During the monsoon session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly, the matter concerning the killing of non-Manipuri labourers in the state was raised on the floor. Chief minister N Biren had said that deployment of security round the clock in the worksites where non-Manipuris are working in the districts has been done. He mentioned that checkpoints have also been activated to prevent them from venturing into vulnerable areas.
Despite these measures, it appears that these attacks are still occurring and likely to continue. No groups or individuals have issued clarifications or claimed responsibility for the killings in most of these cases.
Meanwhile, it still remains a general concern of the public regarding the influx of non-Manipuris into the state that the indigenous population is under threat of facing extinction, although the state had implemented the ILP system that has been alleged of being toothless. N Biren has announced that a comprehensive app will also be launched soon to streamline the registration and monitoring of ILP applicants.
As for the resolution to adopt 1961 as base year for determining the ‘native’ status, it drew flak from the JCILPS which has been demanding that the year should be 1951 “as the former pass and permit system to enter Manipur was abolished on November 18, 1950.” This is another stumbling block.
Now, how did we end up here? It can be said that the state of Manipur in its history, has not witnessed a naturally caused, state-wide famine which lasted for several years, and the general people do not have in their memories, of an extreme suffering resulting out of a commonly shared poverty due to shortages of resources. Although the capital city has become crowded, there are no sights of beggars or homeless children running around the traffic or the street corners. Even in the villages, the poorest may still have a hut and some work in their hands to feed a family.
But the actual reality, according to some, is that the state has been reduced to a dependent economy after the 1949 merger and suffered a decline in its development in contrast to its strong agrarian economy which existed in the past. Some might argue that the roots of this problem and the present issue of unemployment among the educated youths goes back to the advent of the British rule after the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1981 and introduction of a wrong, centralised planning during the days when Manipur became a union territory in 1956, and the subsequent failures at industrialisation after it became a full-fledged state in 1972, among other factors.
But one factor that needs some deliberation is the peoples' chronic lethargy to find work or do them responsibly. The older folks while giving opinions on how to make their sons find employment would still suggest that the best option is to find a bride. The idea of getting married to earn an income alludes back to our rich agrarian pasts when boys could idle away their days in leisure until they are married. We were not highly advanced in the field of business or trading in the past, because we were rich and abundant and never faced the need to learn the ‘lowly’ kind of manual work. Instead of learning the trade and acquiring new skills from others, we would invite them to do the jobs instead and even give them homes and lands.
The Marwaris, Telis, Bengalis and Sardars etc. were all welcomed to settle in the state and work for us while we idled away in sheer laziness and abundance. We have seen now what our own upper-class laziness in the past has resulted at the moment. The irony here is we still have not learnt anything from the past and are still lethargic in this field.
If it is so difficult to find jobs in the state, then why are hordes of migrant workers continuing to arrive and making so much money? Why is there always a requirement for non Manipuri labourers and manual workers? They are here because we are too lazy to pick up the tools and do the required work. Of course, there are plenty of manual labourers and workers who are unskilled and skilled as well from among the indigenous population. But the clients would still look for the non Manipuri workers as they are more professional in their fields, sincere, and do not delay in finishing their work or bargain much.
Instead of learning their skills and outperforming them in terms of discipline, diligence and professionalism so that the requirement for non Manipuri labourers is cut-off from the state, it is unfortunate that some have decided to pick up guns and attack them. Their motive could be something else and entirely more sinister but the killings shall never be justified.