Reaching out to CSOs over ILP stalemate

YET another assembly session is round the corner and this time too it is unlikely to be any different from the past sessions, at-least on the streets of the capital city and around fortress-like assembly complex as there are more than a handful of pending issues before the government. From the on-going agitation in Manipur University over the demand for removal of the vice chancellor and employees’ agitation over non-fulfilment of the 7th CPC to the protracted demand for constitutional safeguard of the indigenous communities and threat posed to the territorial integrity of Manipur in the backdrop of the framework agreement reportedly heading towards signing of a final deal, to name a few, the law makers would certainly be feeling the heat even if the debates are to be held under air-conditioned room. Though all the aforementioned issues are crucial ones that merit tactful handling and the outcomes hopefully acceptable to all stakeholders, there is no guarantee that the upcoming assembly session will be able to reach consensus on problems besieging the state. For instance, the demand for re-introduction of Inner Line Permit system or a similar mechanism in the state to check influx of migrants will be a litmus test of the new government after efforts of the previous regime to protect rights of the indigenes faced bloody opposition in Churachandpur district within hours of the legislative assembly adopting three bills - the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015; the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill 2015; and the Manipur Shops and Establishment (Second Amendment) Bill 2015.

The new government also seems to have learnt a lesson or two on the ILP issue as was evident when stakeholders concerned were invited to deliberate on pros and cons of the draft bill on Thursday so that the bill for safeguard of the indigenous could be passed smoothly in the house. Though there was not much outcry over the two amendment bills, it was the cut-off year of 1951 referred to in the Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015 that triggered outrage in some hill areas, Churachandpur district in particular, as there was scepticism that the said cut-off year was too short a period to identify the natives from non-domiciles. The protest against the three bills not only led to the death of nine civilians and massive destruction of properties but also exposed the existent divide between the hills and the valley settlers, which the new regime has been trying to bridge. The dissent against the bills also substantiated that the migrant issue is alive mostly in the valley districts, which are open to all Indians to settle unlike the hill districts which are reserved for tribal. There were comments that lack of communication between organisations, which spearheaded the pro-ILP agitations, mainly in the valley areas, and tribal civil societies was one of the reasons for the latter remaining aloof from the issue or venting angst against the three said Bills. This misunderstanding too seems to have eased to some extent after the JCILPS endeavoured to reach out to the tribal organisations in the last few months. As constitutional safeguard of the native population is of paramount importance in view of the Union government pushing hard to amend the National Citizenship Act, which various organisations in the north-east interpret as an attempt to legalise settlement of select foreign nationals, ethnic communities of Manipur remaining indifferent to the common goal will be akin to playing into the hands of divisive forces.

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