Protests over Inner Line Permit issue halts normal life in Manipur Staff Reporter,

Imphal: Unlike for most other citizens of the country, for Raees Ahmed, the ‘home-coming’ was ‘troublesome’ and rather a ‘curse’. The reason is simple as he is returning to his home town Imphal.

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The capital of north-eastern state of Manipur is burning in series of protests against Inner Line Permit (ILP) for the outsiders. The protestors come out on the streets and burn tyres despite curfew being clamped for the fourth consecutive day.

“It was horrible to be back to my home state after a long gap. There are endless blockades and strikes throughout the year. I was lucky to reach home safe,” Ahmed who reached Imphal from Pune on Saturday told TCN.

The roads are blocked and the shutters are down at the shops leaving the public in utter crisis for food and other essential commodities since the protests begun. It went on to become violent after one class XI student – Sapam Robinhood was killed.

The 16-year old student of Ananda Singh Higher Secondary School, son of Sapam Romesh of Keisamthong was hit by a tear gas shell fired by the police to control students taking out a rally.

The demand for the ILP is an old one in Manipur. The ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel to an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those states to obtain permit for entering into the protected state. The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India and is an off-shoot of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873.

Despite the fact that the ILP was originally created by the British to safeguard their commercial interests, it continues to be used in India, officially to protect tribal cultures in north-eastern India. There are different kinds of ILP’s, one for tourists and others for people who intend to stay for long-term periods, often for employment purposes.

As of now, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have the ILP system.

On July 5, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) announced a 19-hour state-wide general strike with effect from the midnight of July 6 to 7 pm of July 7 against the state government’s alleged failure to pass a strong Bill to save the indigenous people of Manipur.

JCILPS convener in-charge Khomdram Ratan accused the state government of betraying the people by passing the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers (MRVTMW) Bill, 2015, which according to him has not fulfilled the aspiration of the people. This bill was passed in March this year.

JCILPS gave five points to be added in the MRVTMS bill and All Political Parties’ Committee (APPC) also have some suggestions in this regard but they said that the state government has not paid any heed to them and passed a ‘weaker’ bill which will not safeguard the indigenous people of the state.

The five major points which JCILPS wants to be included in the MRVTMW Bill, 2015 are – To issue permits to outsiders or migrant workers; Not to allow their permanent settlement in Manipur; Marking the year 1951 as the base year to differentiate migrants from original settlers; Denying land rights to outsiders; and Setting up of a full-fledged Labour Commission to regulate entry of inter-state workers and detect illegal migrants/outsiders.

After that on July 8, the killing of the student sparked the protests even more forcing the administration to impose curfew in Imphal West and Imphal East districts.

This has led the situation to worst from worse. The schools are closed and so are the markets in the area.

“This is the worst kind of situation the people in Manipur are facing. Such situations have halted the development process in our state for decades. I do support the cause but there are ways to carry out agitations so that the government pays heed. Why can’t we organize a protest in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi so that our voice is heard,” said Ahmed who has been living in Pune for quite some time.

With the holy month of Ramadan going, continuous blockades and bandhs make the life even worse for the Muslims living in the state.

“It’s obviously troublesome. The state government has not been able to address the need of the people. Even the grand occasion of Eid is approaching but we don’t know how to celebrate the festival if the situation continues to be so,” he added.

Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, meanwhile, said in Guwahati that there was growing demand for enactment of suitable legislation for protection of the indigenous people of Manipur while delivering his speech in front of union home minister Rajnath Singh.

“Similar demands are there in some other state in northeast like Meghalaya. This demand is gaining support from people, as some of the northeast states like Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have ILP system. There is definitely a genuine grievance and public sentiments are aroused,” Singh said.

He also urged the central government that it should bring uniform legislation for all the northeast states on this issue in line with ILP or similar to that. “Some states similarly situated can’t be deprived of this provision, merely on historical grounds. Central government should find a solution to this issue,” Singh added.

‘Opinion against the Ongoing Curfew in Manipur,’ a joint statement issued by several organizations in Imphal has meanwhile condemned the state government and the administration.

It said police resorted to open aggressive and disproportionate use of force in the form of torture, and cruel and inhuman degrading treatment, indiscriminate use of tear gas and rubber bullets, firing of live rounds upon the protestors and arbitrary detentions with impunity.

Known theatre personality of Manipur S Thaninleima said that it’s pretty unfortunate that the people of her state are suffering from time to time. “In every incident that takes place, it’s the common people who suffer the most. Even in the protests against the Armed Forces Special Power Act, the common people have to sacrifice their time and energy. The ILP is a must for a state like Manipur but the state government’s negligence has made these people suffer. The state is going backward,” said Thaninleima.