An Account on the Present Status of ILP Movement in Manipur

A translation of keynote address in Manipuri by Somorendro Thokchom, co-convenor of the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), from a public convention held at MDU hall. The convention, under the aegis of the JCILPS, adopted a number of resolutions, the foremost being implementation of ILP System by the state government by 18 November 2014. Text courtesy: from a press release published by issued by the publicity committee of JCILPS and which was posted on 8 November 2014

INTRODUCTION:      History has taught us, throughout the world that many indigenous people and societies have disappeared forever, despite occupying the most dominant place during their heydays. One of the finest examples in classical antiquity is the Sparta city-state in ancient Greece. In the recent past, one year after one of the indigenous people around the Amazon in Brazil was ruthlessly exterminated in 1968, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, as president, and Stephen Corry as director, founded the Survival International: (In their own words, Survival International is the only organisation that champions tribal peoples around the world. It helps the people defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.)

The advent of Survival International heralded the indigenous rights movement, with several organisations speaking out against discrimination and working for the progress of indigenous people in various corners of the world. All of them have been vocal and pressuring the United Nations to take note of the issues related to indigenous people. In 1982, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established a Working Group on Indigenous People. With a sole purpose to develop human rights standards that would protect indigenous peoples, in 1985, the Working Group began working on drafting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (Rejoinder: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007.)

International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples: By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The UN General Assembly had proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People, and the same year, the Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, starting on 10 December 1994 (resolution 48/163). The goal of the First International Decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

The Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People began in 2005.

Image: Indiana Daily Students

In India, it is an open secret how the once powerful Assam has become a sort of hybrid nation and the original Tripuris have disappeared from modern Tripura. The situation is equally bleak in Manipur, regardless of its proud 2,000 years of civilisation. Over the last two decades or so, various organisations have been insisting the successive governments to get rid of the prevailing dangers by implementing the Inner Line Permit system as in some other neighbouring states. However, it has always been ignored till today.  

In the wake of these issues and incidents, several civil society organisations formed the JCILPS on 4 July 2012. The Manipur state assembly made a commitment and passed a resolution on 13 July of the same year to enforce the system but only to break the promise later. One year after the government failed to keep its word, the JCILPS re-started campaigning for the ILP system, with the assembly amending some clauses of the resolutions and re-passing them on 12 July 2013. Once again, the government did not deliver despite its assurance—and the JCILPS raised the voice. On 14 July 2014, some women leaders went to submit the memorandum but the police arrested them, only to be released later after some agreements. On 23 July over a hundred people, including students and women were arrested on the charge of illegal demonstration; and they were released later excluding twenty-eight women protesters.

Women protesters against the arrest of JCILPS members (Image: PTI)

Over five days starting from 24 July, the protest gained momentum with several people joining the campaign. On 28 July, the police arrested many of the demonstrators including the executive member of JCILPS, Advocate Pukhrambam Arjun; while some protesters, mostly students, were hospitalised after an altercation with the police force. The same evening, the chief minister made a cabinet decision after an all-party meeting and assured that the government will do its best with regards to the ILP system. The CM also informed about a discussion with the committee but the latter made a condition that its office-bearers should be released first for an effective talk.

The disagreement over the release of office-bearers had been delaying the talk. In fact the police were only arresting more protesters. The government left little option for the JCILPS but to demand for the unconditional release—and on 8 Aug, the women leaders were let off but Advocate Arjun was still in the police custody. After a month of street protests and campaigns, the advocate was freed on 6 Sep and finally a talk was scheduled on 9 Sep. However, on 8 Sep, while the preparation was underway for the next day talk, everything ended up in sheer confusion after Additional SP Yengkhom Victoria and her personnel stormed the area over some personal issues. [...]

Image: Kangla Online / Imphal Free Press
Now there is neither tentative time nor any assurance about the implementation of the ILP system. The action plan is still open to question. We only hope the elected representatives and the members of the legislative assembly will work for the welfare of the people. We also hope that Chief Minister Ibobi and his ministers will do their best on this important issue of our survival, which will foster as well the preservation of our identity. This is the popular demand of the day.

JCILPS stands for the cultures and traditions of different communities. Besides, it stands for any endeavour to work for the progress of indigenous people. JCILPS pledges it will also contribute in any campaign of the United Nations to protect the indigenous people anywhere in the world.

Related Pieces

The Fascinating Norms that Governed the Land Before the Inner Line, by Pradip Phanjoubam
The history of the Inner Line provides some rare insights into present frictions between hills and valley, an antagonism which is, as James C. Scott notes in his influential “The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchic History of Upland Southeast Asia”, a pattern throughout the South East Asia massif, a huge land mass beginning from Northeast India and running through the entire mountain regions of South East Asia and extending up to the south and south west regions of China, what he calls Zomia, a term coined by Dutch scholar Willem van Schendel in 2002 to refer to this region. Imphal Free Press

Tackling the ILP Question: Past Imperfect, Future Tense, by Pradip Phanjoubam
The stated reason for the demand for the ILP is, in the face of the new political and economic order Manipur is in, if immigration into the state is left unchecked, numerically weak indigenous communities in the State could come to be outnumbered by outsiders, and in view of the current character of electoral democracy where numbers matter above all else, the levers of State power would pass away from their hands into those of immigrants. Judging from the fate of so many indigenous communities all over the world, this is undoubtedly a legitimate fear and it must be addressed. Imphal Free Press
United Nations Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues

The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held on 22–23 September 2014. The meeting was an opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People (9 August) was first proclaimed by the General Assembly in December 1994:

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights:

Online materials (articles, photos and other information) Relating to Demand for the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System in Manipur, on Epao:

Image by monkeyrice / Manipur Talks



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