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A Shortened Version of the Memorandum on the Inner Line Permit System Submitted by JCILPS to the Chief Minister

Originally published as a press release by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), Manipur on 8 August 2015 and shortened for this blog
Text courtesy: Epao


The Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur on 8 Aug 2015. The following text is shortened and paraphrased from the 40-page memo that consists of three parts and a conclusive remark.




Part I
Reasons for the submission of memorandum on the need for introduction of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System


Manipur is burning today with threats to the identity, culture, traditional values and livelihood of the indigenous peoples by the sheer pressure of outsider populations. The influx has transformed the demographic landscape and destroyed the pluralistic worldview of the indigenous societies.

The movement for an ILP System has one demand: a well-streamlined regulatory policy by the State to check the influx. Nobody can deny that the uncontrolled influx has imposed socioeconomic burdens and disturbed the harmony and peaceful co-existence of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural polity.

Manipur had a historic legacy of inter-societal integration and respect for outsiders since the pre-colonial past. However the indifferent, discriminatory and biased attitude and policies pursued by successive governments are beyond a toleration level now.

The movement can be traced back to the Eighties. Two students, Potsangbam Lukhoi and Huidrom Loken, died in the earliest students’ demonstration in 1980. The RK Dorendra ministry of the Congress government met the movement leaders of All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) and All Manipur Students Coordinating Committee (AMSCOC) and came into an agreement on 22 July 1980 and finalised it on 5 August 1980. This agreement envisaged the start of the process of government undertaking to identify the illegal migrants, understood as ‘foreigners’ at that particular time, and take measures for their deportation under due processes under the Constitution of India and the laws, with reference to the Electoral Rolls since 1948, the Census Reports of 1951, the National Register of Citizens, 1951 and the Village Directory, 1951.

A decade and half later the issue exploded again. The failure of the government to act on the memorandum of agreement, and sheer disappointment over the unfulfilled promises made the younger generation, represented by AMSU, to organise more protests with great cost to public peace. There was a president’s rule in 1994 and the then governor, VK Nayyar’s assurance to AMSU showed the reaffirmation and legitimisation of the agreement of 1980. However, the issue went awry again on account of the political exigencies in those days.

The public has always been aware of the rising population of outsiders. When scholars and stakeholders raised the question, the Government of India blamed it on the failure to implement family welfare programmes. In 1951, the population of Manipur was 5,77,635 but it soared to 2,721,756 in 2011. This is scary and abnormal.



In 2005, the United Committee Manipur published a survey on the ‘Influx of Migrants in Manipur’ in 2005, which mentioned in the 2001 census record of Manipur there were three distinct components of population:

1 Valley population (Meetei and Meetei-Pangal)   9,18,826
2 Outsiders  7,04,488
3 Schedule Tribes    6,70,782

There is an open secret. The tension between the slow, reluctant ethnic populations with orthodoxies and habits of laziness, and the other group of harsh life-bearing processes of outsiders have created an environment of sheer competition in the possession and control over resources.

If we look back, it was already written in history. In 1947, the first Chief Minister of independent Manipur, MK Priyobarta decided against the abolition of a permit system.


And nowadays, globalisation and policies like the Act East have necessitated that we should improve our lifestyle and diligence. It might not be possible to stop further influx but it is not impossible to curb it.

Again historically, the issue had made headway without much media attention in the Seventies among government officials and scholar representatives. Then the bureaucrats have a long history of being nonchalant. They did not believe that it was going to change the fate of a land completely. The crisis escalated in 1980 but it was still lying dormant. An organisation like Poramlen Apunba had to start mass awareness drives in the late Eighties.    

Adding insult to injury, the case of creating more vote bank by politicians has worsened the social tension. However there has always been resistance despite the indifference of the authority. In 2005 soon after the publication of UCM’s survey, the Federation of Regional Indigenous Societies (FREINDS) started creating awareness on the deepening crisis, constituted an ILP Demand Committee and spearheaded a series of movements. The FREINDS’ main demand was to introduce an ILP System in Manipur similar to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 prevalent in the neighbouring states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. 

