TODAY -

Tribal unrest: What has gone wrong with the ILP laws

Sira Kharay *

 ILP : Churachandpur Town protest against the introduction and passing of three Bills related to ILP :: September 1 2015.
ILP : Churachandpur Town protest against passing of three Bills related to ILP on Sep 1 2015 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Manipur has a troubled agency. Brutalization of democracy and communalisation of politics have become the order of the day. There is a disturbing pattern to this. While politics in Manipur is increasingly shaped by the fear of the ethnic majority losing its traditional hegemony, the State pathologically constructs its notion of legitimacy from this dominant perception and every ethnic sentiment that does not subserve this dominant interest is constantly muzzled. Democracy altogether has different set of values for the hill tribals and Manipur exists only for the imagination of Imphal valley.

The ethnic leviathan unleashed by the communal politics of the State Government at CCPur in the immediate aftermath of passing of the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR&R) (7th Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Manipur Shops and Establishment (MS&E) (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015 is hardly any surprise. However, the senseless response of the State Government leading to the remorseless killing of another 8 precious tribal lives and prompt gagging of social networking sites is absolutely outrageous and shocking. It exposes how democracy has lost its meaning and the State itself is anti-tribal.

It must be understood that the hill tribals initially are not against the ILP per se. The modus operandi of propagandising the ILP movement in a communal rhetoric alone is responsible for the subsequent polarisation of the issue if any. The constant injection of anti-Naga chauvinism at the intervals, the irresponsible statements such as "there are no Nagas in Manipur", "Kukis are internal immigrants" and the purported "Quit Notice" issued against the Kukis further fuelled the growing ethnic tension.

The rhetoricising of the ILP issue with the demands for Hill State and ST status in particular is perceived as a ploy to invade upon the constitutional provisions safeguarded for the hill tribals. Imphal valley can no longer afford to blindly assert what it thinks it aspires without first reflecting its import vis-a-vis the rights of the hill tribals. In the event Manipur becomes a Hill State and Meiteis acquired ST status, tribal assertion for a separate hill state is inevitable. Manipur can only ignore the accumulated ethnic tension at its own peril.

The hill tribals have now upped the ante on their demand for separate hill administration. To defuse the already explosive situation, the State Government must immediately address the genuine concerns of the hill tribals. It is true that ILP law by itself is not inimical to tribal rights. However, the definition of the term "Manipur People" under the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 as "whose names are in the National Register of Citizens, 1951, Census Report, 1951 and Village Directory, 1951 and their descendants" is surely problematic. The cut-off year 1951 has been dubbed as primarily a target against the Kuki-Zomi communities.

The Drafting Committee could have taken a cue from the Assam Accord, 1985 signed between the representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement. The cut-off date fixed in that Accord is midnight of March 24, 1971. The updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has become a political fireball for practical reasons. To apply for inclusion in the NRC, one's name or one's ancestor's name must be in the 1951 NRC or in any voter list up to the midnight of March 24, 1971. However, it has been quoted that six districts out of 18 districts that existed in 1951 in Assam were left out from the exercise and the exercise was partial in nine districts.

The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 is completely silent about the eventuality when one's name or one's ancestor's name is not found in any of the National Register of Citizens, 1951, Census Report, 1951 and Village Directory, 1951.

Will such person be deemed a "Non-Manipur Person" just because he cannot prove his native record? Will the Government accept documents such as Land and Tenancy Records, Citizenship Certificate, Residential Certificate, Refugee Registration Certificate, Passport, LIC, License/Certificate issued by the Government, Government Service/Employment Certificate, Bank/Post Office Accounts, Birth Certificate, Board/University Educational Certificate, Court Records/Processes as proof of native identity? What about recent internal migrations and the newly settled hill villages which are not recorded in any of these three entries?

Be that as it may. If at all the newly passed ILP laws are to operate throughout Manipur as a workable piece of legislation, the concern of the Hill Areas Committee must be immediately obtained for necessary consultation with the hill tribals. The cut-off year and definition of the term "Manipur People" must be necessarily revisited. Village Chief records and testimonies as per the tribal customary laws must be made conclusive proof of one's native descent for the hill tribals. Separate Registry, if any, must be created for the hill areas and the same must come under the direct purview of the Hill Areas Committee as in consonance with the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972.

In the same manner, the "prior approval" as required under the newly added Sections 14A and 14B of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR&R) (7th Amendment) Bill 2015 for purchase of land by or allotment of land to a "Non-Manipur person" must be made obtainable from the Hill Areas Committee alone and not from the "State Government" or the "State Cabinet" as "allotment, occupation, or use, or the setting apart of land" in the hill areas are in the exclusive purview of the Hill Areas Committee as provided under the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972.

Effort must be made there-along to revamp the whole provisions of the existing Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960. The definition of the term 'hill areas' in particular as "such areas in the hill tracts of the State of Manipur as the State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare to be hill areas" as appeared under Section 2(j) of the Act is patently unconstitutional. The same must be substituted by the definition as provided under the First Schedule to the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hill Areas Committee) Order, 1972. In tandem with it, the proviso to Section 1(2) of the Act which provides that the State Government may "extend the whole or any part of any section of this Act to any of the hill areas" must be immediately done away with as the same clearly violates the spirit of Article 371C of the Constitution.


* Sira Kharay wrote this article to The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 06 2015.


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