Negotiated endorsement of ILPS Bills is a must

There is always the first time for everything, such as O Nabakishore – the first Meitei IAS officer on merit, has become the first Meitei Chief Secretary of Manipur. It’s history. Likewise, there must be the first Inner Line Permit System for Manipur.

While all is quiet on the Meitei JCILPS front, since hearing the distant drums of Khongsais on the warpath at Churachandpur, it is a reminder to all Manipuris that after due discussion, the ILPS Bills must be approved by every community that has attachment to and recognises Manipur as its homeland.

The ILPS is for the benefit of all communities in Manipur. However, if it is going to do some harm to any community, then it would be defeating the purpose.

It seems, prima facie, that it would be the case with the fury of the Khongsai uprising at Churachandpur that cost the precious lives of nine people including a child. However, the JCILPS and the Government of Manipur are assuring that the three Bills will not be detriment to tribal peoples’ interests.

What is going on then? Have the leaders of the insurrection read the bills? If so, they should point out what are the clauses they find unacceptable, and present their objections to the Government of Manipur, considering that the three Bills were passed with ‘yes’ votes from tribal legislatures including the Dy C M Gaikhangam – the most prominent Kabui retail politician of our time.

The ILPS should not be instituted at the expense of Khongsais or any other tribe, and by the same token, it should not be annulled at the cost of Meiteis, as they are the community that will bear the brunt of mass migration from outside Manipur’s boundary.

The sacrifice of a young Meitei boy’s life and sufferings of many Meiteis and other communities in the Valley, to force the government to pass the Bills will not be wasted by Meiteis, but the bills should be amended if required, to satisfy other communities.

Manipur police, very sadly, used live bullets at Churachandpur, not because they are tribals but for the seriousness of the crime, to prevent further arson when 8 houses of 6 MLAs, health minister and Zomi Revolutionary Organisation president, were burnt down by the mob. They would have done the same In Imphal if such wanton destruction and damage to properties had been caused.

The damage is already done. What now – if the two broad majority communities – Meiteis and Khongsais are at loggerheads about the Bills? They have to sit down together along with the government machinery to come to an amicable settlement as the existence of ILPS is not negotiable for Meiteis.

Khongsai community is only cited as it is one that is opposing the Bills though no doubt, Tangkhuls and Kabuis will sympathise with them. One Khongsai lady reportedly said “Meiteis are trying to send back many of our families that have long settled here”. If that is true, it is definitely a serious cause for dissent. It will be like the same Muslim community divided by the LOC In Kashmir.

The C M of Mizoram who made some disruptive remarks had a lot left to be desired. He thought he would fire a pre-emptive shot across the bow to warn of his inconvenience with the possible but not probable return of many migrants of his kindred tribes of Zomis and Hmars.

Tangkhuls and Kabuis are not sitting idly, but watching with masterly inactivity, sitting on the fence, as their game plan is concerned only with geography and space that they can take with them to join Nagaland, and saying to hell with Meiteis and Khongsais.

The attempt of the UNC (Tangkhuls/Kabuis), trying to meet the recent envoy to Churachandpur from Delhi, on its own is animation of their separate journey. The statement of Seilen Haokip – spokesman for Kuki National Organisations, in an interview by Sashikumar, Special Investigations, CBN-IBN on April 23 2015, implies a similar Kuki political agenda: “I agree with you there are competing histories – the Nagas have different historical outlook on the Kuki issue and the Kukis have different outlook on Naga issues, and in a sense that is inevitable.”

As aired on the state media recently by a few apex tribal spokespersons from inside and outside Manipur that the split between the tribals and Meiteis in Manipur is widening, may be true. But it is from the tribal point of view and not from the Meitei side. On the contrary, Meiteis have been trying to narrow the chasm since Independence.

The of-repeated horrific adjective “communal” given to Meiteis, in its narrow sense, is rather stale now. In its significance, it is now the thin edge of the wedge as the truth has whittled it down. Not telling the truth is not lying, but the former is despicable and the latter is pitiful.

In a broad sense, it is only natural that every tribal community is communal. Because a tribe consists of several clans, forming a community that shares certain attitudes and interests, which they jealously guard. It is a distinct people dependent on their land for their livelihood.

There is nothing new in Meiteis being communal. So are the Khongais, Kabuis, Tangkhuls, Marings, Maos, Marams, Thangals and Koirengs. In fact, it is the tribals themelves that are more communal.

From historical times, Meiteis being a large tribe, it casts a bigger shadow. Likewise in Britain, the English with a larger population may look more communal than the Scots, Wales and Iris.

The only thing new for Meiteis is the broadening up in their outlook by bursting at the seams of their communal isolation for a peaceful existence with other primordial communities in equal terms. They have been trying to red line the word ‘communal’ from history books.

Anti- Meitei nuances of the tribal communities in Manipur accrued from the advanced Meitei culture and prosperity, not just after Independence but for centuries, and that Meiteis have been keeping Manipur as a country intact, defending it from foreign invasions until the British occupation. Even then, British kept Manipur in status quo as a former sovereign independent country, though linked to Assam for administrative expediency.

Separatist tribal leaders have spent more energy in their political objectives, rather than focussing on activities that may give them one step ahead of Meiteis, using various quotas and reservations that will not last forever.

I also support some Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe status, not because of grasping a share of reservation quotas but for bringing Meiteis into the tribal fold so as to create a common large platform of Pan-Northeast Indians of Oriental origin, for bargaining power.

All that said as a preamble, may sound to some as convenient truth for Meiteis. If that is, so be it. My main body of discussion is not about the splenetic divergent political aspirations but to interpret my own understanding of what the results of my observation show and present arguments surrounding this issue of ILPS.

In the present context, the ILPS is a necessity for Meiteis in particular, and the whole Manipur in general. From what I understand it appears that Khongsais have a lot to lose out.

Khongsais consist of many subtribes, Kukis being the biggest, with a fairly large recent migrants from neighbouring Burma and Lushai Hills. If extradition is the main reason for worry, it can be deliberated upon across the table. We need to find a happy medium.

As to the thorny topic of having separate administrative units for Meiteis and tribals, jumping on to the bandwagon of ILPS Bill saga, it is of course worth a try. Only the time will tell its futility.

I doubt if the three major tribal communities – Tangkhuls, Kukis and Kabuis can exist in harmony as Kukis claim large chunks of land in the interiors of Ukhrul and Tamenglong (KNO – Sl No.2&3 – MoU), and considering the “Lingering Memory of Ethnic Violence [Tangkhuls & Kukis] – Huffington Post – September 13 2013” -(…/a-lingering-memory_b_3916637.html). While the Kukis will fight to be Indians (TSE 30 8 2015) the Tangkhuls will fight not to be Indians (NSCN-IM).

To conclude, my submission is Meiteis are the best there is for cementing vertical relationships between the communities. The tribal communities have spent years forming and sharing ideas and it’s time they think of a cut-off point to go on hiatus to retool and rebuild themselves from inside out as Manipuris. Remember, Manipuri Mao Nagas were thrown out of Kohima.

It’s time to move on from internecine conflict to conciliation. The longer it is, the longer is the stay of AFSPA. And the iron lady Irom Sharmila will die of old age rather than from tube-fed hunger strike.

“I think, therefore I am”. The proposition means whatever I have said necessarily is true of my mind. I am an ancient Meitei, living in a foreign land but with the same old ethos and sweet memories of boys and girls I grew up with, and pleasant friendships with non-Christian Kabuis, and Christian Tangkhuls and Kukis.

Let’s endorse the Bill of ILPS and get it done and dusted as an Act.

The writer is based in the UK