Why is Manipur Burning?Concerned about being swamped by Ã¢â¬Ëoutsiders,Ã¢â¬â¢ Manipuris have been demanding that the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system, currently in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, should be extended to their state too. The ILP required Indian citizens from any other state, as well as foreign nationals, to get a permit for visiting these states and a tourist IPL is given for 15 days. Work permits are given for 6 months. Citing figures from the 2001 Census, agitators say that if the ILP is not enforced in Manipur, the local people would soon become a minority in their own state. A schoolboy, Sapam Robinhood, was killed in the melee that followed when agitators clashed with the police in July. Although the Manipur assembly adopted a resolution on July 13, 2012 for implementation of ILP in the state and the chief minister wrote to the Central government requesting the same, it was rejected by the Union home ministry. The Manipuris often say that this is discrimination as neighbouring states have ILP precisely for the same reasons that they are demanding. As per 2001 Census, the Meiteis, the majority indigenous people in the state number 7.51 lakhs, just a few thousand more than the migrant population of 7.04 lakhs. This has raised fears that all trade and jobs will be cornered by these Ã¢â¬Ëoutsiders.Ã¢â¬â¢ Land ownership issues are also being raised. Even as the agitation was going on, the Manipur assembly passed three bills, The Protection of Manipur People Bill, The Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill, and The Manipur Shops and Establishments (2nd Amendment) Bill, ostensibly to protect the rights and interests of the hill tribes in the five hill districts of the state. But it had the opposite effect. Everyone in the state, including the hill tribes, denounced the bills as not providing enough protection and the agitation has intensified. The main point of contention is the cut-off of 1951 to identify Ã¢â¬Ëoutsiders. It is also contended that the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill dilutes the tribalsÃ¢â¬â¢ right to their ancestral land. On scrutiny this contention is specious as the bill seeks to regulate sale of tribal land to non-Manipuris. On paper, any country has to accord freedom of movement, residence and business to all its citizens all over the country. This is guaranteed by the Constitution. But in reality, this freedom is often curtailed by various considerations. On paper again, the Manipuri demand of extension of ILP is also reasonable given that both states bordering it Ã¢â¬" Nagaland and Mizoram Ã¢â¬" have it. But there are several factors that go against it. As some of the alleged Ã¢â¬ËoutsidersÃ¢â¬â¢ have been living in Manipur for more than three generations and have contributed to the development of the state through their business acumen and industrious efforts, what will become of them? Those agitating should realize that demand often precedes supply. Apart from the three generation settlers, most of the other Ã¢â¬ËoutsidersÃ¢â¬â¢ are migrant labour engaged in low end jobs. Since indigenous people were not open to accepting these jobs, there was an influx of labour from Bihar and UP. As work has to go on, the labour market has its own matrix. It sources people from anywhere to get the job done. If the local people had filled the vacancies, the problem would not have arisen. After all, no one likes to go 1500 kilometres to do a low end job. If these people are now subjected to violence and are forced to leave, without the vacuum being filled by indigenous people, how will Manipur develop? There will also be a flight of capital from the state as businessmen will think of investing elsewhere. Further, there is the question of backlash across India. This backlash will be faced by all people from the North-East as Indians everywhere as it is treat them as Ã¢â¬Ëforeigners,Ã¢â¬â¢ let alone making a distinction between a Manipuri and a Naga. Already, Pappu Yadav has issued an ultimatum that if Biharis are forced to flee Manipur, he will ensure that Manipuris are taken off trains passing through Bihar and sent back to their state. A balance needs to be struck between the protection the state should provide to indigenous people and the right of other Indians to own land, reside or work in such states.
By Sunil Garodia