Recently some civil society organisations of Manipur observed in appreciation of the implimentation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Manipur under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regualtion 1873 while the Chief Minister of Manipur is also confident of strnegthening the ILP system in Manipur.
However, the Manipur Innler Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 is still like without the backbone.
Eeight Civil Society Organisations of ILP Demand Committee, Kangleipak observed the completion of three years of implementation of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 in the state in a formal function held at the office of ACOAM-Lup Kangleipak, Lamphel on December 11, 2022. The eight CSOs include ACOAM-Lup Kangleipak, IPSA, IPAK, PANDM, KANGLAMEI, Kanglei Ima Lup, CLK and KSA under the umbrella of ILP Demand Committee, Kangleipak.
Reasoning the observation, the Committee in a press release stated that the Committee since November 18, 1997 has been spearheading a movement for a “constitutional safeguard” by organising social awareness, seminar and meeting. The neighbouring States such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland had earlier enjoyed “constitutional safeguard” under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) 1873 to protect the indigenous communities of the state who have reduced to minority. Manipur also started demanding the “constitutional safeguard” for protection of indigenous people as the huge influx of immigrants has now dominated one-third of the population of the State.
The release further stated that the CSOs joined hands together in 2015 by forming JCILPS and
subsequently after State Cabinet a Bill was passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly. A huge clash took place on ILP issue which led to the death of Sapam Robinhood and continuance of the movement for many years. When the BJP Government worked out to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and the entire Northeast stand against the CAB, the Government of India extended the BEFR 1873 to Manipur and the CAB is exempted in the ILP enforced states of the Northeast including Manipur.
Although ILP has been implemented, the ILP system being enforced in the state is riddled with various loopholes in the rules and regulations, loopholes in entry points and the increase in the influx of immigrants in the state and lack of verification of those who have already entered in the state, the Committee said and appealed to the government to honestly perform their duties to save the indigenous people.
To save the indigenous people of Manipur, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) has also been demanding update of National Register Citizens (NRC) update and constitution of Manipur State Population Commission (MSPC).
It may be mentioned that COCOMI and United Naga Council (UNC) had earlier jointly submitted a memorandum to the Government of Manipur for setting up of a Manipur State Population Commission and called for deporting illegal migrants and checking mushrooming of unrecognized villages.
The COCOMI and UNC have also been demanding a resolution by the Manipur State Legislative Assembly and send a proposal to the Government of India for taking further steps to check demographic imbalance. They further demand that the NRC be updated with a fixed cut-off base year to identify illegal immigrants in Manipur.
The Manipur State Cabinet, during its meeting held in June, had resolved to adopt 1961 as the base year for determining the ‘native’ status for implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Manipur.
However, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) had strongly opposed the 1961 base year for implementation of ILP adopted by the state cabinet. JCILPS had condemned the base year adopted by the state cabinet as 1961 against their demand to be base year as 1951.
Before 1951, even after the merger of Manipur to Indian dominion on October 15, 1949, the Pass and Permit System for Entry into and Exit from Manipur was in force protecting Manipur from illegal immigrants till the Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh abolished it on November 18, 1950.
The abolition of the Pass and Permit System opened the floodgates for the illegal immigrants and therefore, the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) also has had two agreements with the Government of Manipur at two instances – first in 1980 and second in 1994 signed with the Governor V K Nayar taking 1951 as the base year for determining illegal immigrants.
The fact that the decadal population growth from 1951 to 1961 in Manipur after the abolition of the Pass and Permit System was as high as 35.04 per cent and many including the Civil Societies like JCILPS and AMSU consider it as unatural population growth in Manipur due to influx and therefore fixing 1961 as base year for determining the “native” people of Manipur will protect the illegal immigrants instead of protection of the indigenous people of Manipur.
Recently, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren announced that the state government will be installing sophisticated face identification cameras in two months for more effective implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system.
