Who is a Manipuri?

Who is a Manipuri?
By Ninglun Hanghal


There has been several uprising and movement against "outsiders" in Manipur in the past. At one point of time ( particularly during the 80s) there was a slogan and outcry of "go back foreigners".The movement against the influx of "illegal migrants" into Manipur gained momentum last year with the movement for implementation of Inner line Permit (ILP) that eventually forced the Manipur government to past Three ( controversial) Bills.

As understood by the common people, the demand for implementation of ILP is for regulation and control of illegal migrant , who are understood or made to be understood as "Bangladeshis or Burmese/Myanmarese".

The Bills vehemently opposed by Tribals in the hills district is on account of the explanation of "Manipur Peoples" that further led to the apprehension of "land grabbing" in the name of the other two Bills – The Land Reforms Bills and the Money bill.

Now, after one year- with nine Dead Bodies in the morque, the state government came up with a new Bill titled " Manipur Regulation of Non-Local People Act 2016".

The Inner Line Permit a.ka. Three Bills is now Manipur Regulation of Non-Local People Act 2016.

In the new Bill the state government in all its wisdom, tried hard to identify and explain who a "local Manipuri is" with a "cut off" year of 1972.

Even as the slogan is for regulation of "illegal migrants" and as per understanding of the common people, that the demands are for news Bills or Laws for control or regulation of "Bangladeshis or Burmese / Myanmar", the Bill (s) categorically explains the "non-local" as " Indian citizens".

Out of 6 pages , 4 pages of the new Bill explains about " the office of registrar , its Director – salaries etc.

The issue of influx of migrants, on the issue of protection of land, resources, the Hills and Valley are on the same page. But the issue has gone out of context purely because of what is being mentioned and how it is being termed and explained in the Bills, let alone consultation, giving ample scope of (mis) interpretation in 'diverse' ways.

There is need for clarity on what exactly does the state government wants to "regulate" . What and who does the "civil society" wants to regulate ? the ( illegal) Foreigners? Or the ( mainland) Indians? What do we mean by foreigners ? surely not the Americans, the Japanese ?

The apprehension for "illegal migrants" , the need for protection of land, resources, have caused a stir among "The Manipuris" themselves. The "movement(s)" to oust the "outsiders" have led to further deepen the already existing "divide" within the "insiders".

In an attempt to "regulate" inflow of "outsiders" it end up regulating the insider – who is and should be qualified "Manipuri". Thus ending up creating a 'crisis' among the insiders, the Manipuris themselves.

Migrant per-se is not 'uniform' - there are different levels , layers, origin, class and caste of migrants coming into Manipur. If "any Indian" is a non local , then wont half of the Babu(s) in the state secretariat be all "non locals" ? Who knows the new "Director " of Registration Office would be/ could be one top IAS from "India"?.

There is no doubt about the impact and issue of influx of "outsiders' into the state. The Hills and Valley people have the same insecurity. The problem that arise is in bringing out these insecurities into "paper" and of course the implementation will not be hundred percent up to the mark. Everyone in Manipur do agree on the issue and problem of "migrants". Then what is preventing the Manipur government to draft a "Migrant bill" ? the use of terms and words do mean a lot and the interpretation in itself is a work half done.

Migration is a reality. It is a movement of people from one place to another. It do need regulation not only for the host population, but for the migrants themselves for their welfare and protection. The term non-Local is vague and not an ideal official word for serious matter that have a huge implication.

But if the 'explanation' of who is a Manipuri is so crucial that we end up with a research finding like "Kukis are Foreigners" - a community who has a history of rebellion against the Britishers ; or if that is/was the motive or the end in explaining "who is a Manipuri" or the rationale for passing new Bills then perhaps the 'crisis" is not surprising. We will have to face even more serious crisis.

After more than 40 years of statehood, Manipur is trying to find, proof and filter who a "Manipuri" is. We can only hope the state government in all its wisdom and experiences will be able to make "good bills" for the people and that Manipur will at least find some form of "understanding and agreement" on who are "the Manipuris" and who are not.