Why Manipuri People Oppose Citizenship Amendment Bill ?
Uti Posseditis Juris in the Context of India - Manipur Relations Revisited
- Part 1 -

L. Malem Mangal *

 Protest demonstration against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 at Khwairamband Keithel, Imphal :: 11 January 2019
Protest demonstration against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 at Khwairamband Keithel, Imphal on 11 January 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam


The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 (CAB) passed by the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on 8 January 2019 has once again brought to the fore - the fundamental question of Manipur's survival as a distinct people and culture under the existing scheme of India's polity. The CAB carries with it the potential of a population bomb with the intention of completely wiping out the indigenous populations of Manipur and other North Eastern states. It seeks to legalise unabated influx of non-Muslim Bangladeshis in the region by entitling them citizenship rights.

The opposition to CAB is not only for its anti-secular character but also for its possible ramifications to the indigenous populations of Manipur and their endurance as a civilizational entity. Come CAB in an altogether secular form, Manipuri people still have a fundamental right to oppose it in toto. In this backdrop, we remind ourselves of the historical and political consequences which India - Manipur relations have brought upon the people of the region.

The illegal annexation of the erstwhile independent Asiatic State of Manipur by the Republic of India in 1949, has persistently posed tremendous challenges to the collective co-existence of Manipur as a historical, political and cultural reality. This is not a mere hypothetical allegation but a statement of fact which is founded upon a critical analysis of the systematic policies institutionalised by the Indian state.

The Indian aggression of Manipur in 1949 had the effect of taking over of the then Administration of Manipur and unlawful termination of the Manipur Legislative Assembly in total contravention of (i) the Indian Independence Act, 1947 (IIA); the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 (MCA); United Nations Charter, 1945; and norms of international customary law. It was followed by scrapping of the Permit System by the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, Mr. Himmat Singh in November, 1950 which subsequently led to opening doors to unabated influx of foreigners to Manipur.

1953 saw the then Indian Premier Jawaharlal Nehru giving away Manipur's Kabaw Valley to Myanmar (then Burma) without obtaining consent of the people. In the year 1958, parts of Hill Areas of Manipur came under the purview of the draconian law - the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) while by 1980 the whole state was declared as 'disturbed area' and AFSPA was enforced in toto in the entire region. Under heavy state militarisation and repression, during the period from May, 1979 till May, 2012, 1,528 Manipuris had been killed or extra-judicially executed by the security forces, military personnel and agencies of the Government of India [(EEVFAM v. Union of India, (2013) 2 SCC 493].

This data pertains to the reported or documented category only, whereas the unreported massacres, killings or extra-judicial executions, sexual crimes, torture, etc. from the period 1949 till date i.e. since the date of Indian aggression have not been documented so far. The state policy of exploitation of the natural resources of the region to the disadvantage of the indigenous Manipuri people began as early as 1983 with the commissioning of the Loktak Hydro-Power Project, besides recent ones such as Tipaimukh Multi-Purpose Project, Thoubal River Valley Multi-Purpose Project, Exploration of Oil and Natural Gas in Jiribam, Tamenglong, Chandel, Churachandpur, etc. construction of railways, trans-ASEAN highways and railways, etc.

CAB read with the above precedents underlines the agenda of the Indian state to systematically disturb and alter the indigenous integrity of Manipur. To the indigenous people of Manipur, CAB is a population bomb in disguise, genocidal in intent and character fully loaded with the propensity to annihilate its population, demographic composition and symbiotic cultural identity. Census data stands to show that during the operation of the erstwhile Permit System (1948-50), the number of foreigners present in Manipur's territory accounted for less than 3000 as against 5 lakh Manipuri indigenous persons while by 2011 the number of non-indigenous persons have been pegged at 10 lakhs approximately as against 19 lakhs indigenous Manipuris.

In the absence of influx protection mechanism, this number of the non-indigenous persons in Manipur is bound to shot up to unimaginable proportions. Tripura presents a clear example where influx population had driven the indigenous communities out of their own homeland. India's CAB seeks to encourage these phenomena in Manipur and the whole of North Eastern region. This bill if become a law in its present form can wipe out the identity of the whole population of Manipur and can complete the Indian aggression that began in 1949.

Citizenship Amendment Bill: The Historical Burden of India's Partition

Ill-conceived notions of the idea of nation-State by the then nationalist leadership of undivided India resulted into bloody partition in 1946-47. During the Constituent Assembly of India Debates (CADs), Indian nationalist leadership expressed their concern for their Hindu-blood fraternity left out in Pakistan and while laying down outlines for citizenship law for Indian citizens at the commencement of the [Indian] constitution, explicit powers have been granted to Parliament to frame laws to bring back those Hindu-blood fraternities into India.

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru is recorded to have stated "We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are with us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers of their good and ill-fortune alike" (Speech on "Tryst with Destiny", 14 August 1947 at Parliament House).

