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Silent Invasion in Manipur

Demographic Influx and Threat to Indigenous People

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Silent Invasion in Manipur

By: Dr. Malem Ningthouja
There has been a perennial crisis of demographic influx in Manipur. This crisis is marked by systematic domination by migrants and the corresponding marginalisation and deprivation of indigenous people and the destruction of the ecosystem. This phenomenon is a SILENT INVASION causing threat to indigenous people. This writing exposes the threat.
1. Where Is Manipur?
Manipur is a State situated in the Union of India north eastern region. It lies between 92°58 ì23.422” East to 94°43 ì35.553” East longitudes and 23°49 ì45.530” North to 25°42 ì1.456” North latitudes. It is a hilly State encircled by hill ranges and dotted with small valleys, namely, Khoupum Valley, Sajik Valley, Jiribam Valley, Imphal Valley, etc., thus making it a geographical entity of inseparable hills and valleys. It has 352 km. long international border with Burma (Myanmar) to the south-east and 502 km. long border with the adjacent states of Nagaland on the North, Cachar District of Assam on the West and Chin Hills (Myanmar) and Mizoram on the South and the South-west and Surma Tract and upper Chindwin of Myanmar (Burma) on the East. Geo-climatically, the State is generally clubbed into two regions such as hill and valley. The size of the valley region is 2,238 sq. km., which is 10 % of the total area. The size of the hill region is 20,089 sq. km., which is 90 % of the total area.
2. What Is The Demography Of Manipur In 2011?
The population of Manipur as per the 2011 Census is 28.6 lakhs. It consists of 14.4 lakh males and 14.2 lakh females. In absolute terms, the population of Manipur has increased by 5.62 lakhs between 2001 and 2011, that is, a growth rate of 24.50 %. This growth rate is higher than the all India average growth rate, which is 17.70 %. The sex ratio of the State has improved from 974 females per 1000 males in 2001 to 985 females per 1000 males in 2011. The density of population per sq. km. on the hills is 61 persons as against 730 persons in the valleys. Population pressure has been mounting by the day as shown by the reduction of the man-land ratio from about 1: 7.85 hectares in 1901 to 1: 0.78 hectares in 2011.
The population of Manipur may be grouped into various constitutional categories such as the General, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. The Schedule Tribes (ST) population constitutes 40.88 % of the total population while that of the Schedule Caste (SC) is 3.41 %. The percentage share of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes populations has been increasing since 1961. In 1961, the percentage shares of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes were 31.93% and 1.76 % respectively. In 2001, the shares increased to 34.20% and 2.77% respectively. In 2011, the shares were 40.88% and 3.41% respectively. According to the 2011 Census, about 95 % of the Scheduled Tribes population lives in the hill districts while the remaining 5 % lives in the valley districts. In the case of the Scheduled Caste population, about 98 % live in the valley districts as against 2 % in the hill districts.
3. Who Are The Communities In 2011?
Manipur is inhabited by its indigenous people and several other communities. The names of the communities and the tentative population size of each of them as per 2011 Census are, Meetei (282296 persons), Meitei Pangals (239836 persons), 39 Scheduled Tribes, and other linguistic communities. The 39 Scheduled Tribes, according to 2011 census, are Aimol (3190 persons), Anal (23509 persons), Angami (95 persons), Any Kuki tribes (28342 persons), Any Mizo /Lushai Tribes (8064 persons), Chiru (8599 persons), Chothe (3585 persons), Gangte (17178 persons), Hmar (48375 persons), Kabui (+ Inpui & Rongmei. 103908 persons), Kacha Naga (+ Liangmai & Zeme: 66158 persons), Kharam (1145 persons), Koirao (+Thangal: 4475 persons), Koireng (1873 persons), Kom (14528 persons), Lamgang (7770 persons), Mao (93343 persons), Maram (27524 persons), Maring (26424 persons), Monsang (2427 persons), Moyon (2516 persons), Paite (55542 persons), Poumai (127381 persons), Purum (278 persons), Ralte (17 persons), Sema (40 persons), Simte (6728 persons), Suhte (804 persons), Tangkhul (178568 persons), Tarao (1066 persons), Thadou (215913 persons), Vaiphei (42957 persons), Zou (24294. persons), Generic tribes etc. (20806 persons). Other linguistic communities with population above 500 persons are Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, Hindi, Bhojpuri, Garhwali, Gurkha/ Nepali, Kumauni, Khasi, Marwari, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, etc. Out of these, the population size of Nepali (Gurkha) is 63756 persons and those of Mayang is 102655 persons.
