Agitation intensifies in Manipur

Agitation intensifies in Manipur for and against 3 anti-migrant bills 

Imphal, May 31 (IANS) As Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh prepares to lead a delegation to New Delhi to muster support for three anti-migrant bills passed by the assembly, those opposed to the proposed laws said they will intensify their agitation.

There will be sit-in protests and prayers in churches on June 9 and a 12-hour shutdown in the tribal-dominated areas on June 26 to mark the 300th day of the agitation, said tribal organisations.

The organisations are appealing to all tribals in Manipur to fly black flags on their homes as a mark of protest and continue to do so till the matter is resolved.

The Manipur Tribals Forum (MTF) has for many months been protesting in New Delhi against the three Bills and the death of nine young protesters last September in Churachandpur district of the state.

The tribal organisations have not yet claimed the nine that have been lying in a morgue all these months.

Also, early last week, four legislators of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi to “act against the heartless Ibobi Singh government and reject the three anti-hill area bills the Congress government passed in the assembly on August 31 last year.”

The agitation in support of the Bills, on the other hand, has already led to the state government ordering all schools and colleges to close down for three days starting Tuesday.

The state government said that a delegation of all political parties headed by Ibobi Singh will visit New Delhi on June 3 to discuss the matter with President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh.

The Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), which spearheads the movement for legislation to protect the indigenous population from migrants, announced its own shutdown against the delay in enactment of the three Bills.

JCILPS Convener Khomdram Ratan said, “All state and central government offices will be closed down from June 1 for three days.”

The JCILPS demands an inner line permit (ILP) system for Manipur which has been encapsulated in the three anti-migrant bills passed by the Manipur assembly that now await presidential assent.

The ILP is a special permit required to enter certain restricted areas in the country. The system is already in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

It was first introduced by the British, restricting entry into these areas to protect their commercial interests.

Acceding to the demand of JCILPS, the Congress government in Manipur had last year passed three Bills to protect the indigenous people inhabiting the valley districts of the state.

They were: The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015 and The Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015,

The first of these Bills proposes to issue a “pass” to any “non-Manipur person” while entering the state.

The Bills have been strongly opposed by tribals, particularly Nagas, who mainly inhabit the hill districts of Manipur.

There is thus a clear ‘hills versus valley’ divide in Manipur with regard to the issue.

The demand for the ILP has to do with the fear that outsiders are steadily migrating to the valley districts.

Many Meiteis, who have dominant presence in the valley district, give the example of Bishnupur, which has a large number of North Indian population.

The land in the hill districts of Manipur, on the other hand, is protected by the third schedule of the Constitution.

Any ‘outsider,’ including the people of the valley area wishing to buy land in the hill districts, needs the permission of the Hill Area Committee (HAC).

Those in the hill areas, however, can buy land in the Meitei-dominated valley districts.

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