In the state assembly, the former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) H Bidur first raised this issue in the 1993 assembly session; MLA I Hemochandra again re-introduced the second motion in 2006; and MLA N Mangi made the third attempt in 2011—but all in vain.

For greater public intervention, 32 civil society organisations formed the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System in Manipur in 2012. Somehow the Manipur Legislative Assembly supported the cause when MLA I Ibohanbi moved a private member’s resolution in that year. The motion was passed unanimously.

The Assembly had as well passed a second resolution to urge the Government of India. In the second resolution of that year, the government officials—from their ignorance of history of pre-merger Manipur—committed a blunder while responding to the queries from the Union Home Ministry. It is common knowledge that Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh had abolished the Permit System in 1950 after Manipur was merged with India a year earlier. Similar to the illegality of Merger Agreement but which not many people care is that the chief commissioner had no authority to get rid of that system.  

This is not an anti-India movement but a means to maintain the structures of our life and polity. In 2012, in a meeting with the JCILPS’ representatives, the former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde maintained that the demand (for an ILP system) is genuine.

The government of Manipur had shown it does care about the issue. Over the last four to five years there have been several discussions and consultations between the government and the civil society. Even the All Political Party Committee on the ILP System had had 15 meetings while various political and legal experts had chipped in with suggestions.

Ironically in March 2015, the government without any consultation introduced the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers (MRVTMW) Bill, 2015 in the state assembly and the bill was passed in just three days. Five MLAs including I Ibohalbi, S Risom, Th Shyamkumar, Kh Joykishan and K Sarat had voiced dissent and walked out of the house; while another two, Y Irabot and L Ibomcha along with the above five MLAs had suggested that the bill be referred to a select committee. Further without unanimity the bill was passed. It was no surprise that protests started immediately on the street.

Apparently the government had ignored the five-point demand (listed below) made by the JCILPS and which was submitted less than a month earlier. The JCILPS had also sent their reminder objecting the proposed bill. 

The 11th session of the 10th Manipur Legislative Assembly, which was scheduled between 25 June and 10 July 2015, refused to accede to the demands of the JCILPS to withdraw the MRVTMW Bill and further to pass a newer bill. The protests are still on and the police had also killed a 16-year-old student, Sapam Robinhood on 10 July. The assembly adjourned its session with no care and no respect for the people. After a series of demonstrations and police atrocities, the government convened a special assembly session and did revoke the controversial MRVTMW Bill.

This was a background to the present state of peoples’ movement for regulation of unchecked, artificial explosion of demographic imbalance and the resultant crisis on issues of identities, culture, dignity, respect for diversity, pluralism and deepened democracy, which are fundamentally challenged by the lack of vision of leadership.

Part II
The objective historical narrative of the pre-merger polity, its policies on outsiders, its laws of integration of outside incoming elements into the prevailing social structure and its policies for regulation and control of migrant population


The demand for the introduction of the ILP system or a similar law needs to be understood from the serious issues arising out of the social, economic and cultural crises generated by the dynamics of artificial population pressure on ill-proportionate land and resources and undermined by historical and political changes of the times. Such a law should be in consonance with the understanding of the causal factors of the past, the understanding of the present realities and the need to re-design measures to mitigate current ills in order to assure a peaceful satisfactory future.

The ancient Asiatic kingdom of Manipur had a well-organised monarchical rule. It has a literature and language generated from the interactions of indigenous populations, which recorded the entry of migrants with meticulous care and scrutiny, and devised policies with a view to produce a harmonious, organic, pluralistic social order.

The administration of the pre-colonial past kept extensive records of migrants with their family pedigrees, places of origin and their propensity and skills for appropriate professions, and assimilated them into the social structure with marriage to local women.

There were two types of migrants:

1 those who arrived from the eastern directions (Nongpok Haram): Chinese, Burmese, Shans, Chins and other communities were integrated into Manipur society and formed an essential part of the indigenous population

2 those who arrived from the western directions (Nongchup Haram): Indian Brahmins, Muslims, Bodos, Bengalis and Assamese

Tribal communities from the highland were also absorbed into Manipur society, given appropriate lineages or ‘yumnaks’, and valley maidens were also married to hill chieftains and thus an indigenous social organism based on kinship and blood relations were formed in pre-colonial times.