The 39 Scheduled Tribes are mostly identified to either Naga or Kuki nomenclatures. Otherwise, some remain oscillating between the two nomenclatures. There are others who prefer to maintain their original identities and remain neutral. (a) Those who organisationally identified with Naga (674058 heads, 23% of the total population) are Anal, Angami, Chiru, Chothe, Inpui, Kabui, Kacha Naga, Lamkang, Liangmei, Mao, Maram, Maring, Monsang, Moyon, Poumai, Rongmei, Sema/Sumi, Tangkhul, Tarao, Thangal, and Zeme. (b) Those who organisationally identified with Kuki (360314 heads, 12.61% of the total population) are Any Kuki tribes, Gangte, Ralte, Suhte, and Thadou. (c) Those who maintain separate identity but act as Kuki’s allied cognates or Zomi (136275 heads, 4% of the total population) are Any Mizo Tribes, Hmar, Mate, Mizo, Paite, Simte, Vaiphei, and Zou. (e) Those intermediaries who want to maintain separate identity (25489 heads, 0.89% of the total population) and shift organisational affiliation depending on time and situation are Aimol, Kharam, Koireng, Kom, Purum, and Koirao.
4. Who Are The Indigenous People?
All the communities or persons living in Manipur are not indigenous. Who then are the indigenous? According to the Manipur Inner Line Permit (Amendment) Guidelines, 2022, prescribed by the Home Department, Government of Manipur, dated September 23, 2022, an indigenous person is someone who belongs to “the following communities: Meitei/Meetei, Meitei Pangal, recognised Scheduled Tribes of Manipur and if he/she, or either or both of his/ her parents, grand-parents or great grand-parents, was/were continuously and permanently residing in the State of Manipur, not later than December 31, 1961, to be supported by the record of residence in the State of Manipur.” The record of residence, “includes Government records such as voter lists, Census Village registers, head of the households for house listing operations data, land records, or any other document of the year or period as the case may be, as the Government may, by order, specify from time to time.”
The above definition of indigenous is driven by the need to fix a base year to detect migrants after 1961. It suffers from incorrect use of the term indigenous based on historical facts. It doesn’t corroborate with historical records of migrations, genealogical lineage and social manifestations. Indigenous in Manipur’s context should be attributed to the aboriginal communities that have been living in Manipur since the pre-historic times and those who have been socially, culturally, and linguistically absorbed into such aboriginal communities which later on acquired the status of indigenous people. The indigenous people possess ancestral land, customary laws, indigenous dialects, culture, traditions, and lineage in the Yek Salai system. Research in this area suggests that Aimol, Anal, Chiru, Chothe, Inpui, Kabui, Kharam, Koireng, Kom, Lamkang, Liangmei, Mao, Maram, Maring, Meitei/ Meetei, Moyon, Monshang, Poumai, Purum, Rongmei, Tarao, Thangal, Tangkhul, and Zemei are indigenous people. The rest have migrated to Manipur in different historical times. They have not been absorbed into indigenous people. In other words, although all the communities living in Manipur may constitute “the people of Manipur,” all of them are not indigenous to Manipur.
5. Who Are The Foreign Migrants Till 1947?
Indigenous cosmologies, folk stories, sacred texts, etc. infer the arrival of different hordes of migrants in different historical times. During the pre-British period, there were Bamon, Pangal, and Burmese (Pong, Shan, etc.) migrants. Many of them, other than Pangal, have completely absorbed into indigenous people. However, most of the hordes of migrants during the period from 1826 to 1947 were not absorbed into indigenous people. The examples are the British officers, British Indian troops, Kuki and allied cognates, British Indian subjects locally known as Mayang, Gurkha or Nepali, etcetera. While the British left after Manipur’s sovereignty was restored in 1947, the rest have not gone back to the places where they have migrated from. They are permanent settlers.
