Many organisations and individuals have criticised the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019 published in the Manipur Official Gazette on December 31, 2019 as toothless tiger since it does not define who are indigenous people and permanent residents of Manipur and it doesn’t have a base year to define these. Because Section 3 of the Guidelines states: “Any person who is not indigenous person of State of Manipur or permanent resident of the State of Manipur and entering the State shall obtain a permit to enter the State called ‘Inner Line Permit’.”
Before coming to the conclusion of effectiveness of Inner Line Permit, it will better to under stand why and how Inner Line Permit in Manipur.
For decades Manipuris have 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, after the merger of Manipur to Dominion of India, the Entry and Exit Pass System was abolished on November 18, 1950 by the then Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh. Concequently, the total population of Manipur had reached 7,80,037 in 1961 from the total population of 5,77,635 in 1951 with unnatural decadal population growth rate of 35.00% in 1961 from 12.80% in 1951. Since late 1970s the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) has been demanding reintroduction of the Pass System for the outsiders, and detection and deportation of illegal foreigners.
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 the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) consisting of various civil society organisations and student bodies of Manipur on July 4, 2012 and reached its momentum in 2015 with the death of a school student Sapam Robinhood on July 8 in police firing.
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” suspecting the majority Meiteis were trying to grab the “tribal lands” through the 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 accompanying bills were subsequently put under suspension.
Nevertheless, 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 BJP-led Government of Manipur introduced “The Manipur People Bill 2018” on July 20 in the Manipur State Legislative Assembly and passed.
However, the then 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 and threatened the indigenous people of the Northeast.
In the wake of protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Northeast region, 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 actually 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 still 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.
However, considering having something is better than nothing, many welcome the extension of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 to Manipur. Since then the JCILPS has been demanding to include certain points in the ILP guidelines such as to identify who are the indigenous people; who are the permanent residents; to identify those persons who are settling in the state after 1951; prohibition of selling of land to non-locals under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation; to start immediate action after forming a population commission as per resolution taken by state cabinet; to take necessary action under ILP regulation section 20.
Contray to what the JCILPS and others have been demanding 1951 as base year for determining indigenous people and permanent residents of Manipur, the State Cabinet in its meeting held on June 22, at the Cabinert Hall of Chief Minister’s Secretariat, resolved to adopt 1961 as Base Year for determining “Native” status for implementation of Inner Line Permit System in the State.
Not surprisningly, the JCILPS has strongly opposed the 1961 base year for implementation of Inner Line Permit adopted by the state cabinet, stating that it is against the base year given by the committee. There is still an influx of illegal immigrants into the state despite the implementation of the ILP system in the state due to lack of proper monitoring and in such a situation, the state government cabinet resolving to adopt 1961 as the base year for determining “native” status in the implementation of ILPS is unacceptable, JCILPS Convenor Phulindro Konsam said on June 23 in a press meet held at JCILPS office at Keishampat in Imphal.
Giving the rationale for demanding 1951 as base year, JCILPS Convenor Phunildro said, in view of the severe demographic imbalance which resulted from incessant influx of non-local people, JCILPS has been demanding adoption of 1951 as cut off base year.
The pass and permit system which was in force in Manipur was abolished by then Commissioner Himat Singh on November 18, 1950. The abolition of the pass and permit system opened a floodgate of incessant influx.
In order to identify all the non-local people who came to the State after the pass and permit system was abolished, 1951 should be adopted as cut off base year, the JCILPS convenor insisted. Adoption of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950 is another reason for the vehement demand to choose 1951 as the cut off base year. The whole country of India had its census report starting from 1951 and therefore the demand to choose 1951 as the cut off base year. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was also created in 1951. Another reason behind the demand to adopt 1951 as cut off base year is the fact that the first electoral roll was created in 1948. Again, it was in 1951 that the village population directory was created and this is the sixth reason for the insistence to adopt 1951 as the cut off base year, the JCILPS Convenor insisted. The population of non-indigenous people in Manipur is so huge that their number might have already reached the 10 lakh figure, he said.
Notably, the demand for 1951 as base years has been reaffirmed repeatedly by a number of people’s conventions. “The state government’s decision of adopting 1961 as a base year is totally against people’s agreement, so a people’s convention will be held soon to deliberate the State Cabinet decision, and chalk out a course of action to persuade the State Government to withdraw the Cabinet decision in case the people’s convention again resolves to adopt 1951 as the cut off base year,” the JCILPS Convenor informed.
Now, it is very pertinent to ask – Why can’t Manipur Government adopt 1951 as base year for determining indigenous people and permanent residents of the State in the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019? Why the present BJP government has changed the stands of earlier governments of Manipur and passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly? In both the Bills passed by the State Assembly – The Protection of Manipur People’s Bill, 2015 and The Manipur People Bill 2018, the base year remains the same as 1951.
The Manipur Cabinet decision on June 22 regarding ILPS base year has created confusion knowingly or unknowingly by using “native” instead of “indigenous” that have different conotations and arises another question – Will the Government replace the term, indigenous by native in the Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019?
Moreover, Mizoram which was once Lushai Hills District of Assam can adopt January 26, 1950 one year earlier than the JCILPS demand of 1951 as base year, why can’t the Manipur Government adopt 1951 as base year for determining non-idigenous person and non-permanent residents of Manipur?
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics