The need of the time is to be very, very clear on where Manipur stands on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). On the one hand, some Ministers from the BJP stable have gone on record to state that there is nothing inimical in the CAB which can pose a threat to the State and the people while at the other end of the spectrum there is Chief Minister N Biren who has been maintaining that the Centre would be urged to insert a clause that would protect the interests of Manipur and the North East. Interesting to note too that a spokesman of the State BJP had even gone to the extent of stating that the seeds of CAB or something along this line were sown by the Congress, thereby crediting the oldest political party in the country with coming out with the idea of offering sanctuary to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Christians who have fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan due to religious persecution. Even as different tongues have wagged to give their own personal understanding of CAB by virtue of being Ministers, came a sort of a bomb shell from Union Home Minister Amit Shah when he conveniently overlooked to invite CSOs from Manipur, particularly Manipur People Against CAB (MANPAC) to a discussion session on the said Bill in New Delhi. True to his avatar of being the modern day Chanakya of Indian politics, Amit Shah laid down that CAB will not be imposed in States with the Inner Line Permit System and where the 6th Schedule is in force. In other words the proposed legislation will not be enforced in States where special provisions for administration of tribal areas are in force. In one stroke, the entire North East then stands to be divided along States where the people belong to the ST group and the rest where they belong to the general category.
Some may take comfort in the fact that the State Assembly has already passed the Manipur People Bill which is awaiting a nod from the President of India. It should however be clear to all that the Manipur People Bill is a legislation of the State Government and is not the ILPS in any way. At best it is another mechanism to regulate the inflow of non-local people into Manipur and at worst it may be taken as just another Bill passed by a State Assembly. So if what Amit Shah has had to say stands the test of time, then the valley of Manipur will be exposed when the door is flung open thanks to the CAB, because it is not covered by the ILPS and the 6th Schedule is nowhere in sight. In short the Meiteis belong to the general category, Other Backward Class (OBC) and this is perhaps where the demand raised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, begs a relook and a reconsideration. Once declared as belonging to the ST status, then it should not be too much of a problem to enforce the ILPS in Manipur. Administration of tribal areas under the 6th Schedule or the demand for 6th Schedule for any particular part of the State will also evaporate. This line of argument may be studied seriously without the baggages of one’s own ideological moorings clouding the issue at hand.