By Thang Zamuan Tombing
Ostensibly the Inner Line Permit System is to control the influx of outsiders into Manipur. But see the fine print and read between the lines. The Bills introduced in the Manipur Assembly in response to the demand of the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) makes it becomes crystal clear. ILPS is apparently about outsiders but the hidden agenda is that it is against the native tribal populace of the State. Why? Outsiders are never really a threat, because they cannot own land anyways in the valley area, and never competitors in the government job market. The tribal people can own land in the valley area and are therefore a threat and a nuisance to the valley people. Moreover, the valley people want to grab the land of the tribals in the hill areas.
Let us see the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015. Clause 2 (b) of the Bill defines “Manipur People” as “Persons of Manipur whose names are in the National Register of Citizens, 1951, Census Report 1951 and Village Directory of 1951 and their descendants who have contributed collective social, cultural and economic life of Manipur”. This definition of Manipur People has so many implications. In the first place, to be considered as Manipur people, you or your forefathers will have to be registered in three registers, (i) National Register of Citizens, 1951; (ii) Census Report 1951 and (iii) Village Directory of 1951. Notice the use of the word “and”. This means that even if you or your forefathers had been registered in any one or any two of the above-mentioned registers/directory, you will not be considered as Manipur person. You have to fulfil all three criteria. Do you even know whether yours or your father’s or grandfather’s names have been included in these Registers/Directory. Many people will be left out because at that time the government machinery would not have reached every nook and corner of the State, especially the hill areas as they are cut off from the valley areas and most of the villages are non-motor able at that time.
Why 1951? Why not 1971 or 1981? Manipur got its statehood in 1972. If this definition is applied then most of the people who are natives of Manipur at the time of its Statehood will not even be considered Manipur People. Also, if the intended target is outsiders, when did the influx of outsiders in huge numbers start? Maybe in the 1980s or 1990s? Why then the cutoff year of 1951?
The Bill is also silent about the procedure to be adopted for determination of Manipur People. It defines Manipur People but is silent about the procedure to determine whether one is a Manipur People or not. It is not clear on whom the onus/burden of proving whether a person is a native of Manipur or not lies? Whether the onus of proof lies with the person or the Government? This is not clear. In the absence of clarity, it is fearful that the onus will lie on the person. And how can a person proof that he is a native of Manipur? Even if my grandfather’s name is there, how can i proof that i am his grandson? All these issues are not clear? The names included in the Registers/Directory mentioned in the definition are not in the public domain and you don’t even know whether you or your father’s or grandfather’s is there in these Registers. You may consider yourself a native of Manipur, having been born and brought up in Manipur and your forefathers have settled in the State even before the State was born, but if your father/grandfather’s name is not registered, you will soon become an outsider, a non-native in your own state.
The Bill creates a new Statutory Body, Directorate of Registration of Non-Manipur Persons and Tenants. But there is no provision for appeal against the decisions of the Director or the Directorate. So, if you are aggrieved with the decision of the Director or other employees, there is nobody to which you can appeal. Rather, Clause 10 provides that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any officer of the State Government for anything done in “good faith” under this Act. Here, the word “good faith” is very vague. How can you prove or disprove good faith? Many details have been left out of the bill and more than what is written, what is not written in the Bill may come to haunt us later.That the definition of “Manipur People” in this particular Bill will be used in other Acts/Bills to deny services, facilities and amenities to the people of Manipur is clear from the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015. Nowhere in the Amendment is Bill of 2015 or in the original Act 1960, the definition of “Manipur People” or “Non-Manipur People” is to be found but the term “Non-Manipur People” is used in the Amendment Bill. It is assumed that the terms “Manipur People” or “Non-Manipur People” are used as defined in the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015. The terms should have been defined in the MLR&LR Amendment Bill but is not done so. Similarly, in future laws, these definitions in the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 will be used to deny services, amenities and facilities to the people of Manipur, especially tribal people. It cannot be ruled out that the next time advertisement for jobs are out, it will say that the jobs are applicable to Manipur people as defined in the Protection of Manipur People Act, 2015. In this eventually, you will be denied a state government job if you cannot prove that you are a Manipur People as defined under the Act. Same can be done in the case of admission to schools, colleges or in case of state quota in medical and engineering seats, etc. This will not be problematic for the valley people because this will be applied selectively and whenever it suits the agenda of the valley people. It will be applied on the tribal people to deny them basic facilities, services and amenities as a Manipur citizen.
The introductory part of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015, which is akin to the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” (SOR) of the Bill speaks about the geographical area of the valley vis-a-vis the hill areas, the difference in population and population density in the valley and hill areas and the pressure on land in the valley areas. If the ILPS agitation is all about the influx of outsiders, the SOR of this Bill which is introduced in the Manipur Assembly pursuant to the agitation for ILPS never once mentioned the influx of outsiders.
Clause 2 of the MLR&LR Amendment Bill inserts new Sections 14A and 14B which provide that allotment of land to non-Manipur persons, firms, institutions or other similar entities will be made only after obtaining approval of the State Cabinet. In other words, if you cannot prove that you are a Manipur Person, you can own land in the valley area only with the approval of the Cabinet, which will never be granted if you are an outsider or a tribal. All efforts will be made to prevent you from owning land in the valley even though you may be a native, Manipur tribal from the hill areas of the State.
Interestingly, the original Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 provides in its “Extent Clause” in Section 1(2) of the Act that it shall extend to the whole of the State of Manipur except the hill areas thereof. However, a proviso was added that the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette extend the whole or any part of any section of this Act to any of the hill areas of Manipur also as may be specified in such notification. Similarly, in the “Definition Clause” in Section 2(j) of the Act, it defines “hill areas”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”. The implication of these two provisions is that the State Government, by simply issuing a Gazette Notification can include or exclude a specific area or village as hill area. In other words, the State Government can extend the provisions of MLR&LR Act to any place by simply issuing a Gazette Notification. And this is what happens in reality. MLR& LR Act is now applied in what we consider as hill areas like Churachandpur/Lamka town and many adjoining places. The pucca patta or “Jamabandi”which is issued to you when you purchase a land in Lamka town is proof of this. If you see the top right corner, you will see “MLR Form 8 (Rule 57)”written there which means you have acquired land under the MLR&LR Act and that this land is considered to be in the valley area.
Another possible implication of this definition of hill area is indeed very alarming. The tribal people have been clamouring for protection of our land rights and seeking autonomous status like Sixth Schedule or Alternative Arrangement for the protection of our rights like land and customs. Apparently, the Central Government is willing to give Sixth Schedule to the hill/tribal areas but Manipur Government’s stand is that it has to be done “with certain local adjustments”. What i believe and fear is that the State Government would oppose tooth and nail the extension of Sixth Schedule in the hill areas of Manipur and in the event that it is unsuccessful in blocking the same, it will take the stand that the Sixth Schedule should not be extended to the areas where MLR&LR Act is in operation. The State Government or the valley people will argue that these are not hill areas as MLR& MLR Act is in operation in these areas and since MLR&LR Act is applicable only in valley area, these are valley areas. What argument do we have then? The full implication of these laws will then feel like a slap in the face, but maybe it will be too late by then!
Now is the time, will you just keep silent and look the other way. The silence is so deafening! Call me paranoid or alarmist but I just can’t wish these issues away!