Among the settlers, the predominant community in terms of population strength, territorial occupation, and raiding activities is the Kuki. Several batches of Kuki migration to Manipur are mentioned by British writers. In 1887, George Watt wrote in his article ‘The Aboriginal Tribes of Manipur’;
“The last great race of invaders and conquerors who entered Manipur was the Kukies or Lushais [present day Mizo tribes in Mizoram State]. These people seem to have taken their origin in the upper Chittagong Hill tracts [in present day Bangladesh], but finding it necessary to immigrate, the surplus population during the past two or three centuries at least, has kept moving to the north, or in other words into Manipur. One wave of these invaders received the name of the Khongjai Kukies, another the Kom Kukies, and these two in their numerous clans or subdivisions seem to have poured into Manipur territory, and wandering up the mountains which constitute the western wall of the valley, ultimately descended into the valley itself. A third great wave, the Sukties or Kumhaus, now inhabit the country immediately to the south of the valley of Manipur or have wandered along a portion of the eastern ranges. A fourth, the Chasads (or Chuksads) , a branch of the Suktis, have attracted attention within the past few years. These modern raiding Kukies seem to have come from Burma [Myanmar] into Manipur, and most probably at the instigation of the Rajah of Sumjok, a Burmese feudatory chief. It was Chasad raidings that led to the Burma-Manipur expedition, since, while occupying territory claimed by Manipur they acknowledged allegiance only to Sumjok.”
In 1896, Sir James Johnstone wrote in his book My Experience in Manipur and the Naga Hills;
“The Kukis are a wondering race consisting of several tribes who have been working up from the south. They were first heard as Kukis in Manipur between 1830 to 1840… The new immigrants began to cause anxiety about the year 1845 and soon poured into the hill tract of Manipur in such numbers as to drive away many of the older inhabitants… Seeing that the Kukis had been driven north by kindred but more powerful tribes [in present day Chin State in Myanmar and Mizoram State in India], and that their first object was to secure land for cultivation; McCulloch [the then British Political Agent in Manipur], as they arrived settled them down, allotting to them lands in different places according to their numbers, and where their presence would be useful on exposed frontiers. He advanced them large sums from his own pocket, assigning different duties to each chief’s followers. Some were made into irregular troops, others were told off to carry loads according to the custom of the state. Thus in time many thousands of fierce Kukis were settled down as peaceful subjects of Manipur, and Colonel McCulloch retained supreme control over them to the last.”
6. What Was the Idea of One People (1947-49)?
Throughout the British colonial period (1826-1947), the relationship between indigenous people and migrants comprising British colonial authorities and its agents, invaders, and settlers was marked by a mixture of reconciliation and sporadic violence. Between 1826 and early 1891, the British enforced a semi-colonial sphere of influence and kept the indigenous people subservient to their interests. It caused friction and antagonistic conflicts that culminated in the Anglo-Manipur War (1891). Manipur lost the war. Thereafter, the British occupied Manipur, enforced indirect rule, consolidated British reserved areas, imposed annual tributes as war reparation, and collected taxes. Between 1830 and 1947, the British regulated the infiltration of several batches of Kuki migrants, created Kuki levies, and settled them in new colonies. Subsequently, as Kuki chiefs gained numerical strength and arms power, they carried out a series of offensive raids for booty on vulnerable indigenous people such as Tangkhul. The most extensive and coordinated offensive raids were committed between 1917 and 1919 upon indigenous people such as Meetei, Tangkhul, Liangmei, Rongmei, and others. Meanwhile, British Indian (Mayang) merchants, who enjoyed favourable protection ensured by the colonial authorities, gradually established a monopoly of trade, market, merchandise, and price fixation. This resulted into spontaneous resistance from the indigenous people as manifested, soon after 1891, in the women’s agitations against forced labour in 1904 (known as the first Nupi Lan), against Bengali Kayastha during the Bazaar Boycott in 1920, and against Marwari merchants during the second Nupi Lan (1939-1940).
However, the British period also witnessed a gradual crystallisation of the idea of “one people” encompassing the indigenous people and migrants. The crystallisation was driven by the objective and subjective requirements to build inter-community reconciliation, that is, to collectively achieve the goals of a sovereign country and a people’s republic. The goals were achieved by the adoption of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 that replaced absolute monarchy with democracy with a titular king (or constitutional monarchy) as the head of the State. In the spirit of democratic federalism, the Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation, 1947 was adopted to enable communities in the hills to enjoy the scheme of limited decentralisation. These were the result of the collective efforts of undisputed community representatives. Overall, sixteen persons representing various communities played important roles in the making of the Constitution. They were, (a) the President of Manipur State Darbar Mr. F.F. Pearson (British); (b) Two members of Manipur State Darbar [S. Samarendra Singh [Meetei], and Md. Quazi Wali Ulla [Pangal]); (b) One Chief Court judge [L.M. Ibungohal (Meetei)]; (c) One non-official member [A. Minaketan alias Ibotombi (Meetei)]; (d) One representative of Jiribam [S. Bijoy Singh (Meetei)]; (e) Five members of valley [Dwijamani Sharma (Bamon or Meetei Brahmin), Krishnamohon Singh (Meetei), Dr. Leiren Singh (Meetei), Mera Jatra Singh (Meetei), L. Jugeswar Singh (Meetei)], and (f) Five members of hills [Daiho (Mao), Thangoupao (Kuki), R. Suisa (Tangkhul), Teba Kilong (Kom), T.C. Tiankham (Paite)].
