Killing of Migrant Labourers – A Close Look

By : RS Jassal

Some reasonably good, some seriously concerned, but mostly individualized responses have appeared in media on the sad, unfortunate and inhumane killing of 15 migrant labourers all (Bihari) in mid March 08 but still institutionalized responses have been missing. Some writers labelled these as expression of welled up grouses of locals against encroachment on their soil of the land theory thus snatching their rights over employment and some portrayed those Bihari labourers as beggars to have entered Manipur with bowls in their hands compatible to filling up empty stomachs. Some NSA’s, sympathized with crocodile tears but has given clear signal to outsiders to clear of their lands in their own interest. Some quoted Article 19th of the Constitution and Merger of Manipur as malady, giving blame to move of Biharis into Manipur in bulk thus imbalancing their population to outnumber them by intrusion. None gave studied development of labour syndrome into Manipur. Let us have a close look as it is a matter of serious social concern. When we talk about institutional responses, it means looking at the problem through objective lenses. Problem of migrant labour in Manipur and NE as a whole is not new. It has now gripped the entire nation and globe also is in its dictates.

Look at it locally of Maharaja times or pre 1891 times. They had introduced system called ‘ Lallup’ for every family to provide one able bodied labour for 10 days out of 40 days as free labour to nation building, may be, that was with a vision to inculcate pride in labour. Influential’s of course found a way to provide ‘badli’ from extras under their influence, or compensate by paying in cash, which did not vanish even when Britishers did away with this system in 1892. It found new routes out of which one turned out to be ‘badli’ in teacher’s employment. Please remember prides in labour and proper education are mainstay in a nation building. In both these fields we lacked miserably and are still carrying on with the legacy of own creation.

This of course is almost finished now in times of Congress led SPF Govt. in office. Britishers introduced construction of English Schools & Church buildings for which local masons & labours hesitated to come forward so labour had to be brought in from Cachar & other parts of the country under British control. In post independence era, for construction of roads, bridges, dams, central/state Govt. buildings at speed labourers had to be brought in from outside for speedy completion of works. At every stage of need, the agency responsible for employing such type of labour provided protection to them. And as such even otherwise there was negligible opposition from locals. Same factology goes for Assam tea gardens, coal mining’s & connected establishments & functioning of factories etc., & Oil exploration projects. Manipur saw a very strong wave against outsiders in 1980’s which resulted in moving of Biharis & Nepalis from interiors to reinforce road side colonies along NH39 & these colonies have come up into strong citadels. With exception of a few no body went out. It has turned the homogeneous societies into heterogeneous. Experience of 1992-93-94 concerning Naga Kuki rift too has further seen Kangpokpi & Senapati citadels come up & big chunk of Chandel district is presenting something else on the ground. It is eclipsing the assimilation of people to people. & putting political stability of the State to danger.

At regional level, Nagaland UG outfits have got deeply engaged in inter & intra factional fights but are unable to do anything to oust migrant labourers so far called Bangladeshis. Assam too has landed in ‘gamchha politics’ i.e. anyone wearing ‘gamchas’ is welcome AASU/AGP/Congress/BJP failed to come up to the satisfaction of the people. Same political parties view migrants as ‘most trusted friends’ when in power and ‘pain in the neck’ when in the opposition.

Have a look at national level too. Delhi State. Punjab, Haryana – Chandigarh recently visited by me for 10 days in April has amazed me when I had a look at their need of having domestic helps, farm labour, construction labour etc. If party A manages inviting a certain group of labour, Party B getting smell of the arrangement send their ‘sweet goons’ to hijack them from Railway stations itself to undisclosed destination. As long as own family members & weaker members of the society consider it below their dignity to do physical labour, this problem will persist. In many cases domestics take advantage of their strength and depleted number of occupants- particularly in palatial living abodes, commit heinous crimes of murder & decamping with cash & ornaments. Rapes are also crimes of common committance by them.

Every country advanced or advancing is gripped with problems of migrant labour. Take example of UAE. They have foreign labour of 3.11 million coming from 202 nations, India leading in number. Out of 1.5 million Indians, 8 lakhs are engaged in labour work. We have never heard then herded & killed as was done in Manipur. Surprise over & above is, 15 killings have not dissuaded the migrants to flee. The labour force is still seen in action. In view of above, is the killing in cold blood the answer to the problem? If readers search their minds the probable answer will be a ‘BIG NO’. Take the case of Switzerland. Three major communities French, Germans and Italians constitute the beautiful country called Switzerland despite the fact France is on three sides and Germany also not far away. They are governed by set rules of laws hence no fight despite the differences or it may be called they have learnt to live together despite the differences. This is the result of fair, just & strict corruption free governance e which provides them to stay in discipline.

Then what is the answer?

The agency engaging outsiders as labourers must take upon it the responsibility of providing shelter & protection to them. Govt. may enact proper ordinance to issue them temporary work permits & earmark living areas. I have seen some national /regional seminar resolutions which have recommended to issue multipurpose i/cards to all Indians & Centre having agreed to that. It is surprising why such good proposals are not being implemented. I wonder why a small section of indigenous culture, under the garb of pride in ethos take it as a right to round such problem by restoring to killings only. Don’t they understand right is always linked with duty. Is this the way we can reach pinnacles of ‘egalitarian society’? I quote Sri Aurobindo what he interprets egalitarianism to mean. He says ‘Both Rights & Duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian concept in which rights & duties regain the deep & eternal unity’, And Dharma is the basis of democracy on which our nation’s unity in diversity stands. Killings are definitely act s of perverts and a serious loss of values in public life whereas the eternal truth is everyone is moving in to each other’s space- knowingly or unknowingly which may be kept in mind. There are thousands of Manipuri’s who have risen to national & international fame only by moving into space of others. KILLING innocents must be ABHORED.


About Zou Sangnaupang Pawlpi Delhi

Zou Students' Association Delhi Branch
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