In an emergency session convened on Wednesday, the Manipur Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a motion to withdraw the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Worker (MRVT&MW) Bill, 2015 passed by the house on March 16, 2015. The motion for withdrawal of the Bill was moved by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who is also the leader of the house. While no fresh Bill was presented, the Chief Minister announced in the House that the Government will present a fresh Bill within the next three months.
Singh further announced that this time round apart from consulting civil rights groups, the government is inviting reactions and public opinion from the state before a final draft of the new bill is tabled. He further added that the state government had consulted with constitutional experts and there has been the instance of West Bengal Government withdrawing the Unani Medical College and Hospital (Taking over of Management and subsequent Acquisition) Bill, 2009 and the Daridra Bandhav Bhandar (Taking Over of Management & Subsequent Acquisition) Bill 2009, which were reserved for consideration of the president.
The Manipur government has been under great pressure to withdraw this Bill in light of the violent protests which had rocked Imphal city this past week in which one 17-year-old student was killed after being hit by a tear gas shell. The protests had been led by the Joint Committee for Inner Line Permit and involved primarily school student protestors.
Convener JCILP Ratan Khondram says that the organization is not happy with the way the government has “simply withdrawn the bill.” “The Chief Minister has announced that they will present a new bill in the next three months. Why are they going to take so much time? Especially since the people have been asking for immediate implementation of the ILP. Our demand now is that the government should bring in the ILP in the next 15 days and implement it. The government has invited us for talks but we have not accepted the invitation. We will continue with our protests,” he says.
Even as the emergency session of the assembly was in progress, protestors took to the streets in Imphal’s main Bazaar area and forced shut down of shops which had opened after the week-long curfew had been relaxed today from 5 am to 5 pm.
The police have reacted to the announcement cautiously and have imposed a night time curfew tomorrow from 5 pm to 5 am before deciding to lift the curfew entirely. With the JCILP reserving its comments on the withdrawal it is uncertain whether they have decided to discontinue the protests. One of their demands was the “immediate” and unequivocal implementation of the Inner Line Permit in the state.