The ancient state maintained indigenous census records like Meihoubarol (Records of origins of family hearths), Pudin (Amalgamation of ancestors), Sanggai-Phammang (Records of clans and lineages approved by royal authority), Yumdaba Puya (Records of settlement of families) and others.

The conditions had transformed with the colonial takeover and introduction of British imperial administration since 1891. The administration brought in a new social component of the Marwaris, Bengalis and Nepalis as social and military instruments of the imperial and colonial order with new set of governance laws. A form of contestation in the money economy produced a contentious pluralism that increased the dynamics of difference and notions of superiority and inferiority in the colonial structure.



By 1947, the state gave itself three important acts which reflected the dignity, status and civilised world view of the times. The Manipur State Constitution Act of 1947 gave the people of Manipur a constitutional monarchy and a self-government of the people under universal adult franchise. It denoted respecting universal human rights and innovating the modern developmental measures of the plural order, acknowledging double representation of mixed communities in a single constituency, and allowing business and education with a separate non-territorial representation respectively in the Assembly.

The elections held under this constitution in 1948, the second in Asia to adopt a democratic system of government next to the Philippines who became a democracy in 1946. The next enactment of Manipur State Hill Areas Regulation Act of 1947 gave satisfaction to the traditional component of the ancient polity—the Hill communities who had been divorced from a united Manipur administration through the intervention of British, was provided a chance to secure their space in governance, respecting their autonomy and continuance of their customary laws. Thus the free Manipur of 1947 could now re-secure the sense of people and nation, which had been under colonial domination for fifty-six years.

The third law, the Manipur State Naturalisation Act of 1947 made Manipur one of the most advanced democratic systems of government, and this act addressed the subject of incoming migrants to the state and as wont a traditional civilisation, made laws for the assimilation of outsiders to the state, providing appropriate legal documents for their naturalisation as citizens of the State.

On the other hand, the erstwhile districts of colonial Assam as a part of Eastern Bengal had problems of conflicts in trade and ethnic relations owing to the introduction of tea industry and complications of community relations between the tribal communities and the British subjects, namely the Indian populations. This prompted the British Government to design the Inner Line Permit System that became an important regulatory order in 1873. It prevented Indian populations to cross certain linear stipulations in the geography of the tribal-populated areas. Later, it also became an important restrictive instrument for ingress of Indian and other populations for newly formed Indian states like Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

For Manipur, a unique institutional structure was the introduction of a permit or passport system for Indians and other British subjects known as ‘foreigners’, introduced in 1901. They were given a pass to enter Manipur, and get trading or grazing licenses on payment of fees. In 1931, long after the establishment of the Manipur State Durbar, a Foreigner’s Department was formally instituted to look into these cases of ingress of migrants, and the income generated on taxes on them for pursuing professions were helpful to the state exchequer.

Sanjenbam Nodiachand was the Member of the State Durbar, who assiduously took the responsibility of running this department, taking collection of (i) foreigner’s tax, (ii) income tax and (iii) trading license fees etc. After his retirement in 1944, he was succeeded by Mohhamad Walli Ulla, a Meetei-Pangal member of the Durbar till 1947. Sougaijam Somorendra held charge of the department from 13 June 1947, till the system was abolished in 1950 by the Indian Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh.

The contentious merger of Manipur into the union of India suddenly swept away the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural polity. WhenHimmat Singh addressed the Members of the Advisory Council on its first session on 9 October 1950, he mentioned his responsibilities to execute the policies and instructions of the Government of India.

He said:

“Manipur occupies a strategic place of great importance and forms the northeastern gateway of India. In view of that importance, you should constantly bear in mind the vital fact that Manipur is an integral part of the Republic of India. All Manipuris, Meeteis and tribesman alike, should therefore think more in terms of the rights and obligations as an Indian first, and not merely as residents of the small state of Manipur. People of other parts of India can no longer be treated as ‘foreigners’ and discriminatory treatment against them is neither possible nor wise.”

