Call for Dialogue on the Manipur People Protection Bill 2015

Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)

In response to the years long movement demanding implementation of an Inner Line Permit System in Manipur, the Government of Manipur recently passed three bills; the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Amendment Bill 2015, and the Manipur Shops and Establishments Bill 2015. These bills have been achieved after prolonged struggle that have affected most of the people (in Manipur) in some way or the other such as heavy repressions, casualties, arrests, riots, destructions of properties and obstructions to the normal functioning of democratic order.

Some sections of the population, however, have expressed dissatisfaction to the bills. The hard core pro ILP Sections felt that their demands have not been fully fulfilled by these bills. They considered that the Government still enjoys the power to sell land to the outsiders. Economically powerful outsiders can still buy land, if they are being favoured by those who are with the administration. There is no clear cut provision on the protection of the local labour and professionals, as outsider employees are exempted from the permit system. Whereas registered local entrepreneurs who fail to get their employees registered had to be penalised, there is no penalty against outsiders who would violate the provisions of the bills, such as entry without a valid pass or who fail to get their name registered in the concerned Directorate. There is also no provision on the detection of the landowner outsiders and corresponding actions to be taken up against them.

The bills have been openly opposed by the ‘tribal’ organisations, who claimed control of the Manipur Hill districts, particularly those of the Kuki Chin Mizo communities. They started feeling insecure as many of them, either those who probably immigrated to Manipur after 1951 or whose lineages may not be found in the list criteria mentioned in the Bills, could be legally treated as outsiders and lose their landed rights. The other tribes have also expressed the similar concern. While trying to project the bills as pro-Meetei, they fail to see that no one who come after 1951 is exempted from the permit system, including some sections of the Meeteis and others who came to Manipur after 1951. What they have argued is that the cut-off base year 1951, to detect outsiders, would be redundant in regards to those settled immigrants after 1951 who have close ethnic ties with the one or the other ‘indigenous’ community. However, this insecurity interplayed with the propaganda that the Manipur Land Revenue and Reform Act 1960 have been extended to the hill districts, which is untrue as there is no amendment in the territorial extent of the said Act.

The resentment against the bills, which have affected Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh towns and other hill areas could not have been escalated into the present scale of unrest, had the Government of Manipur consulted the Hill Areas Committee or other responsible ‘tribal’ organisations to resolve any misunderstanding before passing the bills. The Government of Manipur had been lacking transparent in this regards; to the extent that these bills had not been made officially public till date. On the other-hand there has been inherent sectarianism of the civil societies that are either in favour of or against these bills. Neither the organisation that had led the ILP movement nor the tribal organisations who protest the bills had approached one another for a dialogue and understanding in this regards. From the beginning the ILP movement was mostly confined in the Valley Districts, while those in the Hills have isolated themselves from the movement thinking that they have been protected from outsiders under the existing laws. There were avoidable conflicts had these organisations had pursued for democratic solution to any of the complex issues. Now, when tensions have been spread due to misunderstanding and absence of dialogue, there seem to be roles of certain vested political groups to add fuel to the fire to topple down the incumbent congress ministry through the imposition of President Rule.

Our concern, however, is that all these unrests, rioting and repression has led to heavy toll and casualty on the civilians, destruction of properties and communal mistrusts. The common peoples are the losers in this conflict; as we know, the elite will negotiate at the negotiation table and share any form of loot from the public fund. We question: what are these bills that have caused dissatisfactions and misunderstandings to different sections of the population? Is there no room to either clarify the misunderstanding or add some clauses in the bills to resolve the immediate tension? Can the ‘indigenous insiders’ protect themselves from outsiders without promoting mutual trust, respect and co-operation amongst themselves? What the people need to realise is that they are trapped by the same fate of political betrayal and marginalisation. Unless they fight collectively on the basis of mutual respect and consensus, they are the losers. We, therefore, call for a dialogue among the civil society organisations, political parties, and other stake holders on the Manipur People Protection Bill 2015 and the amendment in other two bills.

2nd September 2015

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