Why Manipuri People Oppose Citizenship Amendment Bill ?
Uti Posseditis Juris in the Context of India - Manipur Relations Revisited
- Part 2 -

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

Uti Possidetis Juris: Beyond Territoriality

Article 2 (4) norm of the UN Charter informs India's serious obligations to respect Manipur's identity and to refrain from resorting to threats or use of force against its territorial integrity. At the heart of the theories of political independence and territoriality lie the concepts of "population or people". A population is identified with the culture and languages of its social groups. Cultural and linguistic identity of the people is thus central to the ideas of polity, territory, and sovereignty.

Protection of a territory without safeguarding the social values, culture and identity of the inhabitants living therein goes on to defeat the intent, objectives and purposes of the article 2 (4) norm that prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of sovereign states. This is where we apply the uti possidetis juris becomes relevant to Manipur's case beyond its classical territorial dimension.

Under this rule of contemporary customary international law (Burkina Faso v. Republic of Mali, 1986), the Government of India cannot apply policies such as CAB that tends to or will bring substantial changes to the demography, identity and culture so as to result in the total disruption of the social, cultural, linguistic identity of the people of Manipur. Substantial disruption here would mean altering or diluting those values without which the "idea of Manipuri" will no longer survive.

The demographic composition, cultural and linguistic identity of a people at the moment of independence from colonial power is protected by uti possidetis juris. India cannot disturb Manipur's linguistic and cultural integrity under any circumstances. Manipur's indigeneity - aboriginal population, culture, identity and political aspirations falls within the protected values of the international community.

So far as the CAB seeks to decimate the indigenous socio-cultural and linguistic integrity and subsequently to repress political aspirations, the Indian state is in the process of blatant and forceful deprivation of the right of Manipuri people to self-determination which constitutes a norm of jus cogens. Application of the CAB to Manipur with or without any exception contravenes India's obligations under article 2 (4) of the UN Charter.

International Humanitarian Law and the CAB

Due to the prevailing state of conflict between Government of India's armed forces and national liberation movements, rules of international humanitarian law also becomes applicable to Manipur. India being an occupying and administering state and also being a High Contracting State party to the Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 is under obligations not to transfer its own population to the occupied territory of Manipur. According citizenship rights to Bangladeshis irrespective of religious categorisation and allowing them to reside and settle in any part of the [Indian] territory including Manipur under the proposed CAB amounts to population transfer from India to Manipur.

Article 3 of the UN Draft Declaration on Population Transfer and the Implantation of Settlers defines unlawful population transfer thus: "A practice or policy having the purpose or effect of moving persons into or out of an area, either within or across an international border, or within, into or out of an occupied territory without the free and informed consent of the transferred population and any receiving population".

So far as CAB seeks to grant citizenship rights to Bangladeshis, thereby conferring them the fundamental right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India including Manipur it amounts to encouraging population transfer from India to Manipur. Under this provision, even if the incoming or transferred population (Bangladeshi Indian citizens) consents to move into the Indian territory (Manipur), the receiving population (Manipuri people) have not expressed their consent to receive them.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Times of War of 12 August 1949 provides: "The occupying Power (India) shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory (Manipur) it occupies". Protection of the civilians in times of conflict accorded under article 3 common to the Four Geneva Conventions seeks to protect the aboriginal indigenous cultural and linguistic integrity of the civilian population caught in the middle of a conflict.

Without this fundamental basis, protection of mere human dignity stands to frustrate its intent and objectives. When such population transfer is pursued or committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, the forced transfer partakes the form of genocide (article 6, 1945 Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis and Charter of the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg).

Indian State is trying to extinguish resistant politics in the region through cultural implantation after having failed political engagements. The Indian state cannot transfer or implant population in Manipur. Besides the operation of uti possidetis juris in favour of Manipur, population transfer or implantation is absolutely prohibited as a war crime under article 8 (2) (b) (viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, thus: "The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power (India) of parts of its own civilian population into the territory (Manipur) it occupies".

Article 25 (1) & (2), Rome Statute reinforces the severity of this war crime with individual criminal responsibility - whoever incites whether directly or indirectly in the commission of the war crime of population movement or transfer in the occupied territory of Manipur can be prosecuted for individual criminal responsibility.

