Blame Game People Play
The Manipur Assembly today resolved to withdraw the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers Bill 2015, four months after it was passed, under intense public pressure. While moving the resolution, chief minister Okram Ibobi assured the House that a fresh bill would be introduced and passed within three months to regulate the entry of outsiders and protect the indigenous people.
—15 July 2015, The Telegraph
As always Manipur is in its favourite cauldron of crises today. The latest has been the agitation over the non-implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system spearheaded by the Meiteis in the Imphal valley. Civil society organisations are insistent, though the government has been doing what it knows best: nothing. Popular movements have been in full swing for the last three–four years but there is no solution in sight.
Just to be clear, the ILP system is essential for the vulnerable ethnic groups. The reason is simple. The influx of non-indigenous people has crossed beyond a limit, posing a threat to the very existence of several ethnic groups that are broadly categorised into Nagas and Chin-Kuki-Mizo (Chikim) who dominate the hill districts, and the majority so-called non-tribal Meiteis in the valley districts. Census report indicates the population of these non-indigenous people has surpassed a few ethnic groups too. Considering the volatile condition resulting from ceaseless conflicts as well as the histories of some ethnic groups who have become a minority in their own land, a regulation like the ILP system offers relief. At least, it ensures a legal protection. However, some people are playing blame game that serves neither purpose nor meaning. People might believe that these allegations are true.
Let’s take a look at one of the reports in The Hindu today (Controversial bill on migrants goes, by Iboyaima Laithangbam, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/controversial-bill-on-migrants-goes/article7426397.ece). In a graphic, there are two fabricated reasons on why there have been protests on the street. First, according to the writer, ‘the gradual uplift of the tribal people has changed the power equation’. Second, the community (Meitei) wants to ‘maintain their grip on power’.
A month ago, a distinguished diplomat belonging to the ethnic Kuki group, in a memorial, proudly claimed that the Nagas and Chikims are entering into the reputed foreign and administrative services in droves, but not the Meiteis. What he ignored is that they have the privilege of Scheduled Tribe quotas on one hand, and on the other, many people have been alienated from the politics of mainland India. Nonetheless, it is better for their welfare that they are getting jobs, performing well and all.
There is no question, however, about the changing power equation. We do not even consider the Kukis infiltrating from Burma as an issue. Again, the number of world-record breaking non-indigenous people is outnumbering several endangered groups, and thus the need for the ILP system. It is not a matter of power play but a plain effort for existence.
In another media report, (Inner Line Permit protests in Manipur are one community’s bid to retain its predominance, by Richard Kamei, Scroll.in, http://scroll.in/article/741008/inner-line-permit-protests-in-manipur-are-one-communitys-bid-to-retain-its-predominance) the author is parroting the same accusation that the Meiteis are hell-bent on maintaining their predominance. He finds it amusing that ‘the dominant community, the Meiteis, are suddenly feeling oppressed. In any narrative, a dominant community picks up the victim card when it feels its power slipping away. This pattern is reflected in the ongoing Inner Line Permit System movement too. Working close behind this movement is the Meiteis’ demand for the Scheduled Tribe status’.
The Meiteis are a majority comparatively in numbers and historical development. Yet, we share the same issues of territory, political conflicts and above all, the misery of belonging to a small ethnic indigenous group. Richard Kamei has failed to see that the people’s representatives from the hills are buying property in the valley and that diplomat’s view of many from his groups entering the highly respected professions.
We have not pushed the tribal groups to the fringes. It may sound arrogant but these groups have always been at the periphery just like we are to the Indian union. The Autonomous District Councils and customary laws, as Mr Kamei mentioned, are well in place for the tribes, in addition to enjoying exclusive rights from belonging to SC/ST categories and certain provisions from the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 and so on.
All of us are on the same boat and it is unfortunate that in these trying times, there are people who are hideously taking advantage without any fellow feeling or whatsoever. Besides, the argument reeks of communalism and immaturity—somehow it sounds like a perfect case of teenage angst that reality sucks.
Lastly, we have the group of liberal natives who are against the very system of the ILP. Their you-go-to-their-land-why-cannot-they-come-here contention will be best if ignored. Argue for argument’s sake, but the people and the government never wake up until there is violence or aggression in our town. Liberal ideas are favourable where they allege the proponents are going or living, yet those ideas are area- and people-specific. The ILP system is essential because the condition demands it. Period.
As the popular saying goes, liberalism is impossible without ‘lies’. The only thing we can learn from this folk is their anti-discrimination outlook. Here, it is noteworthy that the ILP is not anti-mayang, or against any non-indigenous people as many people would believe, but just a pro-human cause and a legal approach for self-defence. It is basically a call for a life with dignity and assurance for a better future. The problem, amidst the overlapping curfews and general strikes, is that many of our own people are discrediting the legitimate demand and the social movement. —Concluded.
[Photos: All the images in this post are sourced from Inner Line Permit System in Manipur]