Even as we reproduce for our readers the last of the three controversial Bills purportedly designed to together achieve what the Inner Line Permit System of the British era does, we cannot but touch on some important outlooks which have more or less been destroyed completely in Manipur. One of these is the beautiful democratic culture of seeking consent – indeed predicating every major decision with a consensual green signal. The other is respect for dissent, equally an invaluable attribute of a healthy democracy. In recent times, with the virtual usurpation of State power by street politics and its coercive ways, neither is in sound health. If due attention is not given them, it is more than likely they may disappear altogether sooner than we can imagine, and the losers will be all of us. However, the good thing is, all is not lost yet, for there are voices of moderation still left. Thanks to the social media we get to see these voices are there in good numbers, although somewhat drowned amongst the cretinous swarms of cacophonous cabals, compulsively narcissistic selfie addicts, and even rabidly bloodthirsty psychopaths. It will not be easy, but they must as a duty find a way to have their thoughts come out of the closets and reach out and seek to influence the larger public. Manipur must be rescued from the lawlessness of street politics, and all the bandhs and blockades that go with it.
Max Weber’s notion of the State as the sole wielder of legitimate violence cannot strike as more meaningful than after witnessing what is happening in Manipur today. It will be recalled, Weber inherited this anxiety from English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who after witnessing the prolonged 12 years long English civil war fought between Parliamentarians and Royalists, leaving England in a chaos, said very much what Weber is later to formulate coherently as a political theory. In Manipur the State has surrendered both its moral legitimacy, and as a consequence, its monopoly over legitimate violence as well. Politics devoid of any vision, therefore incapable of sizing up the present or anticipate the future, together with the virus of corruption has made sure this is our predicament. Concerns over unchecked immigration, and the possibility of a demographic upset, especially with the Asian Highway and Asian Railway network plans knocking on the doors, has been palpable for a long time now. The government ought to have thought of addressing this issue on its own terms before being coerced from the unruly streets, as we saw happen. Had it done so, there would have been much more time for healthy Assembly debates, keeping by due procedures and protocols, saving the State the inferno it went through, and is being threaten to be put through again.
Let the state’s slumbering intelligentsia come to the fore then and offer its mite towards liberating the debate on the three controversial Bills from the dreary deadlock of rhetoric and obdurate positions held by the conflicting sides. Let them add the refreshing voice and persuasion to make all concerned respect scientific reasoning, logic, consensual decisions, and when no consensus can be reached immediately, allow dissenting voices the democratic dignity due. As for the moment, let it be stated clearly the three Bills will be applicable only to the valley districts, which are also where check on immigration is most urgent. This is despite our own opinion that the three Bills would have remained applicable only to the valley districts as they are. Only in one of them, “The Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015” is it stated that the definition of “Manipur People” as in the Bill will be applicable to the entire State. We see no other way this could have been, for how could anyone have defined “Manipur People” only in terms of the valley districts. However, the operative parts of the Bill, that of registering and monitoring visiting “Non Manipur People”, would have been restricted to the valley districts only as their provisions would have been redundant in the hills where permanent settlement or transfer of land to non STs is already illegal. This is also the only original Bill, for the other two are existing Acts sought to be amended to make them more focused on restricting permanent settlement or transfer of lands to “Non Manipur People”. These two latter Acts are valley specific, and since nothing is mentioned in their Amendment Bills about expanding their application to the hills, their application were obviously meant to remain restricted to the valley districts, as they always were. This is how we see it, but we are reproducing this Bill verbatim today, just as we have the other two, for readers to judge for themselves.