Educated elites or leaders in the 1940s realised the need to have community representations and build a political united front. On Sunday, November 30, 1947, an Organising Committee of community organisations was formed to constitute a united front. The Committee was composed of; (a) M.K. Shimray of Tangkhul Long, (b) Luneh of Kuki National Assembly, (c) Kakhangai of Kabui Association, (d) Teba Kilong of Khulmee Union, (e) Dena of Mizo Union, (f) Srijut Ibomcha of Manipur Krishak Sabha, (g) Ibungohal of Nongpok Apunba Marup, (h) H. Irabot of Manipur Praja Sanggha, and (i) Sulei Mia of Yairipok. The Committee elected Hijam Irabot as the Chairman and Mr. M.K. Shimray as the Secretary. Meanwhile, the ratio of representatives to be elected to Manipur Assembly was fixed at 30 for the valley, 18 for hills, 3 for Pangal community, and 1 each for Education and Commerce and Industry—thus a total of 53 MLAs to be elected by people. The Assembly of the Republic of Manipur, inaugurated on October 18, 1948, was represented by members elected through universal franchise. The idea of “one people” was firmly established.
7. Why Demographic Influx Since 1949?
1949 was a crucial, rather unfortunate juncture for the indigenous people of Manipur. On October 15, 1949, Manipur was taken over by the Dominion of India after extracting, under duress, the controversial “Manipur Merger Agreement” on 21 September 1949. Manipur’s nascent democracy was abolished, and India’s Central Rule was imposed. Thereafter, Manipur was no longer protected from the unregulated influx of migrants from other parts of India and neighbouring countries as well. Before 1949, Manipur had a permit system since 1897. The Foreigner’s Department regulated the exit and entry of foreigners. On the eve of Independence, Manipur Naturalisation Act, 1947 was adopted to differentiate foreigners from citizens and to regulate the formers’ entry and exit. However, Manipur could not withstand the Dominion of India’s policies. The Dominion of India opened up the floodgate of migration. As a result, Manipur suddenly became a fertile territory for new settler colonies. The reasons are many.
First, unrestrained migration from other parts of India has all along been encouraged to serve India’s humanitarian and integrity interests. For instance, on August 25, 1949, the Dominion of India’s reform officer PC Deb issued a notice to enrol Mayang refugees in the electoral roll of Manipur. The notice says, “pursuant to the decision of the Government of India that refugees from Pakistan will be provisionally registered in the Electoral Roll of the House of People on a declaration by them of their intention to reside permanently in the locality to which the Electoral Roll relates, … the five Tahsildars of the Manipur valley and the Mauzadar of Jiribam (were empowered) for the acceptance of such declaration from bonafide refugees residing in their respective jurisdiction.”
On October 15, 1949, the Dominion of India took over Manipur and abolished the Responsible Government. It directly ruled Manipur for many years. On October 9, 1950, the Centre’s Chief Commissioner Himmat Singh told the Advisory Council of Manipur, “As an agent of the Government of India, I am here to execute the policies and instructions of the Government of India … People of other parts of India can no longer be treated as foreigners and discriminatory treatment against them is neither possible nor wise”. On November 18, 1950, he abolished the pre-existing permit system that had been regulating the entry and exit of migrants. The abolition opened up the floodgate of unrestrained influx of migrants, particularly Mayang merchants, labour, government servants and others.
Second, Manipur has not been fully protected from illegal immigration from neighbouring countries such as Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, and Nepal. It is the result of many interplaying factors. However, the Government of India has been trying to cover up the realities with false stories. For instance, the Government says that it has adopted a multi-pronged approach to ensure effective surveillance and domination of land borders to check the infiltration of illegal migrants. It says that physical infrastructure in the form of border fencing, floodlighting, construction of border roads and establishment of border outposts had been created. The truth is that the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, Foreigners Act, 1946, Citizenship Act, 1955, and rules and orders made thereunder have never been strictly enforced with adequate infrastructure, manpower, intelligence and efforts to prevent, detect, and deport illegal migrants. Meanwhile, the informal or formal policy of “free movement regime” for trans-border communities has been directly or indirectly promoting infiltration by illegal immigrants.
