Ccpur MoU no solution to ILP issue?
BY signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the JAC-AATB, Churachandpur on Wednesday, the BJP-led coalition government could claim the pact as yet another positive development towards bridging the palpable trust deficit between the hill and valley people. The agreement will be helpful in driving home the right message to the masses that the state government is giving its best to bring all stakeholders and ethnic groups on board for scripting a new chapter of uniform development. May 10, 2017 will also be remembered as an outstanding day on account of the newly formed coalition government managing to strike the right chord with leaders of the anti-bill agitation. For the record, the three bills were passed by the Manipur Legislative Assembly amid intense pressure and strong waves of public movement for constitutional protection of all the indigenous communities settling in Manipur, where the unrestrained demographic pressure created by ceaseless entry of ‘outsiders’ set alarm bells ringing. Though aspiration for safeguard of the indigenes, through re-imposition of the British-era inner-line permit system is valid as the same legislation also exists in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, it is now clear that failure of the public movement in Manipur was due to lack of consensus among all sections of the society.
The pro-ILP public movement mainly confined to the valley pockets; which is about 9 per cent of the total geographical area and where 61.54 per cent of the state’s population, as per Census 2001; comprising Meetei, tribals and others live, also appear to have been interpreted as a campaign on communal lines and in the interest of the Meeteis alone. Some tribal organisations, apparently viewing the movement as Meetei-centric, under the premise that there is minimal presence of tribal people in the valley and opaqueness on the issue, could be another factor for their half-hearted participation in the protracted agitations. It is also possible that opposition to the bills was due to lack of insight that the imminent identity crisis of the native people, in case outsiders settle permanently, is not confined to the liberally open valley areas along but also to the entire state and community. As failure of the previous government to impress that provisions of the bills related to land ownership will not cover tribal settlement areas in the hills and tribal organisations’ defiance on 1950 as the base year for segregation of indigenous and non-native people appear to be some other reasons for the bloody consequences of the bills, the new government will have to work afresh for bringing unanimity on the crucial issue as the JCILPS, which has been leading the pro-ILP stir is unlikely to remain silent till the indigenes are granted constitutional protection. Interestingly, taking into account of an August 26, 2016 write-up in the Indian Express quoting the then Congress vice-president and party spokesperson, Nongthombam Biren, who is the current chief minister, as saying that ‘the protests in Churachandpur and the refusal to bury the dead are politically motivated’, only time will tell how the state government will solve the ILP deadlock to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.