FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
IMPHAL July 12: Much to the chagrin of the Congress ministry headed by Okram Ibobi, the spontaneous and ubiquitous campaign for introduction of Inner Line Permit in Manipur is getting stronger by the day.
However the campaign is not affecting the hill districts domited by tribals, since there is a constitutiol guarantee saying that non tribals cannot own land there.
Realising that migrant workers will swamp them sooner than later, the people of the valley areas have been demanding the implementation of ILP. In fact, there is a strong case for its re-implementation since there was ILP in Manipur vide Regulation, 1873 enforced in Manipur then. However a bureaucrat, Himayant Singh, the then chief commissioner, abolished it on November 18, 1950 at express instructions of the Central government.
Since then the floodgates had been opened and the population of migrant workers increased manifold.
In 1606, King Khagemba brought 1000 Muslims from Cachar and entrusted them with the task of making guns for the royal troops. Nepalis were also conscripted in the Assam Rifles. Since Manipur is an easy and attractive place, most of them elected to stay back after retirement. In 1946, the king’s court gave permission for the construction of homes for 64 Nepali ex-armymen.
Activists say that there are over 3,00,000 Nepalis in Manipur. Some years back, one Nepali politician, Kishore Thapa was elected.
According to the 2001 census, Manipur had 22,93,896 population. The majority community, the Meiteis numbered 7,51,422 whereas migrant workers numbered 7,04,488, which was much more than all other tribes put together who numbered just 670,782. The Muslims who have been in Manipur since 1606, numbered just 1,67,204. The population of the state shot up to 27,21,756 in 2011 census. The terrified government has been uble to release the community-wise breakup of population since it is an accepted fact that the migrant workers now outnumber the Meiteis too.
Despite police brutalities, the students’ wing of the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System, contunue to pose a law and order problem. The government had to capitulate by taking a cabinet decision on July 12, 2012, an Assembly resolution on July 13, 2012 and writing a letter to the Centre on August 3, 2012. But the Centre silenced Chief Minister Okram Ibobi by telling him that the ILP cannot be implemented in Manipr. He could not ask the haughty ministers why Manipur should be subjected to discrimition since it has been enforced in galand, Mizoram and Aruchal Pradesh.
The Manipur government invited leaders of all political parties to examine the draft of the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tents and Migrant Workers Bill 2015. Later it was passed in March this year in the House. However the NCP MLA Ibomcha Laisom says that Ibobi had changed the draft with the help of three senior officials whose identity is known to him. The draft of the Bill is not the one which was approved by the political parties. Chaoba Thouojam, the Manipur unit BJP president verified it saying that because of the underhand act of the government, his party had later staged a walkout from the meetings. Now people say that the Bill is intended to protect the migrant workers rather than the indigenous people. It is a shame that the Chief Minister should take the people as fools. The JCILPS has been spearheading a well choreographed campaign demanding introduction of another Bill with more teeth in the interest of the indigenous people.
On July 8 police shot dead a student, Sapam Robinhood. However over 150 persons were treated with injuries. But then some policemen were also injured when processionists attacked them with stones and slingshots. Family members and activists are not claiming the body of the boy, which is causing headache to the government. Meanwhile the doctored Bill which was hastily passed, was returned by the Governor without giving his assent.
Defying curfew the people are staging sit in protests, taking out torchlight processions, raiding the residences of elected members whom they have asked to resign since they have failed. All available state and central forces have failed to stem the rot. People are taking to the streets from morning to night by these activists who have converted the curfew to a general strike.
When some girls were raped and murdered allegedly by some personnel and the ceasefire with the NSCN(IM) was extended “without territorial limits” the agitating people could not be controlled. The state and the central government had to back out. History is repeated and the government is in fix now. In retaliation to the imposition of curfew the activists had announced a five day public curfew against the migrants and they are not venuring out for their own safety. Some activists have warned that if the govrnment continues to sleep over the ILP issue the public curfew may be extended indefinitely. 12 women had created world history by staging a nude protest in front of the 17 Assam Rifles protesting against the alleged gang rape and murder of a girl. Some youths have started taking out processions in nude and the situation is fast getting out of control. Normal life is disrupted and the centre is watching silently.