Way To Harmony by Neken Serram

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Inner Line permit system is beneficial to both the manipuris and non-manipuris
Non-implementation of Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act in hill areas of Manipur has been a major cause of antagonism between the hill and valley inhabitants. Likewise, non-implementation of Inner Line Permit system increases the suspicion between the manipuris and non-manipuris, thereby disturbing the peaceful co-existence of various communities. Besides recognizing the identity of immigrants, the Inner Line Permit system will protect the non-manipuris who visit the state for education, business or treatment in times of crises. ILP is a mechanism for bringing about peaceful co-existence among various peoples staying in Manipur. India’s spirit of unity in diversity will be more enlivened with the implementation of this system.

By: Seram Neken

Historically, the Meitei/Meetei nation began with the establishment of the powerful Ningthouja Kingdom by Pakhangba, who ruled Manipur for 150 years from 33 AD. The Meiteis/Meeteis had their days of glory under a mini empire stretching from Kohima to Chindwin River during the reign of king Garib Nawaz in the 18th century. They could well consolidate the empire by defeating the Chinese, Burmese, Assamese, Tripuris, Cacharis and many other tribes in Manipur. The Meiteis/Meeteis were considered brave, courageous, and gallant in the face of challenges threatening its composite existence. It was because of the blood, sweat and tears of the Meiteis/Meeteis that the construction of Manipur as a nation was amply effected.

Manipur a way forward : Inner Line Permit - Neken Seram
Manipur as seen on Google Maps

Around thirty different ethnic groups compose the Manipur nation. Before the nomenclatures of Naga or Kuki were introduced by British for administrative convenience, the various tribal groups had been known in their ethnic brands as Aimol, Anal, Ao, Angami, Chiru, Chothe, Kharam, Koireng, Kom, Kabui, Khongshai, Lamkang, Lotha, Maring, Mayon, Monshang, Mao, Maram, Thangal, Thadou, Tangkhul, Tarao, Paite, Poumai, Hmar, Zeliangrong, Sema and so on. Meitei tradition indicates the existence of seven tribes namely Ningthouja, Angom, Khuman, Moirang, Luwang, Sarang-Leishangthem and Khaba-Nganba. The Khumans had appeared to be the most powerful until the Moirang became prominent after its decline. And ultimately the Ningthoujas subdued the whole and the name Meitei became applicable to all of them. In fact, the name ‘Manipur’ was also created only three centuries ago during the reign of king Pamheiba.

It is not a healthy development at present that Meitei/Meetei population has been dwindling due to various factors. Strict adherence to family planning norms of ‘one or two children’ by most urban elites has hastened the decrease in Meitei/Meetei population as compared to other communities like Meitei Pangals, whose socio-religious sanctions give room for more wives and children. The rural Meitei/Meetei families have now begun to follow such family planning mantras in defining a contented family life. There has been a trend of shifting settlements among Meitei/Meetei educated and business elites to other cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Guwahati etc. and abroad either due to employment necessities or for avoiding the unrest tendencies of conflict. Moreover, there is a new trend of many excellent, educated and employed Manipuri girls married to outsiders. In the recent past, we have witnessed medical professionals, scientists and academician (Meitei/Meetei) girls belonging to well-to-do families preferring to marry with outsiders. Over and above these factors, many young Meitei/Meetei boys have been killed immaturely in the conflicts, drugs and AIDS mania. Many young married women have become widows and hundreds of children have become orphans.

Immigrant population of non-Manipuris has also increased considerably, causing concern in saving the indigenous identity of Manipuris. Nepalis, Biharis, Bangalis, Madrasis etc. have settled in huge numbers  in the name of running business and began to claim their social status as a Manipuri. Among the international immigrants, Nepalis are the most numerous with their settlements concentrated mainly in Senapati district of Manipur. In 1974, a Nepali in the person of ‘Kishore Thapa’ was elected Member of Manipur Legislative Assembly from the Kangpokpi Assembly constituency. Today, there are a number of Nepali representatives in local bodies. Not only in political arena, have they also occupied high administrative positions in the government. As per reports, migrants constitute around 60 percent of Jiribam population while 30 percent people there belongs to indigenous tribals and 5 percent Meiteis. It is surprising that more than 4000 voters in Thangmeiband assembly constituency are non-manipuris. Similar figure of non-manipuri voters is also registered in Sugnu assembly constituency. The Bangladeshis are also a common immigrant in Manipur. They generally reside in Meitei-Pangal populated areas with involvement in socio-economic activities of the state. Many Myammaree Kukis and Myammaree Tamils are also settling in border town of Moreh as business people.

Internal immigrants influx into Manipur include Hindi-speaking belt of India – Bihar, UP etc. who have settled as semi-skilled and unskilled laborers. They have snatched the manual jobs from the local laborers. South Indians from Kerala and Tamil Nadu have also immigrated into the state as teachers of English schools and missionaries. Their presence has adversely affected the education system of the state. There are also Marwaris who reside in huge numbers in the heart of Imphal city in the name of business. Such uninterrupted influx has not only threatened the indigenous Meitei identity but also causes concern in moulding a unique national character of Manipuris.

A social and political vigil has become necessary to check the trend of outside settlements and abroad marriages of Meiteis. Influx of immigrants has to be monitored carefully by the state government and civil organisations through proper implementation of Inner Line permit system. The implementation of Inner Line permit system will give due protection of non-manipuris and bring harmonious relations between manipuris and non-manipuris. The cultural identities of manipuris as well as non-manipuris will be easily preserved under the system. Inner Line permit system is beneficial to both the manipuris and non-manipuris.
(The writer is a freelance journalist)

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