We are glad that the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) chose to raise the issue of Inner Line Permit system on the occasion of 42nd Meekap Thokpa Numit on April 17. The organisation had been observing the day in respect of two students who laid down their lives in the anti-foreigner movement of the 1980s.
In fact, the movement was against illegal migrants not only from Bangladesh or Myanmar but also migrants from other parts of the country. Illegal migration was indeed a menace in those days and alarm bells were sounded when Jiribam was swamped with Bangladeshi migrants then.
Just as Tripura was swept by illegal migrants Jiribam constituency is now represented by a Muslim since the last term. The state is thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for extending the Inner Line Permit system (ILP) to Manipur. The Inner Line Permit System was extended in Manipur on December 11, 2019 under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 after an unprecedented announcement in Parliament by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the wake of protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in the Northeast region.
Manipuris had for decades been demanding a regulation to check the entry of migrants from neighbouring states and the mainland, and well, a constitutional safeguard for the indigenous population of the state particularly the Meiteis.
Manipur was very particular about the entry and exit of outsiders since the times of Kings and it used to maintain a strict registry of any outsider entering the state or any local leaving the state. Yes, a type of census was regularly carried out, as evidenced in our chronicles like Langthaballon and Sangai Phammang.
Before merger, there was a pass system to regulate the entry of outsiders in the state but it was abolished on November 18, 1950 by the then Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh. In the recent anti-outsider stir, the consensus was not on the introduction of ILP alone as demanded by a section of the society.
The responsibility to carry forward the movement for protection of indigenous rights from the onslaught of non-locals was, of course, handed over to the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) which was formed on July 4, 2012. It followed private member resolutions in the Manipur legislative assembly, one of them brought about by the late MLA Ibohalbi Singh on July 23, 2012 which was passed by voice vote.
Another MLA RK Anand also raised the issue in 2013, but the same was not given a passage. The then Congress government brought up three Bills namely The Protection of Manipur People's Bill, 2015; The Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reform (7th Amendment) Bill 2015 and The Manipur Shops & Establishment (2nd amendment) Bill, 2015 and the bills were passed by voice vote. While the bills were rejected by the agitators, it was also objected to by certain hill based organisations. Sapam Robinhood was killed in the agitation demanding withdrawal of the Bill on July 8, 2015.
The three Bills faced objection in the hills as they were termed anti-tribal bills and 9 persons were killed in a protest at Churachandpur. While the President of India cancelled the first bill and the two other bills were put under suspension. Although the movement frittered out, the so-called Inner Line Permit system was never implemented in the way as desired or envisaged by the self-styled champions of the movement. State-specific rules or regulations for implementation of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 were never framed, while it was only given lip-service.
The ILP check-posts at Mao and Jiribam seem very strict in the beginning, but later on it turned out to be damp squib. Manyany non-locals are entering the state through Mao and Jiribam without proper verification or let off without issuing valid ILP permits and there seems to be no mechanism to monitor as to how many outsiders are overstaying their welcome or a penalty for staying beyond the time allowed by the permit issued.
The state police also seems to be helpless in the absence of state specific rules and regulation with regard to the ILP except for the fact that outsiders have to possess a permit for entering and staying in Manipur. The state government should be framing certain rules and regulations in conformity with the demands of JCILPS.