Last month, 80 Myanmar refugees were arrested in Churachandpur district by police. Clearly, this is not the first case of illegal migrants from across the Indo-Myanmar border. It has been going on for years and in fact, this migration was one of major concerns of the anti-foreigners movement in the 80s.
The discourse in those days were mainly focused on Bangladeshi infiltration and Nepali influx. Examples were of the indigenous people of Tripura being reduced to a minority and political power shifting to the newcomers, while on the other hand a Nepali was elected from Kangpokpi constituency.
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Jiribam was most affected by Bangladeshi influx in those days but not enough to send up a representative then. However, in 2017 assembly elections a Muslim was elected as an MLA for the first time in Jiribam and in 2022 elections the same gentleman got elected again. And everyone ignored the steady illegal migration of cognate tribes from Myanmar’s Chin Hills in Churachandpur then. Now, with steady increase these newcomers have taken over the political space after usurping the indigenous Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups already settled in the state.
Therein lies the genesis of the violent objection to the three bills and the rejection of 1951 as base year for implementation of ILP. When the government brought three bills to address the issue of illegal migration, people in the hills more particularly in Churachandpur district rose against the three bills when they were passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly and shut off all communications with the state government for nearly three long years.
It is on record that, when BJP took over the government in 2017 the indefinite blockade on national highways and Churachandpur issue was resolved. Recently, the United Naga Council and Coordination Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) came out together and expressed their commitment to fight the issue of illegal migration together. Well, it speaks volumes on who is for and against illegal migration in the state?
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Now, student organisations based in the valley including All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) have come together with the all-powerful All Naga Students’ Union Manipur (ANSAM) to demand implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and for instituting Manipur State Population Commission.
It is a known fact that, since 1951 there has been abnormal growth in decadal population figures through Census reports. Census operations of 2001 in Manipur were also controversial. The then Manipur government decided to order a fresh census after discussions with the team from the Union Home Ministry and the Registrar General of Census Operations.
A fresh survey in 19 subdivisions of the hill and valley districts was ordered. When the enumerators went for re-survey, they were met with resistance from villagers. The exercise was labelled as an attempt to deny the tribal people their rights. Some even tried to paint a communal bias to the objection saying that the valley people were concerned with losing some constituencies to the hills and thereby upsetting the power balance.
Fact is, Census figures of 2001 of Manipur were not complete. The final figure of Census 2001 of Manipur was not based on actual head count but on projected data. For years, a major grouping of tribes in the state had been blind to steady infiltration of migrants from Myanmar while in pursuit of its political agenda. Now as it turned out, realisation of the main problem of illegal migration in the state seems to have set in.
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Hence, the demand for implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and for instituting Manipur State Population Commission. While the Union Home Minister has already pledged NRC in other states, the institution of a State Population Commission was already agreed upon by the state government in a MOU signed with the JCILPS.