Illegal immigration drive in Manipur

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By Ningthoujam Rc

In the midst of hullabaloos for re-implementation of Inner Line Permit in Manipur, the government of Manipur is taking up some measures to crack down illegal immigrant in Manipur. Unquestionably, the drive that is currently enforced by government of Manipur is definitely an inevitable tool if the illegal immigration and the apparent socio-political repercussion are to be checked. In fact, the drive is already late if the illegal immigration is supposed to be checked. It should have been done long time ago.

Since the fateful 9/11 incident in the United State, immigration has become an important national security issue all over the world as, immigrants lumped alongside transnational criminals, terrorists, and drug traffickers that become a standardized problem for the state to deal with (Andreas 2003). Fears of the “other” or internal destabilization caused by an influx of migrants has been recently becoming a serious concern (Valeriano, 2009).

The compelling exodus of India’s northeast people from mainland cities like Bangalore, Poona, Mumbai, Hyderabad, etc., was a clear example that illegal immigration is becoming a serious question on India’s national security. The vindictive set of threat mails that was received by some of the northeast people (in Bangalore) in which, New Delhi allegedly claimed that there was a Pakistani hand (The Times Of India, 2012), create a commotion amongst the northeast people. It is rather a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It is not clear that this matter should be dealt with cautiously and with a responsible set of actors. If the reality has been tampered with, then I believe that New Delhi should not give any chances to those miscreants responsible for the information security to infringe into India’s national integrity and this should be dealt seriously.

The illegal immigrants inside the 2nd Manipur Rifles campus during their verification on Thursday. Photo IFP
The illegal immigrants inside the 2nd Manipur Rifles campus during their verification on Thursday. Photo IFP ( From our Archives)

On the other hand, it is unfortunate that India’s immigration policy has always been a stumbling block to drive against illegal immigrants. In other words, there has been no Political consensus or clear political will on the issue of illegal immigration. It has been a moribund and an overdue subject. The provisions of India’s Citizenship act of 1955 together with the fact that most immigrants who entered into Indian Territory have not followed the legal process to become Indian citizens complicate the issue of identifying the illegal immigrants (Singh, 2009 cited in Rameshchandra, 2012).

In fact, the unabated cross-border migration in India’s northeast region became a serious issue on the demography, social and political structure since the late 1970s. It is more worrying in a multi ethnic small state like Manipur, where the impact of immigration is affecting on the peaceful co-existence of native population. Very recently, various civil societies start showing their concern to avoid the fate of Chakmas in CHT (Chittagong Hill Tract) or the Tripuris of Tripura who became a minority community in their own homeland against Bangladeshi migrants.

It is unfortunate that some of our politicians who seem myopic in their political decision show their unenthusiastic behavior towards the drive against illegal immigrants as it is going to affect in their electoral vote bank. However, it is not a wise consideration to castigate our very own citizens at the cost of some miscreants who already impinged into our peaceful coexistence and subsequently become a threat to the national security.

Indeed, the census report of 2011 is quite disturbing, which, shows the population of non-Manipuris is much higher than that of indigenous population. The report reveals that there are 7,40,484 non-Manipuri against 6,70,000 tribal and 7,51,208 Meetei population (The Hueiyen News Service, 2012). In addition, if we look at local NGO reports or into some invented calculation of illegal immigration in Manipur, the figures are quite horrifying. Reports of local NGO like FREINDS (The Federation of Regional Indigenous Societies) and UCM (United Committee Manipur) reveals that there are around two hundred thousand Nepalese in Manipur (Service, 2012; United Committee Manipur, 2005). It further says that fifty percent of the total population of Jiribam subdivision of Imphal East district is comprised of Bangladeshi Muslim migrants. Further, the presence of immigrants can be undeniably felt in and around Imphal city areas, Khudrakpam constituency, Moreh town, Kanglatombi areas, Mantripukhri, Telipati, etc. (Jadumani in Hueiyen News Service, 2012). Based on latest census report, FREINDS claims that immigrant outnumbered the Meeteis (excluding Scheduled caste) by 13, 103 heads  (Hueiyen News Service, 2012).

So, to take up appropriate measures or to raise voice against a seeming danger that could impact largely on the socio-political structure of a nation in the long run, is quite appreciating for any responsible citizen. Moreover, it is also an anticipated duty for any responsible form of government. Nevertheless, we should be very careful while dealing with this issue, so that we don’t harm our very own citizen at the cost of some miscreants.

Many individuals and civil societies appreciated Manipur government’s initiative on illegal immigration drive. However, the modus operandi of the drive that is being put into practice by Manipur government seems pretty unscrupulous and rather contradictory to the Article no. 19 (1) (d) of the constitution. The article no. 19 of our constitution allows any Indian subject to move or resides or settles freely throughout the territory of India. Under this provision, hundreds of thousands of northeast brethren also lives in almost all part of the mainland Indian cities, either for higher studies or as professionals or to earn their livelihood.

Though it is rather a necessary task for the government of Manipur to track down illegal immigration, the method, which is put into practice, could attract certain criticism. Any kind of racial discrimination or act of racial profiling anywhere in the world is reproachful and we must condemn it. If we do denounced the ill-considered behavior of the Delhi police that mistaken our northeast brethren as a Tibetan protester for asking identification card or passport verification during the recently held BRICS (Brazil; Russia; India; China; and South Africa) summit at New Delhi (India Today, 2012, also see  Hindu, 2012), we should also condemn the same that is being committed by Manipur Police towards the mainlanders.

If illegal immigration is to be checked, then government of Manipur may consider the electoral list as an alternative. Apart from this, there should be an urgent political consensus on re-implementation of Inner Line Permit system in Manipur ‘or’ the state may also consider a dual citizenship arrangement for the mainlander (see Baruah, 2007, pp. 183-208).

Conclusion

Issue of illegal immigration in northeast region is becoming a serious concern and it has been a herculean task due to lack of political consensus on the subject. The problem of immigration is far more complex in view of the ethnic ties that the migrants share with the native population. As a result, to campaign against immigrants on the other hand is not an easy task and it tends to divide people on communal lines. More communal ethnic conflicts are likely to happen if the government does not take up the measures scrupulously. However, taking up measures or to scapegoat migrants that migration could cause havoc to place of destination does not mean that migration should be discourage; but then again, manager of the state or the local NGOs should make a serious effort in the discourse of illegal immigration, so that any misunderstandings does not happens.

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