Manipur: Excluded Others

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By Veronica Khangchian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On September 13, 2013, in a second attack against non-locals in the state during the year, at least nine migrant labourers from Assam were killed and another 11 were injured in an explosion inside a working shed located on the slab cover put up over Naga Nullah (drain) at Nagamapal in Imphal West District. While five persobs died at the spot, four succumbed to their injuries later. All the labourers were engaged by Simplex Project Limited, Kolkata, which has been entrusted with the task of laying the slabs over Naga Nullah as well as of building the embankment.

Earlier, on June 27, 2013, two non-local migrant workers, both masons by profession, were killed while another four were injured, including a local man, when unidentified miscreants lobbed a hand grenade at a rented room at Uripok Tourangbam Leikai in Imphal. Sources said that the incident occurred while the six persons were sitting together in the rented room. The deceased were all from Begu Sarai in Bihar.

The September 13 attack against ‘outsiders’ was the first major attack (resulting in three or more fatalities) since May 2009. On May 11, 2009, unidentified militants killed nine non-locals inside the Keibul Lamjao National Park at Khordak Awang Leikai area in Bishnupur District. The killing was a ‘revenge attack’ for the reverses suffered by the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) militants in the counter-insurgency campaign codenamed Operation Summer Storm conducted jointly by the Army and Manipur Police in April 2009. Altogether 11 PREPAK militants were killed in the April 2009 Operation.

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 90 ‘outsiders’ have been killed since 2001 (data till September 21, 2013). Most of the killings were carried out by unspecified militant groups, though, where the identity of the organisation was established, CorCom or its elements were found to be responsible. Earlier, Corcom had set December 31, 2012, as the deadline for all the non-Manipuris to leave Manipur. CorCom now includes the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), PREPAK, its Progressive faction (PREPAK-Pro), Revolutionary People's Front (RPF – the political wing of the People’s Liberation Army – PLA) and United National Liberation Front (UNLF). The United Peoples Party of Kangleipak (UPPK) was expelled from the Committee after meetings with leaders of UPPK on January 28 and 31, 2013. In August 2012, CorCom, had also declared that the people of Manipur “were/are never Indians and nor will ever be”. The CorCom, however, has denied its role in the latest attack.

On September 5, 2012, issuing its ultimatum to all outsiders to leave Manipur as well as to check any further influx of migrants, CorCom, had warned that no one should rent out dwelling places to ‘outsiders’, hire the service of migrant workers, or engage with them in business transactions.

In March 2010, while describing all those who entered Manipur after 1949 (when the erstwhile princely state was ‘forcibly’ merged with the Indian Union) as "non-Manipuris", the PLA had also asked these ‘outsiders’ to leave the State. In May 2010, rather interestingly, after inking a Memorandum of Understanding with the Communist Party of India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist), PLA had also urged the ‘non-local working class’ in Manipur to join the CPI-Maoist.

CorCom elements have also intensified their propaganda and drive against ‘outsiders’. The United Revolutionary Front (URF, set up on January 7, 2012, which collaborates with CorCom in their attacks against non-locals, but is not a member of CorCom), a conglomerate of five splintered factions of the KCP, in a statement issued by A.K. Pibarel, its ‘secretary, information and publicity’, on April 9, 2012, declared that it was not right to let ‘outsiders’ claim ownership of all professional works in the State and that the indigenous people should be the right owners of Manipur and its markets, including all kinds of occupations or professions. Thereafter, on April 14, 2012, URF announced an ‘ordinance’ against all non-locals living in Manipur as part of its economic policy for indigenous people. The 15-point ordinance, among other provisions, imposes a monthly ‘tax’ on all non-indigenous people, without any consideration of the period of their settlement in Manipur.

An August 28, 2012, report also stated that the URF had called on Manipuri students to look towards the fast-developing regions of China and Southeast Asia to pursue higher studies and employment, arguing that ‘mainland India’ has repeatedly disowned them. The URF cited the incidence of threat and intimidation against the people of the Northeast, in apparent retaliation to the Kokrajhar (Assam) riots, as evidence of the ‘perverse attitude’ of ‘mainstream India’.

Significantly, in August 2012, there was a crackdown on illegal migrants close on the heels of a fresh campaign by civil society groups for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Manipur. The ILP is an official travel document required for both Indian and foreign citizens to travel into restricted areas. The Manipur Assembly passed a resolution in July 2012 to urge the Centre to introduce ILP in the State, to regulate the influx of migrants and foreigners. The Centre, however, is said to have no plans to extend the ILP system, which exists only in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, to include Manipur.

Recently, on July 5, 2013, announcing the formation of its Women’s Wing, with Lourembam Nganbi and Akoijam Memcha Leima as Convenor and Co-convenor respectively, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) appealed to the people to engage in a joint effort to implement the ILP System in the State. A statement issued by JCILPS declared that the movement demanding the implementation of ILP system had completed one year, and two resolutions had been taken in the Manipur Assembly as a result. Despite many movements by the people, however, the State Government and the Centre had failed to give any assurance that the people's demand would be met. The JCILPS had spearheaded the year-long stir for implementation of the ILP system in the State. On July 29, 2013, the group had urged the Chief Minister, among others, to verify driving licenses, domicile certificates and electoral rolls of all constituencies, before the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) elections of 2014; to identify illegal migrants and foreigners who settled in various districts of the State after 1980 and delete them from the electoral rolls of Manipur; and to set up check posts for illegal immigrants at the principles points of influx into the State. The unchecked rise in the population of non-locals has altered demographic patterns in the State, ‘threatening the existence of indigenous people’, according to the JCILPS. In July, 1980, the All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) and All Manipur Students Co-ordinating Committee (AMSCOC) had signed an agreement with the Government of Manipur to initiate identification and detection of all outsiders from 1st August, 1980, and to send them ‘back home’.

Interestingly, on September 21, 2012, 22 illegal Bangladeshi migrants who entered Manipur for low-wage manual jobs were sentenced to two years imprisonment by the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Imphal East District (CJM-IED). The order of the CJM-IED was passed after hearing the case filed by the Porompat Police Station (Imphal East District) against the illegal migrants, who were charge-sheeted under provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

The issue of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ has been a cause of major conflict in Manipur – and, indeed, across much of India’s Northeast – and has also provoked tensions between various ethnic communities, catalyzing the growing unity of militant formations in the State in recent years. The Centre’s proclivity to brushing the issue under the carpet, even as the continued and substantial influx of foreigners is tolerated, has made locals hostile even to migrants from other parts of India. These problems are enormously compounded by endemic and chronic misgovernance in the State, giving little hope of any constructive solution in the foreseeable future.

[Source:  SATP]

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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