By Akash Agarwal, Amity Law School, Noida.

In the law few days, there has been a major outcry, by the people of Manipur, for the introduction of the Inner Line Permit and for the withdrawal of Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers Bill, 2015. Manipur witnessed widespread protests, which subsequently resulted in withdrawal of the Bill by the Manipur Legislative Assembly. The reason behind the said protests was the lacunas in the present Bill, which were unsatisfactory to the natives of the city, consequently raising a popular demand for the Inner Line Permit. The 11-page Bill contains provisions that require changes, in order to make the Bill more specific as per the demands of the public. The introduction page of the Bill states, “A Bill to provide for registration of visitors, tenants and migrant workers for their safety and security and for maintenance of public order in the State of Manipur and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

As above-mentioned, the Bill aims to provide for security and safety of visitors, tenants and migrant workers, but not for the natives of Manipur. The Bill contains provisions regarding the registration of visitors, tenants and migrant workers to ensure peace and tranquillity of Manipur. In the Bill, “permanent residents” is defined as, “any ordinarily resident of Manipur”. This definition raises ambiguity and as per legal authorities the term “ordinarily resident of Manipur” is extremely vague and provides a blanket approval to outside migrants to buy lands, and the right to settle anywhere in Manipur. No clause in the Bill provides for a ban on the right to purchase property in Manipur by migrant workers, and this clearly defies the interest and protection of residents of Manipur. Similarly, the Bill contains several provisions, which are prejudicial to the interests of Manipuris. Therefore, there is a growing demand for the implementation of Inner Line Permit in Manipur, as implemented in the states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

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INNER LINE PERMIT SYSTEM

An inner line permit is a form of sanction required by the outsiders to enter some of the states of India as authorised by the Government. Currently, an Inner Line Permit is required to enter the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. If an Indian citizen, who is not a resident of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, would like to visit any of these three mentioned states, then the citizen needs to get an Inner Line Permit from the respective State Governments. The Inner Line Permit is an offshoot of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873. This Act prohibited the entry of British subjects to certain protected areas aimed at protecting the Crown’s interest in the tea, oil and elephant trade. Subsequently in 1950, the term ‘Citizen of India’ substituted the term ‘British subjects’. Therefore, the main aim of an Inner Line Permit is to provide special protection, which protects the culture, natural heritage, linguistic heritage, diversity, etc. and prevents them from being abused or being dominated by any community of outsiders. It also keeps a record on the number of non-residents within the state which can later be used for security reasons, and to ensure that the local occupation, demography and cottage industry is not disturbed. It also protects the concerned community from becoming a minority community in their own native state as happened with Tripura. In Tripura, the rulers of the Tripuri dynasty allowed open immigration to improve their administrative and economic conditions, and in 1875, indigenous people of Tripura constituted around 64% of the population due to a large influx of Bengalis. Even after India’s independence, the migration of Bengalis from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh continued, and in the 2001 census, the indigenous people of Tripura were reduced to 30%, with Bengalis constituting 69% of the population of Tripura. The language of Bengali has become one of the official languages of Tripura, along with Kokbokri, the language of the indigenous people. Tripura witnessed many troubled years due to the change in demography, with insurgent groups such as the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) formed by the indigenous tribes to combat the growing Bengali majority population in Tripura. In retaliation, the counter-militant groups such as the United Bengali Liberation Front (UBLF) was created to protect the Bengali population from the NLFT and the ATTF, and they were active in attacking the indigenous tribes.

The Inner Line Permit seems unfair to the non-citizens of these states however, for the protection of the indigenous citizens; it is necessary and fair to continue with the system of Inner Line Permit. As per Article 29 of the Constitution of India, “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”. Therefore, the natives of North Eastern States have a constitutional right to conserve their language, culture etc. Hence, it is not a matter of debate between the states of North East and the rest of India.

CONSEQUENCES OF UNCONTROLLED AND UNCHECKED MIGRATION: FACTS AND FIGURES

  1. According to 2001 Census, the population of outside migrants in Manipur was 707,488 as against the tribal population of 670,782 (UCM-2005). In Tripura, the percentage of indigenous population was 93% of the entire population in 1947. By 2001, it has been reduced to 22%. A similar trend is likely to happen in Manipur within a short span of time.
  2. There is a growing threat to the Manipuri identity and culture of the indigenous Manipuris. In addition to that, there is also a serious risk to Manipuri language, scripts and local dialects due to ever-increasing influence of Hindi as the link language and “Bazar Bhasa” in trade and commerce.
  3. The survival of local labourers is in jeopardy due to uncontrolled and unchecked influx of cheap labourers from other states and from Bangladesh. Further, there might be a decline in job opportunities for indigenous population and threat to the status of the Schedule Caste and the Scheduled Tribes.
  4. The Law and Order, Public Security and Safety might be under risk.
  5. The small ethnic tribal groups like Aimol (2643/2001), Chothe (2675/2001), Koirao (1200/2001), Koireng (1056/2001), Monsang (1634/2001), Moyon (1710/2001), Ralte (110/2001), Salhte (311/2001) are struggling to survive in these states.

CONCLUSION

The Inner Line Permit is an effective system to ensure the protection to minority communities living in certain parts of India. It prevents the indigenous population in such parts from being subject to the whims and fancies of outsiders. It also protects the cultural heritage, linguistic heritage, diversity of minority classes and establishes peace, law and order in the society.

After a thorough analysis, the author feels that the demand of the Manipuris for a system of Inner Line Permit is reasonable and that the same should be enforced in Manipur.

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