A critique of the Manipur ILP Guidelines 2019

Dr Malem Ningthouja
On 31st December, 2019 the Government of Manipur issued a Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019. The Guidelines was issued to comply with a promise of Chief Minister N. Biren to implement an Inner Line Permit System in Manipur before the onset of the year 2020. The Chief Minister could announce the promise as he was possibly confident by a notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs, dated 11th December, 2019, that notified Adoption of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019 that extended Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 to Manipur.
A chunk of population in Manipur celebrated the occasion. They celebrated because the President of India, on 12th December, 2019, gave an assent to Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. According to a provision of the Act, there is an exemption of the Amendment into those regions where Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 have been enforced. The decision of the Government of India to enforce such an exemption was conditioned by a consistent and intense agitation in Manipur and other parts of Northeast opposing CAA. The agitation was motivated by a widespread apprehension of a demographic invasion by a vast chunk of population. It is, therefore, quite natural that many in Manipur would organize celebration when Manipur was exempted from CAA in consequence of the extension of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation.
In Manipur, popular movement to protect indigenous rights has been consistent for many years. It demanded enforcement of an Inner Line Permit System or enactment of a law similar to it. When the Government of India, in due recognition of popular sentiments, notified a list of the regions that would be exempted from CAA 2019, Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 was extended to Manipur. Subsequently, Manipur Inner Line Permit Guideline, 2019 was published. However, it remains to be answered if the Guidelines will certainly protect the indigenous people of Manipur.
Will it adequately address the specific popular demands to protect and promote indigenous people?
The demands are: (1) to have a regulatory mechanism to stop unrestrained inflow of outsiders, (2) to prevent outsiders from owning land, (3) to prevent outsiders from owning buildings and immovable properties, (4) to prevent outsiders from becoming permanent citizens and enjoying voting rights, (5) to create a base year so that anyone entering into Manipur after the base year may be identified and deported, and so on. A serious reading of Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines 2019 reveals that there are many issues that contradict the demand to protect and promote indigenous people. The issues are being pointed out as follows.
(1) Definition Exemption: It is mandatory to have a proper definition in order to determine what constitutes indigenous people and permanent residents in Manipur. In order to identify indigenous and permanent residents, it is essential to have a base year. This question arises as the Guidelines exempt indigenous people and permanent residents from ILP, though it misses out definitions of the terms. Who are the permanent residents? Can it mean anyone who may obtain a certificate issued by government for that purpose? A base year is essential to detect and identity either indigenous people or permanent residents. Will the base year be 1951 as demanded by many, or will it be 1971, or which year? Due to the silence on definitions and a base year, the Guidelines have added to the confusion about who should be required to possess an ILP card to enter and live in Manipur. It also creates a condition where a person who enter Manipur by obtaining an ILP card can identify himself with a permanent resident status through different means, and, subsequently escapes from the necessity of obtaining an ILP card.
(2) Ownership: Protection and promotion of indigenous rights require that indigenous people exercise ownership over their homeland, land, buildings, immovable properties, natural resources, and markets. The Guidelines do not include a provision that prevents outsiders from owning the above items. Although the principle Act of 1873 mentions prevention of outsiders from enjoying ownership over land, the Guidelines fail to mention this issue.
Such a silence appears to be deliberate and meant to authorize outsiders to own the above items. There are probabilities that those who obtain Special Category Permit—rich, politically influential, powerful—and who have accumulative interest to exploit the economy of Manipur will enjoy absolute control and monopoly of Manipur. There is a need to insert a clause, in the spirit of the principle of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 to serve the interest of the indigenous people of Manipur. It may be inserted as follows; “It shall not be lawful for any non-indigenous person or companies or firms or enterprises or banks or finance institutions owned by outsiders, to acquire any interest in land, buildings or immovable properties, the product of land beyond, and voting rights within the “inner line” of Manipur without the sanction of the Government of Manipur, who in turn can sanction such a permission only after fulfilling due process of law which shall be preceded by the free prior informed consent of the indigenous people.”
(3) Voting rights: Even when there is a law that prevents outsiders from owning land, buildings, immovable properties, natural resources, and market; it is difficult to prevent the pressure of outsiders if they play dominant role in making political decision and administration. To prevent from political domination by outsiders, there has to be restriction on granting of voting rights.
When outsiders are granted voting rights, in the first phase they are being used as vote bank in local electoral politics. It subsequently strengthened their permanent rooting and political influence. In the second phase, when the demography of outsiders increased tremendously, it interplayed with their political and economic power in exerting further monopoly. When they could use voting rights to exert influence in politics and administration, the effectiveness of ILP system will become a natural death. It is due to the enjoyment of voting rights that, today, in many pockets of Manipur, outsiders are playing pro-active role in electoral politics, expanding residential settlements, and playing interventions in political decision making and administration.
It is necessary for us to realize that the aggravating situation has been the result of the ploy of a powerful section of the self-centred and opportunist clique who has no vision for a glorious future of indigenous people. One must avoid from repeating the same mistake.
(4) Exemption Illegal immigrants: Clause 16 of ILP Guidelines stipulates, “these regulations and Guidelines shall not apply to foreigners who shall be regulated and governed by… the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950 and subsequent amendments.” This matter cannot be taken lightly. Because, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs notifications, dated 7th September, 2015, and 18th July 2016, entry without any restriction has been offered to persons belonging to minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014. For us, it will be difficult to verify any one would enter into Manipur on the basis of the above claims. Those verified immigrants can enter without an ILP card. If they will settle in Manipur, in the long run they will pose serious threats to the economy, politics, culture and demography of the indigenous people.
(To be contd)