The BJP-led Manipur government’s decision to adopt 1961 as the “base year” for determining the state’s “native residents” for implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in the state has triggered a row with the move drawing fire from various quarters.
The N Biren Singh Cabinet took this decision Wednesday after reviewing the base year for implementing the ILP, which is an official travel document issued by the state government to allow the travel and stay of an Indian citizen in Manipur for a specified period of time.
Slamming the BJP government for clearing 1961 as the base year, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) called the decision “unacceptable”.
The JCILPS is an umbrella body of Manipur’s civil society groups that was formed in 2012 to spearhead the demand for effective implementation of the ILP system in the state.
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“We strongly oppose the decision of the state Cabinet. We have been demanding 1951 as the cut-off base year,” said Phulindro Konsam, the JCLIPS convener. The Biren Singh government also came under attack from the principal Opposition Congress party over the move, with the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president K Meghachandra charging that it showed a “total disregard of the people of Manipur”.
Meghachandra accused the BJP government of allegedly trying to shield through its “unilateral decision” the non-Manipuris who have entered the state over the years. He said, “The Bill (Manipur People’s Protection Bill) was tabled in the House twice and it was then agreed that the base year should be 1951. The government has done it even after a consensus was reached with all political parties, civil bodies and JCILPS (over 1951 as base year).”
The JCILPS’s campaign against migrant influx had taken off after the 2011 provisional Census report was released, which indicated a 18.65 per cent decadal growth in Manipur’s population as against the country’s 17.64 per cent growth. It attributed this growth to “unchecked migrant influx”. In 2015, one of the protests undertaken by the JCILPS took a violent turn in which a 17-year-old schoolboy protester was killed in alleged police action.
After a series of protests held under the aegis of the JCILPS, the Biren government got the Manipur People’s Protection Bill passed in the Assembly on July 23, 2018, which seeks to regulate the entry and exit of non-Manipuri into the state. Initially, the draft Bill had the base year of 1971, but in the Bill’s final version passed in the Assembly, it was changed to 1951. The legislation thus stipulated that those residents who had their names in the village directory in 1951 would be construed as Manipuris and that everyone else would need permits to stay in the state.
With the Centre extending the ILP regime to Manipur in December 2019, this system officially came into force in the state on January 1, 2020, after the guidelines of the regulations were officially published in the Manipur gazette. As per the ILP system, outsiders who are not permanent residents (indigenous people) of Manipur are required to get this permit to enter the state. The permits, which include special, temporary, regular and labour permits, are issued from the ILP counters set up at different entry points or border areas across the state as well as the airport. The stage government also launched an online portal in this regard in February 2020.
Going after the BJP government for approving 1961 as the base year, Konsam said the old ILP system was discontinued in 1950 and that since then there was no regulation to check the entry and exit of non-Manipuris into the state. “What the JCILPS wants is to detect those illegal migrants who have entered the state after ILP system was abolished in 1950. Around 10 lakh illegal immigrants have entered the state from 1950 to 1961,” he claimed.
According to the JCILPS, unless a clear definition of the indigenous population of the state is given, it would be difficult to identify the non-indigenous people. It has maintained that those who have settled in the state before 1951 should be considered as the indigenous people of Manipur.
Konsam said a people’s convention will be held soon in protest against the BJP dispensation’s decision, adding that the convention will adopt a resolution to mount pressure on the government.
Speaking to The Indian Express, CM Biren Singh said the decision to adopt 1961 as the base year was based on the interest of all the communities residing in the state. “We have to see from all angles as we are having around 34 recognised tribes and also need a consensus amongst all communities to maintain harmonious relationships,” he said.
The ILP is the permit system under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, devised by the colonial British, wherein citizens from other parts of India (outsiders) are not allowed to enter the boundary of a state without a valid pass issued by a competent authority like the state deputy resident commissioner/deputy commissioners/any other officer authorised by the state government. The main objective of the ILP system is to safeguard the peaceful existence of a state’s indigenous people and provide special protection for their distinct identity.
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