Sagolsem Indramani, one of the members of the 14-member Advisory Council, raised objections to the Chief Commissioner’s order on the day of the next meeting of the Advisory Council on 2 February 1951. Documents and records clearly showed that the Government of India gave permission for the retention of the permit system in Manipur. However, the Chief Commissioner had transgressed certain principles of protocol and committed moral improprieties in cancelling the permit system.

Besides, the Manipur State Naturalisation Act was neither repealed nor amended by subsequent notifications or legislative actions in the post-merger period. This concept of nationality status had not been recognised by the Constitution of India as it acknowledged only linguistic or religious minorities. The values and civilisational status of Manipur nationality had not been recognised by the Indian State.

Today, the government can consider Article 372 of the Constitution of India that deals in the territory of the nation and reintroduce the permit system. It should change the terminologies, delete words like ‘foreigners’ and modernise it to suit local conditions with regards to national and international laws.



Part III
A five-point demand to safeguard and protect indigenous peoples of Manipur: the JCILPS’ justification of the compatibility with the Constitution of India and international law 


After deliberations on the contents of Part I and Part II of the memorandum, the JCILPS hereby lays out the five-point demand to the Government of Manipur for new legislation or legislations to be enacted in order to safeguard and protect the indigenous peoples of Manipur within the frame work of the Constitution of India and the Government of India’s international obligations.





Permit or pass for non-indigenous persons entering into, exiting from and staying in Manipur

At the commencement of this Act, no outsiders who are already settling in the State of Manipur but not earlier than 31 December 1950, shall stay in the State of Manipur unless they themselves get registered in the office of the Director of Registration and availed of a permit under the rules as such applied to the first time entry of outsiders/non-indigenous/non-Manipur person.

A permit or pass holder shall not be entitled to enjoy the voting right of any election conducted under the norms of the Election Commission of India in the State of Manipur. His/her enrolment in the electoral roll shall be considered null and void retrospectively and prospectively.

Persons and institutions to be exempted:

a) Those of Manipur diasporas of indigenous descent settling anywhere can come in or visit to Manipur with their proper identification card without applying for the permit or pass.

b) Those persons from outside the State of Manipur, who are employed in connection with affairs of State and Union Government of India, the students of any educational institutions of the State, or such other persons as may be determined by the State Government from time to time may be exempted from applying for the permit or pass.

c) The ‘Non Indigenous Domicile’ of Manipur who are non-indigenous persons of Manipur but settling in the State of Manipur on or before 31 December 1950 is also exempted from applying for the permit or pass.

d) Neighbouring communities of Manipur affected by conflict, war, humanitarian crisis and natural disaster etc., who have sought refuge in the territory of Manipur after 1 January 1951 shall be exempted with limited rights and entitlements to be decided by the Government of Manipur.

Renewal

a) For the purpose of this Act, the Government of Manipur may establish an office of renewal of the permit or pass in the District Head Quarters and at all entry points of Manipur under the supervision and authority of the Directorate of Registration and assisted by such Renewal Officers.

b) For the purpose of this Section, if the concerned Renewal Officer is satisfied of such application for the renewal of the permit or pass for further extension of time of the permit holders, the Renewal Officers may extend time for the permit or pass with proper fees fixed by the State Government from time to time. The reasons are to be recorded in the
Renewal Register to be maintained by the Renewal Officer and also made available of the details in an accessible public domain, such as an official web site etc.

c) The renewal of permit or pass shall be done after the expiry of the validity period. All non-indigenous persons seeking renewal are required mandatorily to exit from Manipur and re-apply for the permit. All applications of permit or pass renewal should be made after a gap of at least one month.