B.R. Ambedkar explaining the rationale of article 5 of the Indian Constitution stated "…It is not the object of this particular Article to lay down a permanent law of citizenship…The business of laying down permanent law of citizenship has been left to the Parliament, …the entire matter regarding citizenship has been left to Parliament to determine by any law it may deem fit".

He continued "…If there is any category of people who are left out by the provisions in this amendment, we have given power to Parliament subsequently to make provision for them" (CADs, 10 August, 1949). These concerns find clear expression in article 11 thus: "Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law - Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship". Thus, the CAB reflects the historical responsibility of the Indian State to redress the injustices of partition politics.

Manipur and the Citizenship Amendment Bill

The political question that drives home the point is on what basis Manipur shares this historical and political responsibility of India's partition? Partition took place 2 years before India illegally annexed the State of Manipur. Where does Manipur stand in the Indian policy of restitution for partition? What is the rationale of the nexus between India's CAB and Manipur sharing the former's historical responsibility? Here, we recollect the status of the historical and political entity called Manipur, distinct and separate from the Republic of India.

Manipur's territorial boundary had been established much before the colonial British laid the foundations for the polity that later emerged as the Republic of India. The existence of Manipur as a sovereign and independent entity with all the attributes of the 1933 Montevideo Convention had been testified by the Anglo - Manipur Treaty of 4 September 1762 and the Treaty of Yandaboo of 24 February 1826.

The Anglo - Manipur War, 1891 brought Manipur within the fold of British India. However, after the Indian Independence Act (IIA) was enacted by the British Parliament, Manipur and other entities placed within the category of Princely States became independent by virtue of Section 7 (1) (b). This facticity has been repeatedly re-affirmed by the Supreme Court of India in a number of cases such as
(i) Virendra Singh v. State of U.P. (AIR 1954 SC 447);
(ii) The States of Saurashtra v. Memom Haji Ismai (AIR 1959 SC 1383);
(iii) Sarwarlal v. States of Hyderabad (AIR 1960 SC 862);
(iv) State of Gujarat v. Vora Fiddali (AIR 1964 SC 1043);
(v) Shri Ragunathrao Ganpatrao v. Union of India (AIR 1993 SC 1267) among others.

Section 7 (1) (b) of the IIA was the British adaptation of Article 2 (1) of the UN Charter which put Manipur and India on an equal juridical plane. Democratic elections held in Manipur under the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 on the basis of universal adult franchise in 1948 is considered second to Philippines in the whole South East Asian region. Manipur's tryst with democracy was nipped in the bud when the Dominion Government of India unlawfully annexed it in 1949. The Treaty of Shillong (Merger Agreement) signed on 21 September 1949 does not stand the test of legal effectuality.

The people of Manipur had collectively denounced the Treaty of Shillong, 1949 as illegal and unconstitutional thrice: first, by the Manipur Legislative Assembly on 28 September 1949 (Fourth Sitting of the Third Session), second, by the Manipur People's National Convention held on 28-29 October 1993, third, by the National Seminar on Human Rights held on 8 and 9 December 1994 copies of which have been reported to have sent to the Government of India.

The Republic of India in its Constitution gives due recognition to this historical and political distinctiveness of Manipur in Sl. No. 19 of the First Schedule thus: "The territory which immediately before the commencement of this Constitution was being administered as if it were a Chief Commissioner's Province under the name of Manipur".

Manipur under Uti Possidetis Juris

Even within the present constitutional scheme of India's polity, Manipur represents the case of Uti Possidetis Juris. No provision of the constitution of India that seeks to dismember or alter her territorial, social, cultural and linguistic indigenous integrity can apply to the state of Manipur. The basis of the principle of uti possidetis juris is the 'intangibility of frontiers inherited from colonisation'. Its application has the effect of freezing the territorial title existing at the moment of independence to produce the 'photograph of the territory' at the critical date.

The Chamber of the International Court in Burkina Faso v. Republic of Mali (International Court of Justice Reports, 1986) characterised uti possidetis juris thus - "The essence of the principle lies in its primary aim of securing respect for the territorial boundaries at the moment when independence is achieved. Such territorial boundaries might be no more than delimitations between different administrative divisions or colonies all subject to the same sovereign. In that case, the application of the principle of uti possidetis resulted in administrative boundaries being transformed into international frontiers in the full sense of the term".

Uti possidetis juris rise to protect Manipur's boundary as stood on the date of enactment of the IIA. The Parliament of the Republic of India does not have the legal and political proprietary authority to disturb or alter the integrity of Manipur in its holistic sense. Rather the Indian Parliament has an unaddressed agenda of according Manipur a constitutional provision similar to article 370 to provide the legal mechanism for effectuating the recognition given under Sl. No. 19, First Schedule of the Constitution of India.

To be continued ....

* L. Malem Mangal wrote this article for
The writer is a PhD Scholar, Department of Law, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong
The writer may be contacted at malem(DOT)mangal(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 30 2019.

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