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The Irony of the Importance of Procedure in Enforcing Inner Line Permit System in Manipur


Recently an all-party meeting in the Manipur assembly—after emphasising on the need for procedural understanding—has decided to send a delegation to New Delhi on 16 May to have a word with the prime minister and president of India over the Inner Line Permit issue





Background

Just a year before I started going to DM College of Arts in Imphal, the academic duration for bachelor’s degree or TDC (three-year degree course), as it was then known more popularly, had been restricted to three years. Earlier it was just for the namesake as the TDC was in reality an FDC, which can last up to four or even five years. I can remember no particular reason for the extra year/s except that we live in a strange world. However, in another corner there was also a new development, not necessarily in terms of growth.

In those days the cultural and moral police along with some of the non-state actors had imposed school and college uniforms. We know it was extralegal but there was no option but to give into the diktat and apparently the imposition, it was assumed, had been for a common good. None of us would be able to define the meaning of common good but that was not important. In our neighbourhood, might is power and power is the ability to take the law into our hands; the more forceful it is grabbed the more the authority.

An argument over the last few days on the current agitation over the introduction of Inner Line Permit System reminded me of this college tale. Led by a few spineless elected representatives, their contention is on the necessity of following procedures, especially for a legislation that would require the union’s approval. To begin with, the agitation created havoc for months in 2015 over the same issue. After paying some lip service months ago they got away and until a few days ago they were like a dumb tortoise when the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) made a stand about restarting its agitation, which has began already with a public curfew followed by street protests in the capital town.   

Still worse, the government has shown its utter incompetency as evident from the issue of nine dead bodies that have been lying in a mortuary in Churachandpur for the last eight months. Eight months, that’s correct. Let’s not even go into the detail of the counter-protest in this district. Just for a clarification there is no question of usurping others’ property; neither is it an issue of xenophobia.

Leave alone the living people, there is no dignity for dead people in our land except maybe in those ritualistic and nauseating fish feasts in their names and floral tributes that reek of scum produced by our listless collective life.

Foreground

Coming back to our points, the pro-procedures put forward their points as if those are the truest things on the earth. Well, the issue broke open when the JCILPS declared that outsiders’ name should be deleted from the electoral list and that they should not be allowed to contest election. The committee has several reasons why it has come up with such a declaration and it makes some sense considering the ongoing and looming crises of indigenous societies in this part of the world. It is a pity that our MLAs and would-be MLAs cannot even enjoy the privilege of vote-bank politics, which is quite a common feature of democracy in Northeast India and now they have been compelled to call for an all political-party meeting.

If we go by the book, any Indian residing in any part of India can cast their votes and stand for election from any part of the country, provided they are enlisted in the voters’ list of that place. Our concerned representatives are worried that we cannot go against such a constitutional provision. We are ‘convinced’ because all these years, with our annual sets of demands and protests, these people have been compelled to go to New Delhi willy-nilly time and again, yet never have they been able to take the masters into their confidence. Out of the several reasons on why they are so dumb and unconvincing is the fact that they live like a hopeless rent collector for the union.

As a kneejerk response to the latest salvo from the JCILPS, the ruling government has formed an all political-party delegation and the representatives are going to meet the president and prime minister of India next Monday (16 May). Their main agenda is, in their own words, to insist the two heads of the union to approve the three bills: the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (2nd Amendment) Bill 2015.

If they care about procedural matters, why have not they debate on these three bills last year? Too late and too little, now these have already become a bone of contention between the Meiteis and Kukis and with the Nagas up to some extent. The blabbering on procedural matters is nothing but a means to cover up their stupidity and sheer apathy to the voice of the people.

It is noteworthy that the constitutional provisions are not written on stones, meaning they are not fixed but can be changed and amended. For the sake of argument, on one hand, any person of Indian nationality can own and buy land in any part of the country. On the other, besides the others, the valley dwellers in Manipur are not allowed to own/buy land in the hills. That’s also a constitutional provision. If procedural steps are implied to mean legislative processes, paperwork, deliberations, contestations and the likes, then it is their job to work on those areas. They are made representatives not to whine but to look into those kinds of issues with certain discernment.

In the End

Ideally, I would not stand for a demand for some legacies of colonial laws that are now a part of legal provisions under the Indian Constitution. But idealism is too weak to compete with realpolitik that fashions our existence as well as our relationship with the society. Yet it will be too much of an exaggeration if we are behaving like we are loyal to the law of the land. For instance, a group of us, in our typical mob style, can help the locals excommunicate your family even if without evidence, we consider you are a parasite—and we are talking about procedures.

Now, college days have been over a long time ago; while in our personal and political lives, the miseries continue unabated. As we have in our local expression to mean a state of mess, the food is all mixed up with shit presently. It is only hoped that we can separate and deal with each issue, one by one, informed by our will and initiative. To conclude, nothing is above our collective aspiration.
   
—Concluded.

RELATED WRITE-UPS (IN AN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

. An Account on the Present Status of ILP Movement in Manipur
. Blame Game People Play
. Enforce Inner Line Permit System in Manipur
. Indigenous Labour Pain
. A Shortened Version of the Memorandum on the Inner Line Permit System Submitted by JCILPS to the Chief Minister




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