Manipur Crisis: It Is Social and Must Necessarily Go Beyond Immigration

Manipur Crisis: It Is Social and Must Necessarily Go Beyond Immigration

By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, May 20:

The way the head of the people of Manipur keeps on harping on Immigration as the sole problem needing attention for action – I would not call it intervention on the basis of a policy -, I was taken back to what John Stuart Mill wrote in 1861 in his Considerations on Representative Government: “the principles which men profess, on any controverted subject, are usually a very incomplete exponent of the opinions they really hold. No one believes that every people is capable of working every sort of institution. Carry the analogy of mechanical contrivances as far as we will, a man does not choose even an instrument of timber and iron on the sole ground that it is in itself the best. He considers whether he possesses the other requisites which must be combined with it to render its employment advantageous, and, in particular whether those by whom it will have to be worked possess the knowledge and skill necessary for its management. On the other hand, neither are those who speak of institutions as if they were a kind of living organisms really the political fatalists they give themselves out to be. They do not pretend that mankind have absolutely no range of choice as to the government they will live under, or that a consideration of the consequences which flow from different forms of polity is no element at all in deciding which of them should be preferred. But, though each side greatly exaggerates its own theory, out of opposition to the other, and no one holds without modification to either, the two doctrines correspond to a deep-seated difference between two modes of thought; and though it is evident that neither of these is entirely in the right, yet it being equally evident that neither is wholly in the wrong, we must endeavour to get down to what is at the root of each, and avail ourselves of the amount of truth which exists in either.”
Any society or the social characteristics of a society are never a singular dimensional one. A society, at any point of time, would be characterised by demographic dynamics of birth, death, and migration (emigration or immigration. But all these would be determined by the social characteristics prevalent at that point of time; in the context of a society, this point of time is always an evolutionary one and never a one-shot kind of thing. As Adrian Bejan writes on the Constructional Approach to social dynamics: “Society with all its layers and features of organization is a flow system. It is a “live” system, perhaps the most complex and puzzling we know. It is the most difficult to comprehend because we, the individuals who try to make sense of it, are inside the flow system. Each of us is like an alveolus in the lung, an eddy in a turbulent river, or a leaf on a tree branch. From such a position” of singularity, which is identical in rank to the positions of enormous numbers of individuals, it is a formidable task to see and describe the big picture—the lung, the river basin, and the forest.”
Manipur has long been a celebrated example of coherence and peaceful co-existence in a society of diverse ethnicity. But this social strength has now been partially broken by the more than one year-old inter-ethnic killings between the Meeteis/Meiteis and the Kukis. This is a social problem.
Consequent upon destruction to the world of opportunities for livelihood endeavours emerging from the inter-ethnic killings, Manipur now sees the disturbances to the traditional norms with the emergence trading of girls for the utmost fearsome results; this is a social problem. When we grew as a child during the 1960s, the social ethos emphasised that “it is far better to die than surviving by begging.” But, one result of the unprecedented inter-ethnic killings has been the emergence of child beggars visiting homes for help; this is a social problem. In addition to these, the demise of work opportunities for earning livelihood has been such that we now see people looking for buyers for their homestead and land property; this is a buyer’s market necessarily and the transaction would happen at a price very exploitative of the seller. This is a social problem. If peace returns somehow, the resultant society would be a very unequal one and which will lead to very unwanted things happening. This is a social problem. While these have been visible manifestations of the social problems happening in the valley, reports are also there that for the original Kuki settlers (Manipuri by virtue of birth, growing up and livelihood) “any sickness today implies death” for they cannot take the patient to a place having treatment facilities – particularly in the Kukis settling in the southern part of Manipur. This is a social problem.
In the midst of all these, Manipur has experienced a very unprecedented hailstorm recently; this is considered to be the result of heavy and continuing destruction of the forest covers in Manipur. Many households are without covers over their heads, and many are struggling on how to afford the repairments needed. This is a social problem.
Ignoring all these dimensions, and looking at only the Immigration aspect, would mean poverty of epistemological understanding of the issues being faced by the society. In any case, immigration related steps have already attracted global attention, which Manipur can hardly afford.
From all these we see that Manipur is experiencing a huge social problem in many but related dimensions The point I am trying to drive at is that Manipur government should try to evolve a Social Policy addressing the multi-dimensional but inter-related social issues; the Immigration issue can be addressed as a sub-component of the larger social issues. The Framework of this Social Policy should also possess the capability to address the likely social issues in the future. Let me end with Thandika Mkandawire on the understanding of Social Policy in a development context: “Social policy is collective interventions in the economy to influence the access to and the incidence of adequate and secure livelihoods and income. As such, social policy has always played redistributive, protective and transformative or developmental roles.”

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