The government of India’s foreign refugee dealing system has been lopsided. It has been showing indifference to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), and its Additional Protocol (1967). It also lacks a “national” refugee protection legal framework. All of these have been indirectly contributing to the clandestine infiltration of refugees. For instance, the burden of dealing with refugees in the border States in Northeast India has been left to the personal or communal sentiment of powerful politicians and bureaucrats. Initiatives from international humanitarian bodies came too late and have been lopsided. For instance, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees became operative in India very lately in 1981. Unfortunately, the Office for Refugee Status Determination is located in faraway New Delhi. It has no office in the border States where the problems of refugees require immediate attention. Refugee status could not be immediately determined at the right time and place. There has been a lack of viable shelters that might have attracted voluntary admission of refugees for security and opportunities. Therefore, refugees (e.g., Kuki who fled Burma during the instabilities in the 1960s, 1988, and 2021 onwards), without being officially detected and confined in shelters, have illegally infiltrated and settled permanently under the cover of community or ethnic affinity.
There have been vested interests of host communities that have been promoting illegal immigrants. Several hordes of illegal immigrants have been welcomed, accommodated, covered up, and assimilated by hosts on the grounds of community affiliation. The hosts have been helping illegal migrants by manufacturing forged documents to unscrupulously obtain citizenship cards and other opportunities. This trend has been particularly prevalent among Kuki whose vested elites have demographic, territorial, economic, and political objectives of transplanting illegal Kuki migrants from Burma (Myanmar) into Manipur. Kuki chiefs (semi-feudal landlords or landed chieftains) have been using Kuki migrants as either cheap labour or tenants. Migrants, who subsequently became Scheduled Tribes, added to Kuki’s manpower that in turn has been instrumental in land grabbing or territorial occupation, enlarging communal vote banks, and devising communally motivated political pressures. The wealthier and more educated sections have been grabbing political power and key positions in bureaucracy. They have been abusing power and manipulating the system to perpetuate the perennial infiltration of cross-border illegal immigrants.
Likewise, there are indications of large-scale illegal migrations of Bangladeshis particularly during the Indo-Pakistan war (1971) and afterwards. Nepali immigrants infiltrated by taking advantage of the relaxation provided by the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958 which stipulates, “notwithstanding anything contained in the Foreigners (exemption) order, 1957 it shall apply to all foreigners except the subjects of Bhutan, Subjects of Sikkim and national of Nepal.” By the time the Act was amended in 1978, to literally restrict free entry, many Nepali immigrants had firmly settled in many colonies. Overall, illegal migrants have been infiltrating either directly through the porous international border or via the bordering States of Mizoram, Assam, and Nagaland. They have been putting enormous pressure on the indigenous people.
8. What Are The Impacts On Indigenous People?
As mentioned before, there has been an unregulated influx of migrants after 1949. The data on migration may throw some light.
To begin with, the decadal growth rate of the population indicates a positive decadal growth rate after 1951. According to the Government’s report, the decadal population growth rate may be summarised as follows. (1) 0.29 million in 1901 to 0.35 million in 1911, i.e., 21.71 % growth. (2) 0.38 million in 1921, i.e., 10.92 % growth rate. (3) 0.45 million in 1931, i.e., 16.04 % growth rate. (4) 0.51 million in 1941, i.e., 14.92 % growth rate. (5) 0.58 million in 1951, i.e., 12.80 % growth rate. (6) 0.78 million in 1961, i.e., 35.04% growth rate. (7) 1.07 million in 1971, i.e., 37.53% growth rate. (8) 1.42 million in 1981, i.e., 32.46% growth rate. (9) 1.84 million in 1991, i.e., 29.29% growth rate. (10) 2.29 million in 2001, i.e., 24.86% growth rate. (11) 2.85 million in 2011, i.e., 24.50% growth rate.