Chief Minister Biren made the announcement during the launching of ILP Portal for Deputy Commissioners (DCs) and Labour Commissioners (LCs) at CM Secretariat on December 23, 2022.
He also informed that the portal had been launched with a updated version added to the earlier ILP system and the bar code has been put in the permit for instant authentication by scanning it to detect any duplication or forge of the ILP card.
As maximum of the outsiders entering the state are for labour purposes, the DCs and the LCs can now directly issue the permit online, besides giving a better convenience to the visitors of the state in applying for ILP. He said that visitors to the state can apply online for ILP through its web portal “www.manipurilponline.mn.gov.in” or by downloading an application of ILP from the Google Play Store.
Pointing out that illegal immigrants impersonating as a citizen of the country or state by using forged documents is the big threat to the state, Biren sought the support of all the stakeholders and the public in tackling this real issue of the state, instead of making ‘issue’ out of nothing.
Appealing to the public to be the eyes and ears of the government in sorting out illegal immigrants, he cautioned that the state forces will soon start house-to-house verification to check illegal immigrants. The Chief Minister also cautioned legal consequences against landlords who are found to be renting space to any illegal immigrants or outsiders with fake documents.
Chief Minister Biren said that all these efforts have been made considering the importance of saving the indigenous population of Manipur.
However, the need to succesfully impliment the BEFR 1873 and regulate ILP is to define who are the indigenous people or “native” of Manipur and who are the Manipuris or Manipurese and who will be the permanent residents because the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 doesn’t permit non-natives permanent residency and land ownership.
All these have to be clearly defined in the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines and published in the official gazette. All these have been said and discussed in earlier articles and local television media panel discussions by this writer.
Though the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines published on December 31, 2019 is considered as toothless by many including JCILPS. Besides incorporating all the provisions of the BEFR 1873, the Guidelines should encourage the civilians to be vigilant against illegal immigrants and cooperative with the law-enforcing agencies to regulate the ILP.
Moreover, Section 7 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 is the backbone of the regulation without which the implimentation of the BEFR 1873 in Manipur is meaningless.
Section 7 (as amended vide The Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019) states: “It shall not be lawful for any person, not being a Native of the States comprised in the preamble of this Regulation, to acquire any interest in land or the product of land beyond the said “inner Line” without the sanction of the State Government or such officer as the State Government shall appoint in this behalf.
Any interest so acquired may be dealt with as the State Government or the said officer shall direct.
The State Government may also by notification in the Official Gazette extend prohibition contained in this section to any class of persons, Natives of the said States, and may from time to time in like manner cancel or vary such extension.”
Notably, the Manipur Giovernment issued an Office Memorandum on January 10, 2020 and published in a Gazette Notification on January 13, 2020 giving a blanket suspension of registration of sale and purchase of land and property temporarily till the finalisation of the Guidelines citing that “The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 has been extended to the whole state of Manipur vide The Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019 dated 11/12/2019 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and published in the Gazette of India. Section 7 of this Regulation relates to restriction and curtailment of rights on land and its produce which are within the state of Manipur.”
However, the State Government had lifted the temporary suspension according to an office memorandum issued in July 2021 by the Deputy Secretary (Revenue) and registration of transaction (sale, and purchase) of land among the permanent residents of the State is allowed on the production of PRC (Permanent Residence Certificate) of the buyer issued by the concerned District Magistrate, police verification in respect of the buyer through concerned District Magistrate and on confirmation by Cabinet Sub Committee consisting of Revenue Minister as Chairperson and Law and Agriculture Ministers as members.
Therefore, to protect the land from the non-natives, defining who are the permanent residents of Manipur is key to effectively impliment the Inner Line Permit System under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 because the Regulation is not to simply issue ILP to the migrants from other states and allow them to settle permanently. The Regulation provides to punish those who stay beyond the permit. The Regulation also provides to issue a Gazette Notification not to allow non-natives to own landed properties in the State. In short, the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 doesn’t permit non-natives permanent residency and land ownership in Manipur.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics