In the last few weeks, the national debate has swung from state election storms to Tanmay Bhat to ‘Udta Punjab’. If these are the subjects of the ‘national debate’ (or prime time debate) in the eyes of the media, particularly the news channels, one should question the very meaning of nation.
Where are National Media hiding now? Come to Manipur to see what’s happening in India. Don’t worry about TRP only. pic.twitter.com/HKBrIesDWW — Mohen Naorem (@laimacha) May 30, 2016
Where are National Media hiding now? Come to Manipur to see what’s happening in India. Don’t worry about TRP only. pic.twitter.com/HKBrIesDWW
— Mohen Naorem (@laimacha) May 30, 2016
The protestors in Manipur have been calling for the President’s nod to three bills passed in the Manipur Assembly in 2015, which the state government says is quite like the Inner Line Permit (ILP).
And just a couple of days ago, on the night of June 7, members of Delhi-based Manipur Tribal Forum clashed with cops in Delhi’s Chanakyapuri protesting against the state government’s push for the Presidential nod to the bills. Some were injured in the incident.
Members of Manipur Tribal Forum holding a protest demonstration in the support of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in New Delhi. PTI
Blockade by tribals have led to life in Manipur almost coming to a standstill. Twitter
But the Inner Line Permit (ILP) demand stays as is.
The ILP is a system put in place in three northeastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The ILP is a time-bound, Government of India document which allows the holder to enter a protected area.
Introduced first by the British in the areas under their control in the northeast, the ILP is aimed at protecting indigenous people of the areas where it is in force from outsiders.
Manipur has been demanding the ILP for a long time now. Students and others in the state, under the umbrella of Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS), have been continuously holding protests asking the government to protect their rights.
The Meiteis clashing with the police in Manipur demanding ILP. PTI
Sapamcha Jadumani, chief of the Federation of Regional Indigenous Societies, had told Indian Express in 2015 that “there is a serious danger of the indigenous Manipuri population being wiped out along with their culture, history and languages” due to outsiders.
The Congress government in the state led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh hurriedly passed these three bills in August 2015 under pressure from a section of Manipur’s populace:
This is why many students in Manipur, including girls braved water cannons, demanding expedition of the bills conversion into law.
CM Okram Ibobi arrived in New Delhi with 18 of his ministers and met Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss this very matter on June 7.
Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh meeting Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. PTI
Members of Delhi-based Manipur Tribal Forum, formed last year following the passage of the bills, who clashed with the police in the capital were opposing the bills.
Protesters at Manipur Bhavan where the Manipur CM and his team had arrived for talks on the bills on June 7. The Statesman
Manipur’s demography can be divided into two geographic areas – Valley and Hills.
The valley is populated by the Meitei or non-tribal. The hills belong to many tribal groups of which the major ones are Nagas and Kukis.
Their contention is that the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reform Act (7th Amendment Bill 2015) will allow non-tribals (Meitei) to own land in hill regions. They claim that since the bills set 1951 as the base year to identify non-indigenous people, the tribals risk being forced out of their lands because most of them don’t have records of when they settled in these parts.
This is why the tribals are still protesting in Manipur, with the epicenter in Churachandpur in the south of the state.
Churachandpur witnessed violent protests from tribals following the passage of the bills.
They were angry because not one member in the 60-member Manipur Assembly protested against the passing of the bills. It should be noted here that the Manipur Assembly is dominated by Meitei; they have 40 seats as against 20 belonging the tribal.
With nine empty coffins as symbols, those against the bills continued their protest in Jantar Mantar at Delhi.
Tribals protesting with empty coffins of the nine who died during agitations in 2015. Manipur Tribal Forum
Apparently, the long-drawn agitation to keep outsiders from entering and marginalizing ethnic Manipuris has divided the society of Manipur itself. Do note that the state heads to polls in 2017.