Migration has contributed a lot to the unnatural increase in the population of Manipur. According to a draft policy prepared by the Government of Manipur in 1976, excessive migration contributed to a geometrical rise in the decadal growth rate of the population from 12.80 % in 1951 to 35.04 % in 1961 and further to 37.53 % in 1971. According to a report published in the Economic and Political Weekly, the number of Nepali (Gurkha) in Manipur rose from 2860 to 36604 from the corresponding year 1951 to 1976. The number further increased to 37046 in 1981. According to the United Committee Manipur’s publication entitled Influx of Immigrants into Manipur; A Threat to the Indigenous Ethnic People (2005), the migrant population increased from 196849 in 1961-1971 to 128042 in 1971-1981, to 79566 in 1981-1991, and 200,031 in 1991-2001. While the accumulated number of migrants during the entire period is 538887, the total number of births contributed by the migrants is estimated at 165601. The total number of migrants in 2001 is estimated at 704488, i.e., about 31% of the total population of Manipur (2293896 persons).
Migration added pressure on land. This is based on the study of the Census of India, 1991, Series 15, Manipur and Economic Survey Manipur (2005-2006). According to these reports, the density of population per square kilometre increased from 13 persons (1901), to 15 persons (1911), to 17 persons (1921), to 20 persons (1931), to 23 persons (1941), to 26 persons (1951), to 35 persons (1961), to 48 persons (1971), to 64 persons (1981), to 82 persons (1991), to 103 persons (2001), and 128 persons (2011). During the base years 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011 the density of population (number of person per square kilometre) in Manipur’s administrative districts respectively increased from; (1) 454, to 579, to 594, to 684 in Imphal, (2) 453, to 572, to 708, to 821 in Thoubal, (3) 386, to 364, to 419, to 479 in Bishnupur, (4) 47, to 64, to 87, to 146 in Senapati, (5) 29, to 39, to 50, to 60 in Churachandpur, (6) 18, to 24, to 31, to 40 in Ukhrul, (7) 17, to 21, to 36, to 44 in Chandel, and (8) 14, to 20, to 25, to 32 in Tamenglong districts.
The unregulated influx of migrants has been threatening the indigenous people across the valley and hill districts. In the hill, due to limited area of habitable land, poor quality of soil, rugged topography, and difficulties in cultivation a slight increase in the population could magnify pressure on the pre-existing villages, towns, forests, cultivational areas and landed resources. The valley districts which constituted merely 2,238 sq. kms., which is 10 % of the total area, constitute the backbone of Manipur’s agriculture. Migration added to the pressure on land, consumption demand, and reduced cultivational areas. It has adverse impacts on agriculture and landed resources.
The unregulated influx of migrants also poses other serious threats. The population of migrants has outnumbered many indigenous communities. They have been disturbing the pre-existing status quo and demographic balance among the indigenous people. Migrants have been grabbing land, owning immovable properties, competing jobs, supplying cheap labour, controlling market and trade, influencing administration, dominating electoral politics, creating social instabilities, destroying forests, and causing destruction to ecological harmony.  In extreme cases, migration has added manpower to aggressing Kuki elites who have been responsible for murder, subjugation, exploitation, deprivation, marginalisation and displacement of indigenous villages. This trend has been continued since the British colonial period onwards. After 1950, they have been manipulating the system to ensure the migrants become Scheduled Tribes. They have been dishonestly misappropriating the opportunities of Scheduled Tribes, Manipur Village Authorities (In Hill Areas) Act, 1956, the Constitution’s Article 371(C), and Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act 1960. They, thus, have been depriving and marginalising the indigenous people. Simultaneously, there has been an interplay of Kuki’s growth in demographic strength, involvement in narco-business, land grabbing, deforestation, procurements of arms and ammunition, building up of militia groups, and penetration in political leadership and bureaucracy. All these combined to strengthen their secret agenda to carve out a separate Kuki territory at the cost of the indigenous people’s rights. Therefore, they opposed indigenous initiatives to check cross-border infiltration, population survey, war on drugs, destruction of poppy, afforestation measures, and eviction of encroachers in Protected and Reserved Forests. They have been fabricating historical facts and distorting history to brainwash their followers and misinform public opinions about their origin, claims for being indigenous, and territorial demand.
