Manipur has been boiling since a year on the inner line permit (ILP) issue. Manipuris, especially Meitei people, who dominate the state politics and live in the Imphal valley are demanding ILP system for the state.
The reason behind this demand is “a fear that the indigenous population of Manipur would one day overtaken by the outsider population”.
ILP is an official travel document issued by the respective state governments to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into the state for a limited period under the colonial and outdated statue, Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
I went to Manipur by road for an internship in July (2016) at Human Rights Alert – Manipur, which is headed by Babloo Loitongbam.
Imphal is a small and crowded city, surrounded by hills. The Imphal valley is mostly populated by Meitei people. Naga, Kuki, and other tribes live in the hills. People in the hills who are getting better economic condition shift to the valley for better facilities.
The law prohibits the Meitei people to buy land in the hills but tribal people living in the hills can buy land in the valley.
If the three bills passed by the state assembly get the approval of the Governor, it would become a law and it will establish an ILP system for the state and would also do away with the law which prohibits Meitei people to buy land in the hills.
Hence the opposition to the ILP agitations is coming up from tribal organizations, which contend that the Land Reform Bill, one of the three Bills, is an instrument used by the Meitei-dominated state government to grab tribal lands.
Before leaving for Manipur, I made several futile attempts to find an accommodation in Imphal. A member of the organization in which I was going to work also tried to find an accommodation for me, but failed.
A friend of mine from Manipur (a “hill tribal” who has a home in Imphal) was willing to provide me an accommodation at his home but indirectly refused later. He tried to find out nearby but failed. Why? Why could no one find an accommodation for me?
It is because an organization of Meitei people, who are demanding ILP, has issued a notice stating that “no one will rent their houses to an outsider”.
When I asked my friend shamelessly, what he told was- “I will not be able to accommodate you in my house because the people around us will create a problem”. It should be noted that his family has an IAS officer.
The demand of ILP has also brought violence with it. Violence against “outsiders” (especially people from Bihar and UP) in Manipur is nothing new. Two workers from Uttar Pradesh were shot in Manipur in July. Their only crime was that they were “outsiders” in their own nation, India. There are several incidents when the houses of “outsiders” were vandalized.
But unfortunately, it hardly becomes even a matter of news for the Delhi centric “national media”. Fortunately, it is not vice-versa. It goes viral on the internet when someone from north-eastern region faces discrimination or called “outsiders” in other parts of the country.
Before departing for Manipur, when I was in Delhi, I met a senior BJP worker. When he came to know I will be going to Manipur, he asked about the place. He had no idea, what ILP is. I gave him a little knowledge of ILP and the situation in the north-east.
He got a little angry when I told him that you will need a permit from the state government if you want to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, or Mizoram and said: “It is not fair. I never visited north-east so I have had no idea about that, but India is one country, there shouldn’t be any permit system like this. I will talk to the members of parliament on this.
I met a shopkeeper by coincidence in Imphal, who was from Bihar. He said – “the locals have created a sense of fear to us. They don’t want us here. Our homes are attacked in the valley many times. They are threatening us to leave.”
Next year Manipur is going to have assembly elections and may be in the preview of that BJP has come forward to support the ILP. Earlier, BJP had opposed the operation of the ILP in Manipur, including Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya. There has been a division in the Congress on this issue.
The draconian Law (AFSPA) has been removed from the seven assembly constituencies of the Imphal valley. Stickers of Indian flag and “I love my India” quotes are easily visible on civilian vehicles and autos respectively; which I couldn’t see in Kashmir in my one month stay.
Hindi & Bollywood Movies are “Banned” in Manipur
However, like Kashmir, Bollywood movies are “banned” in Manipur. In September 2000, the separatist group, Revolutionary People’s Font, which wants to make Manipur an “independent socialist state”, ordered a ban on Hindi films and channels as well as the use of language Hindi in the state to “stamp out Indianisation”. Since then, no Bollywood film releases in the state.
Manipur: An Example of Women Empowerment
Manipur is a unique example of women empowerment. “Ima Keithel” – the mother’s market – in itself symbolizes women empowerment. Hundreds of aged women drive two-wheeler in the city. It was interesting to see women sitting beside auto-drivers on the front seat. While in UP, Bihar men are forced to leave the back seat if some women arrive.
Kangla Fort, which is in the middle of the Imphal valley, provides oxygen to the valley with its lush green forests and probably is the only picnic spot in the valley.
The state of Jammu & Kashmir also had ILP system but it was removed probably because it affects the mainstream politics in India; but the states like Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram hardly do so. Currently, ILP is required for Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram.
ILP just adds to the problems of a tourist or a visitor to the state. Making ILP mandatory even for tourists in the whole state can never be justified in one country – India.
By the logic of people demanding ILP, every state should have ILP system and even then we will shout slogans like INDIA FIRST!!!
PS: I resided in Hotel Thampa (a very cheap & reasonable hotel) during my stay in Manipur.