ILPS : Miscommunication the root cause of the present crisis

Dr Th Suresh *

Women folks of Khwairamband Keithel protest ILP on March 17 2015
Women folks of Khwairamband Keithel protest ILP on March 17 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Time for our hill and valley brethren to sit together and solve the present crisis together

During Churachand's reign, in 1904, Indian Penal Code was introduced to fight the 1st Nupi Lal (1st Great Women's uprising). Before this, the judiciary/legal code was based entirely on the then existing customs, traditions, conventions, religious laws etc. During Bodh Chandra's time, in 1944, a Foreigner's Tax was levied at the rate of Rs 5/ per person per year.

A Darbar Member was i/c of Foreign Office including the permit system (i.e. present Passport system). Because of this, Pandit Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore could not visit Manipur in early 1940s. The Manipur Neutralisation Act 1947, granted citizenship to many non-Manipuris (known Mayangs/ foreigners) and to the residences of the then British Reserve. The Act also describes "Alien or Foreigner" as "a person who is not a state subject". The Foreigner's Tax was abolished after Manipur merged to the Dominion of India. To be precise, it was abolished by the then Chief Commissioner Mr. Himat Singh on 18th November 1950 i.e. 1 yr after merger.

At present, about 7 lakh non-Manipuris have either entered or settled in the state after Himat Singh's act. It constitutes about 30% of the present population. One can easily imagine the present crisis and the scenario.

Present Background : After 2 times public arousal and after the death of 1 precious student, 3 bills were passed by the State Assembly on 31/August /2015. Subsequent to this, there was strong protest against the bills at CCPur on the same day. It resulted to the death of another 9 precious life at CCPur. My prayer for the soul of all departed ones. Let them rest peacefully. The bills are now referred to India's President for consent.

Stand of the hill brethren : It all started with public demonstration at Moreh against the proposed bill in early August. Many valley-based organisations, including Govt. representatives, rushed to Moreh and held discussions with the locals there. It was then solved peacefully. Your writer thought it was a welcome and appropriate move at that time. Now, it is a logical conclusion that there were some lingering suspicions to some at CCPur resulting in the present eruption there. The echo of opposition to the bills is seen to other hill districts, though to a lesser extent. Some of the NGOs expressed the view that 80% of them will become foreigners if the bills are enforced.

Present stand of the ILPS : The JAC has been stating time and again that there is nothing in the bills against our hilly brethren. They have also coordinated the visit to Moreh during the troubled period and were able to convince our hilly brethren there. It also invited the agitating hill brethren of CCPur to sit together with them and to point out the suspicious/controversial points so that it can be rectified. Our CCPur brethren have so far rejected the same.

Present stand of the Govt. : The Govt. and the Cabinet had 3 times invited our agitating brethren for a dialogue. But, it had been rejected earlier. Earlier also, our CM and deputy CM had publicly invited our agitating brethren in various public fora for talks to clear any misunderstanding. They repeatedly assured them that there is nothing in the 3 bills against the hill people.

The press conference of deputy CM Gaikhangam on 3/9/2015 held in his residence, is worth to recall. Himself a Naga, it was very impressive, thought provoking and worth to discuss. Recall his statement "I am also a hill man. There are 20 MLAs elected from hill areas But when we studied the bills, we found nothing which may affect the interest of the hill people".

Your writer is very impressed by this clarification and statement through media. Heads off to our deputy CM. Now, to be precise, on 2nd October, Kuki Inpi Manipur(KIM) who was authorised by various tribal councils, held a discussion lasting 5_!2 hrs. (2-7.30 pm) with the CM and his party. The meeting was inconclusive.

Unwanted interference by other CMs : It is very unfortunate that the 2 CMs of Mizoram and Nagaland had interfered in this sensitive issue. They have spoken extensively against the 3 bills. It is nothing but dirty politics adding salt to the injury. What will be their reply if someone asks them to withdraw the ILPS now enforcing in their state? This was actually asked by some valley-based organisations. They have/will have no reply. The people of Manipur is capable of solving any problem; indeed, I am firmly of the opinion that this present one will be solved through mutual discussion and trust among the hill and valley brethren. It is bound to come sooner or later.