9. What Are The Indigenous People’s Demands?
Indigenous people have been carrying out defensive actions and have also been raising demands against the unregulated influx of migrants and the threats caused by migrants. After 1949, some notable indigenous movements were the students’ agitations of 1980 and 1994, and the movement for the implementation of Inner Line Permit System in the first two decades of the 21st century. The students’ radical agitation of 1980 demanded the detection and deportation of illegal immigrants. The agitation came to an end when the Government of Manipur agreed to start with the processes of identification, detection, and deportation of illegal immigrants who have infiltrated into Manipur after 1951. However, the agreement was not fulfilled. Therefore, agitation erupted again in 1994. It ended after the Government of Manipur agreed to implement the terms of the agreement of 1980. However, the promise was not fulfilled. In the mid-2000s, a movement emerged demanding the implementation of an Inner Line Permit System to regulate the entry and exit of migrants from other parts of India. The movement witnessed a series of violent incidents marked by death, injuries, and collateral damages. On 12th December 2019, the Government of India extended the Inner Line Permit System or the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 to Manipur. After this, on 31st December 2019, the Government of Manipur adopted Inner Line Permit Guidelines, 2019. On 23rd September 2022, it again notified Manipur Inner Line Permit (Amendment) Guidelines, 2022. But the question remains if the Government’s initiatives could adequately fulfil the specific demands of the indigenous people. The demands are, (1) A regulatory mechanism to stop the unrestrained inflow of migrants, (2) Prevention of migrants from owning land, (3) Prevention of migrants from owning buildings and immovable properties, (4) Prevention of migrants from becoming permanent citizenship and enjoying voting rights, (5) Fixing of 1951 as a base year so that anyone entering into Manipur after the base year may be identified and deported.
10. Critique Of The Ilp System In Manipur
Manipur Inner Line Permit Guidelines have some loopholes in definition, omissions, and execution.
DEFINITION: ILP Guidelines, 2019, read along with the amendment of 2022 defines “indigenous person” and “permanent resident” as two different categories. The base year to determine either indigenous or permanent status is 1961. But it does not favourably treat indigenous persons with rights or privileges vis-à-vis permanent residents and others. Instead, the Guidelines treats both the categories as one and equally. Therefore, incorporation of the two as two different categories lacks sense and has no special implication of indigenous people.
OWNERSHIP: Indigenous people are protected and promoted when they do not lose their homeland, land, buildings, immovable properties, natural resources, and markets to migrants. This can happen only when non-indigenous (migrants) are prevented from owning the above items. But the ILP Guidelines are silent on it. There is a probability that those who could obtain a Special Category Permit—rich, politically influential, powerful—and who have an accumulative interest in exploiting the economy of Manipur could enjoy absolute control and monopolies in Manipur.
VOTING RIGHTS: Indigenous people’s rights and interests cannot be protected if migrants are given a free hand in political decision-making and administration. The Guidelines do not bar the migrants from voting rights in Manipur’s local election. The problem, therefore, is that when migrants enjoy voting rights, in the first phase, they exert political pressure as vote banks in electoral politics. They use their influence to increase their number, strengthen permanent rooting, enjoy political influence, serve economic and landed interests, and territorial claims. In the long run, as their influence increases, the ILP system will become a natural death. Therefore, the objectives of protecting and promoting indigenous rights have not been fulfilled.
EXEMPTION OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: Clause 16 of ILP Guidelines stipulates, “these regulations and guidelines shall not apply to foreigners who shall be regulated and governed by… the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950 and subsequent amendments.” This matter cannot be taken lightly. For instance, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs notifications, dated September 7, 2015, and July 18, 2016, entry without any restriction has been offered to persons belonging to minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before December 31, 2014. What these notifications imply is that it would be difficult to verify anyone who would enter Manipur based on the above claims. Those verified immigrants (genuine or not) can enter without an ILP card. If they settle in Manipur, in the long run, they will pose serious threats to the economy, politics, culture, and demography of the indigenous people.
EXEMPTION OF NON-MANIPURI: Clause 8 of ILP Guidelines stipulates a list of “category of persons exempted from Inner Line Permit.” A question can be raised in this regard. Will it be a big burden if the ILP card is either obtained by or issued to this category of outsiders, to express their respect for the unique history, identity, and sentiment of the indigenous people of Manipur? Meanwhile, clause 8 contains certain terms that do not have corresponding definitions. When sub-clauses (i) to (vi) exempt “family members,” it requires a proper definition. How will the government respond to a big chunk of the population if they enter Manipur on the claim of “family members?” The term “officers” mentioned in sub-clause (iii) requires a proper definition. A definition has to be mentioned, to be based either based on pay grade or office post designation. Moreover, it needs to be pointed out that only those officers or employees who are posted in Manipur are exempted from ILP during their tenure of posting. Sub-clause (vii) stipulates, “all executive members of the recognized National and State Political Parties.” It is irrational and must be deleted. Sub-clause (viii) mentions “educational institutions.” This term is vague and can be manipulated. An “educational institution” should be affiliated with either the Board of Secondary Education Manipur or Council of Higher Secondary Education Manipur or Manipur University or any other government-recognized university that has a campus in Manipur. Otherwise, there will be a lack of accountability. Fake educational institutes may come into existence with the sole objective of promoting migration. Such fake institutions may issue identity cards to over-aged pretenders, as there is no age bar for someone to be a student. The validity of such an ID card may surpass the validity of Special Category Permit. Therefore, an “educational institution” needs to be properly defined.
