Amidst the Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders proclaiming the implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) and harping on the seeming care and concern of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the indigenous people of Manipur, a total of 610 illegal migrants were found to be staying without acquiring Inner Line Permit (ILP) out of 1,115 outsiders during a random verification drive conducted by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS).
The most unfortunate and shocking part but not surprising is that the remaining 505 illegal migrants are also without proper ILP in spite of the ruling BJP’s much acclaimed implementation of ILP in Manipur. Out of the remaining 505 illegal migrants 400 of them were holding a permit in the form of a token and the remaining 105 were in under process for acquiring the ILP permit for many days.
On December 13, 2019 Manipur Chief Minister and BJP leaders proudly announced that the BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav was officially the first person visiting Manipur to obtain ILP for entry into the State for 7 days till December 19, 2019. State Home Department issued the ILP under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) 1873 read with The Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019 published on December 11, 2019 by the Ministry of Home Affairs embracing Manipur under BEFR 1873 as announced in the Indian Parliament on the same day.
Interestingly, ILP was issued to BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav on December 13 on his arrival even without having the Guidelines for Regulation of Inner Line Permit. He was felicitated along with Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren at Khwairamband Keithel, Imphal. The State Government is mandated and empowered under Section 2 of BEFR 1873 to prescribe “Inner Line” and prohibit persons from going beyond such line in the form of guidelines as practiced in other states of the Northeast by a notification in the official gazette of the State.
According to JCILPS Convenor BK Moirangcha who was speaking to the media during the handing over of charges to the new office bearers of JCILPS Student Wing, at the office of JCILPS in Imphal West on December 2, following the outcome of the drive of verification of illegal migrants it can be concluded that none of the outsiders has a proper ILP.
Although it is not surprising to find the outsiders without holding ILP while Manipur Chief Minister and BJP leaders are proud of implementation of ILP in Manipur under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) 1873, it is still pertinent to ask why the state government fails in issuing, regulating ILP and monitoring outsiders; and why they are not prosecuted under the provision of the BEFR, 1873.
According to JCILPS Convenor BK Moirangcha, the state government has not initiated action against a single outsider who violates the law. The present government should be held accountable for the influx of numerous outsiders in the state illegally, giving a threat to the indigenous people of Manipur.
Even after the failure in issuing ILP and regulating the outsiders is obvious as identified by JCILPS in random verification drive along with local community organisations of some selected areas, Manipur Chief Minister and BJP leaders are still praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as if the Government of India extended graciously the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 under which Inner Line Permit has to be issued to the outsiders visiting Manipur without people’s long struggle during which many were injured and a student, Sapam Robinhood was shot dead on July 8, 2015 by the state police. The extension was unprecedentedly announced in the Parliament by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the wake of the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Northeast region.
It may be mentioned that the Manipuris has for decades been demanding a legislation or system to check the entry of migrants from other states of India. Manipur used to maintain a strict registry of the entry and exit of outsiders or any local leaving Manipur since the times of Kings and an Entry and Exit Pass System to regulate the outsiders in Manipur continued even after the merger of Manipur to Dominion of India on October 15, 1949. Unfortunately, the Pass System was abolished on November 18, 1950 by the then Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh. Since late 1970s the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) had been demanding reintroduction of the Pass System for the outsiders.
Moreover, the people’s movement demanding a legislation to check the outsiders to protect the Manipuris from the demographic onslaught after the merger to India concretised with the formation of JCILPS consisting of various civil society organisations and student bodies of Manipur on July 4, 2012 and reached its momentum in 2015.
In response to the people’s demand for a legislation to protect the Manipuris from illegal outsiders, the then Congress Government of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi tabled three Bills namely The Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, 2015; The Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reform (7th Amendment) Bill 2015 and The Manipur Shops & Establishment (2nd amendment) Bill, 2015 in the Manipur Legislative Assembly and the bills were passed by voice vote.
Unfortunately, the Bills were objected by a section of tribals and termed as anti-tribal bills and in their protest against the bills nine persons were martyred in Churachandpur by security forces.
Moreover, the Governor of Manipur sent the Bills to the President of India. The first bill was cancelled by the President of India and the two other bills were subsequently put under suspension.
With consistent struggle led by JCILPS and through consultations with all the stakeholders including the tribal bodies clearing misunderstandings over a state legislation to protect the indigenous people of Manipur, the present BJP-led Government of Manipur introduced The Manipur People Bill 2018 on July 20 in the Manipur State Legislative Assembly and passed.
However, the Governor of Manipur Najma Heptulla instead of giving assent to the Bill referred to the President of India. While waiting for assent from the President of India, other issues particularly Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) cropped up threatened the indigenous people of the Northeast. In the wake of protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Northeast region, the extension of BEFR 1873 to Manipur was announced in the Parliament unprecedentedly.
Instead of giving his assent to The Manipur People Bill 2018, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind signed The Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019 embracing Manipur under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 which is not the people of Manipur wanted. What the Manipuris wanted was the restoration of Exit and Entry Pass System for outsiders to Manipur, which was abolished by the then Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh on November 18, 1950. And if it is not possible, the people of Manipur want a legislation to regulate the entry and exit of outsiders to protect the Manipuris from the invasion by the outsiders. The people’s movement was never about the extension of ILP in Manipur as projected by certain sections of the society including BJP, which so much wanted big congratulations for it.
The Manipur People Bill 2018, though there may be some lacuna which needs amendment, passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly without objection from tribal groups who objected 2015 Bills is more powerful and far better than the BEFR 1873 which has its limitations. The extension of BEFR 1873 can be discontinued at the wish of the President of India while the Manipur People Bill once becomes an Act cannot be withdrawn unless it is repealed by the State Assembly or Parliament.
However, considering having something is better than nothing, many welcome the extension of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 to Manipur.
Notably, as commented by JCILPS Co-convener (Publicity) Warepam Second, the number of outsiders bearing token for processing ILP instead of holding a proper ILP at the entry gates has increased since the past few weeks, thereby laying bare the fact that the system has been rendered toothless.
First, it might be easily blamed on the officials and police at the entry gates for carelessness, insincerity, negligence and failure in issuing proper ILP to the outsiders who visit Manipur.
However, these should have been properly guided by the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 as done in the case of Mizoram. Shortage of logistics should not make an excuse of failing to issue a proper ILP.
Besides maintaining a register for issue of ILP, there must be a dynamic and interactive data system to which data of the visitors can be entered, accessed to see who has been permitted or denied ILP from all the entry and exit gates and generate the permit itself.
The Temporary ILP also should have the passport photo of the visitor to avoid duplication or impersonation.
Issue of permits to labours may not be under a different category of “Labour Permit”, it can be done under either Regular Permit or Temporary Permit as the case may be and only with the approval of Labour Department. The number of labours sponsored by a department/contractor/firm/agency should be limited to 100.
The Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 published in the Manipur Official Gazette on December 31, 2019 has many inherent weaknesses. The lack of political will and determination of the State Government to implement the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 and regulate the Inner Line Permit in Manipur effectively is apparent from the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019.
The absence of incorporation or reflection of Section 7 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 in the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines itself reflects the lack of political will and determination to protect the lands of the indigenous people from the outsiders who may be even investors or businessman.
Section 7 of the BEFR 1873 begins with “It shall not be lawful for any *** person, not being a Native of the districts (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.”
Forget about the toothless of the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 it doesn’t have its backbone. Without having definition of indigenous person of Manipur or permanent resident of the State and a base year while Mizoram ILP Guidelines has defined Indigenous people and base year not later than 26th January 1950, the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 is like trying to build a house without its foundation.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics