TODAY -

The need for safeguarding the endangered indigenous people of Manipur

Khelsoril Wanbe *

 Rally to protest Killing of Student by Police firing and  pro-ILPS  :: July 22 2015 .
Rally to protest Killing of Student by Police firing and pro-ILPS on July 22 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



In a huge country like India whose population is the second largest in the world and soon to be the largest with a land area of about 3.3 million square kilometres, Manipur, with a meagre population of only about 2.5 million and an area of only about 22 thousand square kilometres, is just a tiny state which is in grave danger of being overwhelmingly outnumbered by immigrants in the near future.

In fact, if we are to go by recent reports, outsiders now constitute the largest chunk of our population. To draw a simple analogy, Manipur is like a small pond and India is like a giant river like Ganga. Hundreds of thousands of outsiders/non-Manipuris have been swarming into Manipur over the past many years. They primarily come in search of varied menial work and business opportunities, but the worrying situation is that most of those who have landed here tend to choose for permanent settlement somewhat similar to what's happened for centuries in USA, where millions of people from all over the globe came and settle permanently.

But the big difference is that Manipur is a tiny state inhabited by small indigenous ethnic groups. If some restrictive immigration laws are not properly in place before it's too late, the indigenous people will soon become insignificant minorities in a not so distant future.

One glaring case of heavy unrestricted immigration which has been cited umpteen times by different people is that of Tripura, where hundreds of thousands of people mainly from Bangladesh came and settled permanently, gradually reducing the indigenous people to small minorities who are now on the brink of becoming an extinct species.

The people of Manipur cannot help but feel their identity and survival dangerously threatened. It is the natural outcome of this threat perception that the demand for the implementation of ILPS has been raised in a very loud manner by taking resort to all kinds of democratic means such as mass rallies, sit-in protests, bandhs, general strikes etc.

Thousands of people including young students in the valleys of Manipur have been intensely demanding the implementation of Inner Line Permit System in the process of which one precious life of a young student, Robinhood, has been lost and a number of young students have suffered serious physical and psychological injuries.

In the face of mock bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets, thousands of old and young come out to demand the implementation of the system without delay; unfortunately the imbroglio is still dragging on unresolved for so many days now. Everybody is now anxiously waiting and watching with bated breath as to what will transpire in the coming days.

The people of Manipur are wondering as to whether their demand for the introduction of an effective law/system against migrant influx will be realised or not. The fulfilment of this demand or successful implementation of the ILPS now hinges on the sincere efforts of the government of Manipur which is taking the main responsibility of preparing and drafting the ILPS bill.

The demand for the implementation of ILPS is well justified and legitimate as it is for the preservation of the indigenous people who are in serious danger of going into extinction. The valley of Manipur which constitutes only about 10% of the total area of Manipur is now facing acute pressure of population on land. Imphal city, in particular, is inching towards population explosion.

The state and the central governments need to formulate an effective system or law to effectively safeguard the numerically and economically endangered indigenous people of Manipur from being swarmed into extinction by people from neighbouring giant states and countries.

One may argue that thousands of Manipuris are also studying, working and even living in other states and cities of India like Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkotta, Chennai, UP, Punjab, Haryana etc and, of course, that's true but the total number of Manipuris both hill and valley people working outside the state may be less than or at the most one lakh.

For a tiny north-eastern state like Manipur, if there is no proper restrictive laws, lakhs and millions of migrants that flow in from giant states and places like Bihar, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Assam etc where millions of unemployed poverty-stricken people are always on the lookout for work opportunities outside their overpopulated states, there is no guarantee that Manipur will not meet the same fate as that of Tripura. There is no denying the fact that the power of shaping the future destiny of Tripura is almost entirely in the hands of the Bengalis who constitute about 70% of the total population.

The Drafting Committee of the ILPS bill need to prepare the bill in such a way that it incorporate all the essential clauses that will effectively safeguard the indigenous people from becoming minorities in the future as well as prevent immigrants from settling permanently in this tiny state, Manipur.

It is also of utmost importance for all those who are spearheading the ILPS demand to try its best to avoid the rise of unwarranted misunderstandings and misgivings among the indigenous people belonging to different ethnic groups who are facing the same danger of extinction. The movement actually is one that requires concerted, harmonious and co-ordinated efforts of all indigenous people of Manipur.

The implementation of the system or enactment of a law, however, cannot mean complete ban on entry of outsiders; it will only be a mechanism which will effectively prevent non-indigenous outsiders from settling permanently in Manipur.

It is also of utmost importance to see to it that no unwarranted physical and psychological disturbances or harassments are caused to the movement of personnel belonging to essential services like water, electricity, medical, media and patients that need emergency attentions during bandhs, general strikes etc. It is unfortunate to hear that there have been stray cases of unwarranted excesses during the recent public agitations.


* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 05, 2015.


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