Cut-off Base Year

a) The cut-off base year for identifying non-indigenous/outsiders/non-
Manipur persons will be 1 January 1951 as it was agreed upon between the Government of Manipur and AMSU and AMSCOC through a Memorandum of Understanding on 22 July 1980 and again on 5 August 1980. The same cut-off base year was further reconfirmed in yet another agreement between AMSU and Government of Manipur in the presence of VK Nayar, the Governor of Manipur on 9 November 1994.

b) On 18 November 1950, the then Chief Commissioner of Manipur,
Himmat Singh abolished the former Permit System to allow non-indigenous persons to enter Manipur. It laid the foundation for present day demographic imbalances and marginalisation of indigenous peoples. The population of Manipur has increased 4.6 times from 1951 to 2011 and the migrant population in Manipur has increased more than 400 times since 1948!

c) The event of giving ourselves a self-fulfilling democratic constitution in 1948 after the departure of the British is a historic timeline for defining our collective peoplehood and recovery of our national identity. The demand for a cut-off base year of 1951 does not contradict India’s aspiration and expression of defining indigeniety at the time of her independence in 1947.



Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Land

a) Enforce restrictions on transfer of land of indigenous peoples of Manipur and ‘Non-Indigenous domicile’ of Manipur to non-indigenous persons. A new provision should be inserted in section 158 of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, which should read “No transfer of land by a person who is a member of the Schedule
Tribes and Indigenous peoples of Manipur and ‘Non-Indigenous Domicile’ to a person who is not a member of Indigenous Peoples of Manipur or ‘Non indigenous domicile’ of Manipur. No land transfer should be made without the consent of members of the indigenous peoples and further, without the previous permission in writing of the Government of Manipur”.

b) For the restriction of land acquisition of indigenous peoples, ensure recognition of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples in appropriate laws related to land acquisition.

c) Formulate a Land Use Policy for Manipur that ensures the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources.

d) Shorten duration of legal lease system in land in order to protect the land rights of indigenous peoples of Manipur. To this effect, the Government of Manipur with consultation of Civil Society should frame appropriate rules.



Labour

a) All workers/labourers having valid identity card (smart card) issued under section 10 (3) of Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, from outside the State of Manipur entering Manipur for work should get themselves registered with the Labour Department of the Government of Manipur.

b) The Department of Labour shall issue permit to all workers who are registered with the department. A separate policy should be framed to register all organized and unorganized workers.

c) Section 2(6) of the Manipur Shops and Establishments Act, 1972 may be amended by the Manipur Legislative Assembly. Under Section 2(6) of the Act, insert the word ‘employee’ meaning a person ‘having valid identity card (smart card) issued under section 10 (3) of Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008’.



Detection and Deportation

a) The Government of Manipur should commence the process of identification, detection and registration of non-indigenous people in Manipur based on the cut off year of 1951, as also agreed in the MOU signed earlier between the Government of Manipur and the All Manipur Students Union and All Manipur Students Co-Coordinating Committee on 22 July 1980, reaffirmed by that of 9 November 1994 and also based on the principle established under the definition of indigenous peoples of Manipur.

b) To facilitate identification/detection of non-indigenous persons and subsequent registration under provision of subsequent Acts and Rules, a Committee shall be constituted by the Government of Manipur in consultation with the Civil Society. Civil Society should be incorporated within the Committee.

C) All non-indigenous persons identified based on cut off year will be registered and if any foreign nationals are detected, they shall be deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946, with subsequent modifications and developments.

Conclusion

With all these issues raised in this memorandum, the Government of Manipur is requested to kindly act swiftly and judiciously and enact a historic legislation or legislations to curve the uncontrolled explosion of outsider populations in order to safeguard and protect the indigenous peoples of Manipur. From a layman’s point of view, if the unchecked migrant population of less than 3000 in 1948 could reach ten-odd lakhs today in 2015, in the next 70 years the number would reach a whopping 40 crore! (at the gross calculation of 400 times increase from the current population) We the present generation is responsible for the fate of the future generation.

The JCILPS also would like to press the Government of Manipur to honour the sacrifices of young students like Potshangbam Lukhoi, Huidrom Loken and Sapam Robinhood as well as thousands of men, women and youths who have suffered to make our people aware of the enormity of the crisis. We would like the government and the civil society to do everything in their capacity to respect them, remember them with fitting memorials.

We also request the government to bring an early solution to the issues raised by the JCILPS on behalf of the People of Manipur, so as to bring justice and restore dignity to our land and people. Thereby, we can face the future together in amity and co-operation.

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