By C. Doungel
When a smaller entity gets merged to a bigger entity, it will face danger of losing its identity though it will have the advantage of belonging to a bigger one. Manipur’s position is similar. The advantage it gets after merger, of protection or employment in small measure etc is offset by the threat to its identity which always looms large. The main reason behind demanding for Inner Line Permit is guided by this genuine fear. Manipur being a princely state which was theoretically independent, regulated the entry of outsiders in a simple way through issue of pass instead of issuing passports/visa, as maintenance of foreign office would be too cumbersome. Side by side, Inner Line Permit was in vogue in tribal areas like Chin Hills, Lushai Hills, Naga Hills etc under Bengal Frontier regulation of 1873. Both were thus loosely understood as Inner Line Permit despite the subtle differences. The so called Inner Line Permit or regulation of entry of outsiders having become irrelevant after merger of Manipur to India, was abolished.
Be that as it may, influx of Indians from other states and illegal immigrants from Nepal and Bangladesh has, over the years swamped the local population of the state. As for Nepalese, their immigration dates back to British rule when recruitment of large number of them was made in the Army. Even now, they form a sizable chunk of the Indian Army. When Assam Riffles was first raised, large number of Nepalese also were initially inducted. Nepalese became more aware about settling in Manipur after king Churachandra married the princess of Nepal. Further, the signing of Indo-Nepal friendship treaty giving dual citizenship which made provision for Nepalese to settle in India encouraged their settlement. Of late, Nepalies have suffered undue harassment from Naga, Meitei and Kuki insurgents that many had left Manipur to settle in Nepal and Darjeeling district. Many with some means are in the process of winding up and migrating that the question of more new comers does not arise now. Their population has drastically dwindled. Mention is also made of Chin-Kuki people migrating from Burma (Mynmaar). It may be mentioned that in the sixties and seventies when Kukis, unable to bear harassment by Naga insurgents joined Mizo National Front movement. But that in turn invited operation by Army with a strong hand that many left Manipur and took shelter in Burma. This was possible because nearly two lakh Kukis live in Sagaing Division from Kabaw Valley right up to Thungdut area, outside Chin Hills state. In fact, till 1980 there used to be a provision in Manipur State budget for resettlement of Kuki refugees returning to Manipur which was provided by central government.
It will thus be seen that illegal foreign immigrants comprises mostly of Muslims from Bangladesh and Burma. The later would not be so numerous. Those coming from Bangladesh would form the bulk. Much as we would want to introduce Inner Line Permit yet it appears that the same needs central government approval. That was the reply the previous Home Minister of India gave to the state government. While the pressure for Inner Line Permit may continue to convince the Central government, the state government should not rest with that. Instead of allowing mobs to take the law into their own hand, the state government can surely intensify checks at all entry points and vulnerable places. It can open cells or appoint task forces in the Home Department or in the districts for detection of foreigners, who may even do mapping in suspected areas to make detection more effective. Foreigners detected can be tried under Foreigners act and deported. The government must however have political will regardless of consideration of vote bank. What the people are angry is about the bankruptcy of ideas and political will, leading to apathy.
As for migrants from other states, census of such people can be conducted. No doubt, a cut-off year has to be decided. For, those who have lived for generations have to be treated as domiciles. Indiscriminate action against all migrants would amount to willful harassment. As of today most of them are deprived of their fundamental rights and for obvious reasons, they are simply putting up with things silently. They have no aspiration to join the civil services or the police forces but carry on with their trade. However, for those coming after cut-off year, obtaining some kind of permission for trading/business permit or engagement in skilled works like construction works etc may be prescribed. Hawkers or those engaged in menial works may be registered. Outsiders may not be allowed to purchase land in the state. Laws to this effect can be enacted. These are not exhaustive-further restrictions may be imposed as need arise. One word of caution, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” because we also have many of our people living outside – some in employment and some in diferent occupations.
New Land use policy
The approach paper to New Land use Policy has no doubt prepared a model for development. It targets individuals, families and communities on the assumption that ownership of land is regulated by uniform land law. There will be no difficulty to implement this in the valley districts provided proper awareness is brought about. This however will not be possible at this stage in hill areas as there is no land law. Land ownership among the Kukis lies with the Chiefs while in the case of Nagas, it is vested on the elected Khullakpa. In the case of Nagas also, only those from the founding families are eligible to be Khuilakpa, which in the other words means the family who founded the village. Each family can cultivate a jhum field or orchard as allotted to them by village authority chaired by the Chief/Khullakpa. Stray cases of individual ownership as granted or allowed to be acquired by the Chief/Khullakpa exist though. Again, out of over 17000 square kilometers of Forest area in Manipur, reserved forests cover only 4000 square kilometers. The rest known as un-classed forests are village forests. Nearly 1000 square kilometers are utilized for jhuming every year. While villagers are free to extract fire wood for domestic use and timber for house building, any commercial extraction is controlled by the Chief/Khullakpa and forest department collect royalty from them. Supreme Court has however restricted commercial extraction by allowing in a planned and phase-wise manner.
In Mizoram, Chiefship was abolished in the fifties by paying due compensation to the Chiefs. That was easier because it was covered under Sixth Schedule. Mizoram or Nagaland are wholly tribal States where as in the case of Manipur, tribals live in the hill areas. Therefore, putting in a suitable land law will be more difficult under the prevailing trust deficit. Further while the task of implementing NLUP at state and district levels is more about co-ordinating and ensuring effective functioning of line departments, actual implementation at micro-village or local level will not succeed by giving the chiefs or Khullakpas mere advisory role. They are to be the pivot around which the entire implementation will rest. As owners of land, they will not like any other to usurp their authority. To cite an example, the Forest Department had notified Kailam Wild Life Sanctuary without prior consultation and payment of compensation, even if they are token ones. There is so much heart burning that they have filed case in the High Court. The New Land Use Policy amount to putting the cart before the horse. It was perhaps considered to create good impression on the Planning Commission but that has been given a burial. Implementation of New Land Use Policy can take off only when the above issues are sorted out.