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ILP – Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Bihari migrants have taken Manipuri surnames – someone has issued the papers.

Bangladeshis and Nepalis besides other non locals, possess local residential certificates and voter ID Cards– someone has issued the papers.

That someone is and always will be an educated son of the soil.

Following this trend, the sinister is written on the wall. The moment ILP gets its legal sanction in Manipur and the Look East Policy opens its railway tickets at Jiribam, we can expect the inevitable – a total face lift of the Manipur valley. Yaoshang festival will fade to blues. Instead the Biharis’ “Bol Bam” trance will slap the society. Many politicians will then be more than happy, busy baiting easy prey and trapping migrants for their vote banks. Political denial and manipulation of facts is what irritates people the most. The “mithibong mitambal” (coward) Manipuri phrase coined by our forefathers, is not a cheap title given to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Only few selective people in the society are addressed with it, depending on their personality. When it comes to ILP, the born lucky Manipuri parliamentarians have earned that rank. But obviously they are not content. They claim that it is an unparliamentary language and their dignity is challenged. The stark reality is – people address them as Honorable MLA and Minister out of sheer habit, but does it really come with the dignity attached with it in the minds of the people. None of them has ever challenged the people and asked – do I / we –is /are really honorable indeed?

A good number of Sikhs and Jain families have lived and become part and parcel of Manipur for years. There have not been any low profile mischievous cases registered against these communities. They have maintained their own dignity and contribution to the society, though some were bitter. But things are changing. Many of the descendants of the first generation Marwaris and Punjabis who have settled in Manipur during the 1940’s and 50’s, have now left Manipur for good. They seem to have had enough. But for the khaini and pan chewing breed of migrants, the 1970’s was just the beginning of the massive streaming to Manipur. Manipuris have always accepted and lived with the outsiders, for ages. But now, why this uproar- Enough is enough.

I live in the neighborhood, jammed with beehive quarters of migrants in Naga Mapal. In August 2014 non local migrants exceeded local residents at Laikhutlembi in Uripok and other leikais during an individual verification drive by the Manipur Police. The sound and colors of the new avatar Meitei Leikais cannot be missed even by the blind, deaf and the mute local man. Every evening as I relax on my balcony with my mug of hot green tea, I hear a familiar but a strange language. The Bihari kid living next door is spelling out Kok, Sam. Lai;……… …Mit enap …………… Eigi ming Roshan Prasad kouwi. After the class is over, the local lady tutor appeared in all her confusing charm, complete with her matching sari and bindi on her temple. By up-to-date standards, she is nothing less than the migrant woman boss she serves, almost one of her family member. And I wondered to myself, should I address her as Ebemma or Bahenji. The basic theme and essence of the ILM demand is “Yelhoumi Kansi” (save the indigenous people). But life goes on – half truth is not all correct. Who is saving who? Every move we make, every road we take, Manipuris seems to be submissive to the migrant’s cult. Their language, their looks and their hypnotism. It’s a free world. There are people and NGO’s / Societies, who are concerned about the sanskritization and messing up of the Manipuri language and vocabulary. But the most influential local TV channel-the ISTV has a different proactive role – Sri Sri goura chandria namo. Honored with the title “Dasi” and ………., the Manipuris hopefully depart for their next life in a world of the roti, kapra aur makkan in Brindavan. Everyday, viewers are made to believe that commercial adds in Manipuri version spoken with a touch of the Indian mainland tone is good news. The trend of the look Indian sound Indian has now become a fashion in most of the private schools and business establishments in the valley. The beauty and values of the indigenous tradition of sight and sound are being gradually sucked into the void, of the life style of the next generation breed of educationists and professional executives. Can the ILP save the Yelhoumi from this self abuse?

Wise man say- “A community does not lose its character because someone has taken it. They lose it because they have taken the characters of others”.

The ILP demand movement has gained an unprecedented phenomenal momentum this summer. The mesmerizing character of the migrants has touched the sentiments of every local. People are getting bolder and more sensitive by the days. Everybody seems to be taking their role in the mass realization of the sinking socio-economy and indigenous values of the Manipuris. Student organizations and Meira Paibis checking migrants ID’s etc. Local Clubs deciding to ban the entry of migrants in their Leikais. Scholars and lawyers debating on the Why, How, Yes and No of the ILP. These activities can all contribute to make the difference between now and the future. Truly, a mass uprising to safe guard the indigenous values and socio-economy has started to roll out. A habitual and traditional slowing down and let-up at this juncture to the current tempo, will be a premature defeat. The question is how many local families have and will volunteer to do away their room rent income from the migrants? And how many migrants will be herded to the local Police stations by the local Clubs and Meira Paibis’, for not possessing valid ID’s. What ID?

ILP is not just about the mere physical presence of the migrants. It is about the way the Manipuris present themselves as protectors, while surrendering every inch of themselves to the advances of the invading opportunists. ILP is just not merely about paperwork, ID cards and chain protest rallies. It is a deep introspection of our own stereotype characters. Besides the loss of indigenous values, it is the socio-economy that has been worst affected by the migrants. Nevertheless, it is the migrant’s honesty and value of their sweat that has truly defeated and overpowered the Manipuris. Congratulation Babuwa! From where and how they come is immaterial. They all came with an individual mission- to grab the opportunity to survive and flourish. They didn’t come here with the intention to lure the soft looking Manipuri women into their hairy beds. They didn’t come here to beg, but to make the local men come begging for their service. Because they know that Manipuris have a deep sense of self respect and ego. The Migrants have now exceeded the local tribal population and are close to level up with the Meiteis. What brings them here is what matters. How the locals respond to the sense of devotion and uncompromising hard work culture of the migrants, is the crux of the situation. The government baked volumes of high profile literary cookies can crumble in any time inside their beautifully decorated package and does not serve the purpose. It is obvious that it is none but the locals who support the non-locals in grabbing their unguarded opportunities. Only self realization and reinforcing a hard shell around the Manipuri psyche to close the doors to the politely plundering migrants can do the magic in the long run. Counter attacking the migrants by guarding them from entering into the Work Zones -whatever, wherever will only dishearten them to colonize among the locals. But action speaks louder than morals. In this land of the doubles, anything, everything can turn into confusion overnight.

Dharna – sounds good and sensible. But does it also means a lot of hypocritical nonsense.

The exemplary Ema Keithel is unique and world class. Coincidentally, in the melee of the mass ILP movement, I went to buy vegetables from the Ema market, only to return home a victim of a brain storming dilemma. I wish I never went there that faithfully morning. Women vendors were closing in their business and gathering themselves. And then I saw this middle aged Ema called out to a migrant tea hawker– “hey bhaiya, cha do sida khara purakoo, eikhoi ILP dharna phamluge” (hey brother, bring your tea here, we are going to take part in an ILP sit in protest dharna).

*The essay is written by Dr Jiten Konthoujam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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