AUTHORITY: On the question of issuing an ILP card, the Guidelines accords the government with discretionary power. There are some problems with this. First, when Clause 5 (ii) stipulates, “any other agency authorized by the State Government,” the term “any other agency” needs a proper definition. If it has not been properly defined, it is likely to be misinterpreted and manipulated in the interest of those who may misuse the power to outsource or privatize the authority in the hands of private firms or companies or a handpicked team. Second, for issuing Special Category Permit, Clause 9 (iv) mentions, “any other person as decided by the State Government.” Here, it leaves the door open to manipulation by the powerful, who may issue Special Category Permit to anyone on any pretext to suit their interests. It also creates a condition whereby Special Category Permit may be granted indiscriminately without any restraint. Third, Clause 22 is entirely irrelevant or unnecessary as it can outplay all the clauses of the Guidelines. It writes, “The State Government has inherent power to relax any of the above guidelines at its discretion.” This clause renders ILP Guidelines as a whole meaningless. This should be deleted.
PENALTY: Clause 20 mentions penalty. There are technical lapses and oversight in it. First, it is mentioned that those non-exempted people who enter Manipur without an ILP card or those who overstay the period of validity are “liable for prosecution as provided under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.” This penalty leaves out many relevancies in the contemporary context of Manipur. Because, according to BEFR, 1873, those who are being prosecuted guilty are to be fined or jailed or both. There is no provision of deportation of guilty outsiders. Forfeiting of illegally possessed land, building, property, and infrastructures is not mentioned. There is no provision for rejection of permit to a guilty outsider, for a certain period (days or months or years or forever). Manipur ILP Guidelines do not mention all these. Second, there is no penalty for those indigenous or permanent resident landlords who give shelter or rented buildings, rooms to those outsiders who violate ILP Guidelines. There should be a penalty against the selling of land, buildings, immovable infrastructure, etc. to outsiders.
SPONSORS: There are certain issues with sponsors. This is related to Clauses 9, 10, and 12, and Application Forms A, B, and D. First, a definition of a sponsor is missing in the Guidelines. The term sponsor, mentioned in Clause 10 and Application forms 9, 10, and 12, requires a proper definition. Second, Clauses 9 and 12 do not specify the exact term sponsor, but the corresponding Application Forms A and D require to append the name and signature of a corresponding sponsor. This inconsistency needs to be rectified. Third, Clause 10 (b) for Regular Inner Line Permit demands, “the application shall be sponsored by any permanent resident of the State of Manipur.” The reason that indigenous people or institutions (such as educational, sports, and cultural) are not allowed sponsoring regular visitors (such as teachers, professionals, fellows, emeritus, families, and friends) is a mystery. It seems the government has a framework of mind that gives importance primarily confined to the commercial bourgeoisie, bureaucrats, politicians, extractive firms, project dealers, military and paramilitary personnel, and their families, relatives, and friends only. Fourth, Application Forms A and D are lacking in space or provisions to verify authenticity and collection of necessary information of a sponsor. It is indeed funny to find that a sponsor has to merely mention its name (or department name in case of form D) and append a signature only. It gives enough chances of duplication or pretention or manipulation and escapes from authentic verification. It will amount to a lack of transparency and accountability. This error needs rectification.
11. Conclusion
When the Government of India took over Manipur as per the terms of the Merger Agreement it assured to undertake, “to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the social, economic and religious life of the people.” By people it meant those aboriginal communities constituting the indigenous people and settlers in 1949 who have become “one people.” Unfortunately, the social, economic, and political life of the people have not been protected due to the unregulated influx of migrants. Migrants have been causing existential threats to the indigenous people. This negative trend contravenes the spirit and norms of international statutes such as; (a) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), (b) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), (c) International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969), and (d) the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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