Manipuri Peoples' Collective Stand

The people of Manipur continue to maintain its stiff opposition against the policies of the Indian state which aims at decimating and annihilating Manipur's collective co-existence and her holistic integrity protected under uti possidetis juris.

Civil society organisations of Manipur like the United Naga Council, All Manipur United Clubs' Organisation, United Committee Manipur, Committee of Civil Societies, Kangleipak, Ethno Heritage Council, League of Indigenous People Upliftment and students' bodies such as All Manipur Muslim Students' Organisation, All Naga Students' Association, Manipur, All Meitei Pangal Students' Union, All Manipur Students' Union, Manipuri Students' Federation, Kangleipak Students' Association, Students' Union of Kangleipak, Apunba Irreipakki Maheirosing Singpanglup, Reformist Students' Front, Socialists Students' Union, and Manipur Students' Association, Delhi, and All Manipur High Court Bars' Association, etc. have registered strong notes of dissent and protest against the CAB and continue to threaten to launch intense stir in case it becomes a law. AMUCO, UCM, CCSK, HERICON, LIPUN, AMSU, MSF, DESAM, KSA, SUK, AIMS have boycotted the Republic Day of India in Manipur.

We also remind ourselves that a representative conglomeration comprising of the leaders of Kabui Mothers' Association, Zeliangrong Union, Janet Ulama, Manipur, Kuki Mothers Association, AMUCO, senior citizens, professionals and lawyers under the aegis of the UCM had in 2001 resolved to stand firm against the Government of India's policies to disintegrate Manipur in any manner.

At the time of submitting this article, 66 civil society organisations based in the valley and hill districts of Manipur collectively constituted a "Core Committee' known as Manipur People against the CAB (MANPAC). Representatives from the Kuki Inpi Manipur, Zeliangrong Union, United Vaiphei Social Council, Kabui Mothers' Association, Kuki Women Union Manipur, Manipur Muslim Welfare Organisation, All Manipur Muslim Development Committee, Kom Union, Koireng Organisation Manipur, IMOM, ATSUM and Komrem Union Manipur participated in the convention.

The convention have adopted to (i) call a Manipur state-wide 24 hour general strike on 31 January, 2019; (ii) emergency meetings at Ima Keithel and at a hill district on 29 and 30 January 2019 respectively; and (iii) holding of a people's convention to decide the stand of Manipuri people on CAB (The Sangai Express, January 29, 2019).

At this juncture, certain relevant excerpts from historic resolutions adopted by Manipuri people's movements are reproduced. The rally carried out on 4th August, 1997 resolved that "The people of Manipur shall resist as one man, the sinister and diabolic designs which pose a tremendous threat to the territorial integrity of the state and ethnic harmony of the people".

Further People's Declaration to Defend the Territorial Integrity of Manipur adopted on 26 June, 2001 resolved that "…any attempt and subsequent alteration to the existing [read socio-cultural and linguistic] boundary of Manipur by the Government of India would necessarily initiate the process of the disintegration of the Republic of India constituted in 1950" (Resolution no. 4); "The people of Manipur reminds the Government of India that nothing can disintegrate [read integrity of ] Manipur and the North-Eastern region or set people against people and it is now time for a new dawn for a peaceful, progressive and meaningful coexistence" (Resolution No. 7) and "The people of Manipur reaffirms that the Manipur People's uprising on 18 June 2001 stands as a living testimony to this common aspiration to the people to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Manipur" (Resolution No. 8).

The Manipur Legislative Assembly had in the past adopted similar resolutions on March 24, 1995; March 14, 1997; December 17, 1998; and March 22, 2001. Given these precedents, the present BJP led - Government of Manipur is under historical and political obligations to adopt a resolution on similar lines. It should wake up maturely to the clarion call of the people of Manipur.

The All Manipur People's Convention of 17 September 1965 in its Memorandum submitted to Union Minister for Home Affairs, Government of India stated "…Any such arrangement will be fraught with grave consequences. None would brook [read stand] the territorial dis-integration of this ancient State of Manipur. It is but natural that there should be stiff resistance to such a fantastic proposal" (Resolution No. II). It continue to state in Paragraph 16 that "Fears not at all unreasonable, baseless and ingenuine are expressed in this region that these people are on way to extinction and their fates will be sealed for good as their sister communities like the Kacharis and the Tripuris, in the absence of proper and adequate safeguards in the struggle for existence".

Concluded ....

* 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 February 03 2019.

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