-existing in Manipur and more particularly the Meiteis if ILPS is not implemented at the earliest. Am not being communal but when we look at the way things are turning up, I prefer to side with my own indigenous groups because we are threatened not only economically, but in our very existence. If this trend continues, we may be deprived even of our living space.

We are endangered and on the verge of extinction. The only solution is quick re-implementation of ILPS, at least in the valley areas if not in the hills. This is where our attitude towards work must change. Our land was called 'Sanaleibak' not because it produced plenty of gold but because everyone could sustain easily by the bounty given by the land. With a miniscule population, unhindered and unexploited by any outside elements, the state was able to sustain itself.

Everybody was contented and happy until the deceptive and controversial "Merger Agreement" which led to annexation of Manipur into the Indian union thereby opening a Pandora's Box that brings in socio-economic polarisation, shift in demographic structure, marginalisation of indigenous groups of people, resources getting scarce, disproportionate increase in population with the number of outsiders far exceeding the number of indigenous people of the state, disintegration of established custom , tradition, culture and heritage, increased disparity between the rich and poor, increased struggle for survival et al.

Now is the time for some serious homework not the time to bask in our glorious past. Now is the time to wake up from our lazy slumber and do what is needed to be done. Our forefathers have created an anathema to manual work, one of the biggest mistakes, a mistake which only we ourselves must rectify. Our pathetic work culture has been one of the main factors that led us into this predicament.

Our societal set-up was like that of a honeybee. We the males have since the beginning played the part of idler drones where the females have been 'busy-bee' workers all the way. Imagine, if our old mothers had not taken pride in earning for their households, the historic Ima Keithel as well as numerous Ima markets at various places of Manipur would have been occupied completely by outsiders.

At least the females played their part in saving our state since centuries back. What about us males? If we had taken our part and went in tandem with them, we would have achieved something that we could have prided ourselves upon.

We the indigenous people of Manipur, albeit late, must gear up our asses and strive forward so that future generations are assured of a secure foothold for liberal existence in our birthplace. The movement for ILPS is our awakening force, our only tool to save ourselves from becoming history. As the hills are protected under the Sixth Schedule, my appeal to the JCILPS and other civil society organisations is to give more emphasis in the valley. This way contention between the hill and valley people can be avoided.

Sapam Robinhood the son of the soil, the torchbearer in the people's movement for ILPS laid down his life during the movement for us. The braveheart soul has given us the strength to pursue with our movement more vigorously. We, the indigenous people of Manipur must rekindle our hopes and go for the battle till we win. Let's hit while the iron is hot.

There should be no turning back, no retreat otherwise we will never attain our goal. In fact, our movement for implementation of ILPS is almost too late. But there's still time and hope and at this critical juncture keeping our hopes alive is of paramount importance and as we march on let's not forget that our collective voice is "Now or Never".

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 15, 2017.

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