Unwanted interference by other MPs : Further, some MPs of the N-E states have also expressed their reservation against the proposed bills as if it is hurting their interest. Did these MPs really know what will happen to their states if the present crisis linger there? Will they have any answer if someone asks them to withdraw ILPS enforced in their state? In fact, Manipur has been too tolerant in the interference from our neighbouring states. In fact, in future, the Govt. as well as the people should heat back as hard as we can in such unwanted interference from our neighbour /other states.

Static silence by our 3 MPs : Our 3 MPs are as cool as the ice. They have not supported the 3 bills nor expressed anything against the bills. They are afraid to counter the ill-advised opposition of their colleagues. They are not able to meet them to explain our point of view so that any misunderstanding, if any, is removed. Are our MPs dumb? Such a situation will not happen in any other state in India. What an unfortunate proposition we inherit from our so-called elected MPs.

Where we went wrong ? : What I am referring to is what one learns from experience and should not be undertaken as a criticism.

On the Govt. side : In the year 1980, there were 2 agreements signed between the Government of R.k. Dorendra Singh and All Manipur Students' Union(AMSU)/All Manipur Student Coordinating Committee (AMSCOC) regarding the Foreigners' issue. The 1st one was signed between the Govt. and AMSU/AMSCOC on 22nd July 1980; the 2nd one was signed between the Govt. and AMSU, also in 1980.

Again, during President's rule (I can't name who the Governor was), a 3rd agreement was signed between the Govt. and AMSU on 9th November 1994. It was the reiteration of the previous 2 agreements. In all the 3 agreements signed, the cut off date is 1951. Had it been implemented in 1980, or latest by 1994, when the agreement was reached, the problem would not have happened.

On the other hand, if the same was implemented during the 1st public arousal of the present crisis, i.e. in 2014; or when a consensus bill as agreed to by the all political party, was passed in the assembly in March 2015, the same problem would not have happened and the valuable life of the student and other 9 brethren could have been saved. What we inherit is the legacy accumulated from various corrupt and inefficient state and central governments. The bigger slide of the blame lies definitely with the successive state governments.

On the ILPS joint Committee side : There was need to consult more of the larger sections of the civil societies in the hills and their subsequent involvement. There were too much public discussion and life telecast casting aspersions on the hill brethren. Valley-based one or two groups' specific reference to a particular group in the hills was avoidable and should not have telecast life. Instead of demanding more and more details and points, the committee should have fixed to the earlier one agreed to between the AMSU and AMSCOC. What I am trying to emphasis is that there is too much publicity leading to –ve aspersions to a section of our hill brethren.

The main focus of the present one and its subsequent publicity should have been :
i) We have this system since 1940 and the same was abolished after merged to Indian Dominion on 15/10/1949.
ii) We have this agreement of 1980/1994 and it should be implemented. What we are demanding is not new.
iii) The same is implemented in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh etc. since long and why not for us.

What I am trying to pinpoint is that we are not able to disseminate information at the right time and the right place. In short, the main focus of publicity should be – the demand is not a new one, but is one for restoration of our long overdue one. I have not seen this emphasis even now.

On the side of our hill brethren : Though there was less discussion with them, attempts had been made from the ILPS side to reach them. Our hill brethren could have reached the authority of the present movement and express their opinion. They could have also expressed their opinion to their various MLAs. Hill brethren should not think valley brethren as alien and vice verse.

Conclusion : What your writer found specifically is -
a) some short of lingering doubt on the cut off year by our hill brethren and
b) unnecessary interference by our neighbouring states with political motive behind.

Lack of communication and miscommunication is the root cause of the present crisis. It is high time for our hill and valley brethren to sit together and solve the present crisis together. What we inherit is the legacy propagated by various selfish and short-sighted politicians and Governments since 1970s. They were never able to think of for our generation next. The same applies to the present Govt. as well. Lack of political leadership and short-sightedness is the malice we inherit. We really inherit an unfortunate but avoidable one.

One should always remember that the valley and the hill people belong to the same origin. Let us remember, the valley was once a beautiful lake and the ancient people descended gradually to the valley once it was dried up. This is supported by recent archaeological finds and many folktales'! traditional knowledge, Beliefs, customs, proverbs, oral traditions etc.

The people of Manipur are capable of solving any problem themselves. I will, indeed, stick firmly to my opinion that this present one will be solved through mutual discussion and trust among the hill and valley brethren. It is bound to come sooner or later.

* Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at laifungbam(aT)coremanipur(doT)org
This article was posted on October 12 2015.

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