Thadou Students’ Association reasserts stance on 3 bills & ILPS
DIMAPUR, JUNE 3 : The Thadou Students’ Association-General Headquarters (TSA-GHQ) reasserted its stance on the three bills and Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) of Manipur. This was reaffirmed in a press note by the TSA on Friday. Considering the existing political and social environment in Manipur against the backdrop of the passing of the three bills – the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill 2015 – by the Manipur Legislative Assembly on 31 August 2015, the TSA-GHQ reaffirmed its position on the issue.
While TSA empathizing with the concern of ILPS supporters regarding the alarmingly fast growing State’s demographic imbalance which indeed presented a grim situation and threatened the interests of the indigenous people of the state both in the valley and in the hills, states that the serious concerns regarding some of the clauses contained in the three bills will potentially impinge upon tribal rights over their identity and land and their interests severely undermined once the bills are enacted to become law and implemented.
The “Statement of Object and Reasons” in the bill referred to “Manipur” as “one of the small hill States in the North-Eastern region of India”. This has naturally led the tribal’s to suspect that the term “small hill” is used in reference to Manipur, which actually consists of the hills and the valley, with an intention to affect uniform land laws for the whole state of Manipur, without any exception to hill or tribal area, and also to legitimise the demand for Meitei’s to be recognised as a scheduled tribe – a ploy to deprive the tribal’s of their rights over their land, identity and privileges, added the press statement.
It further stated that the passing of the bills without duly consulting the tribal’s have cost nine precious tribal lives (the tribal martyrs whose dead bodies are yet to be buried) who were killed while protesting against the bills and since then the protest movements for and against the bills spearheaded by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) and JAC Against Anti-Tribal Bills respectively have intensified on both sides, plunging the state into chaos and anarchy-like situation.
The State Government and supporters of the bills have repeatedly tried to dispel the apprehensions held by the tribal’s over certain clauses by saying that the bills will not in any way affect the hill or tribal area. However, this explanation has failed to convince the tribal’s because of certain reasons, such as clause 1(2) of the introduction to the Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 which states “It shall extend to the whole of the State of Manipur”. Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill defines Manipur (State of Manipur) as covering both the hill and valley of the State. As the bill itself clearly states, clearly the bill covers the whole of the State of Manipur.
Repeated attempts to dispel the apprehensions by quoting clause 8 of the bill which states “The provision of this Act shall not apply to – (a) the native people of the State of Manipur” have consistently proved futile as the bill nowhere defines “the native people of the State of Manipur”.
Clause 2 of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015 provides for transfer of authority from District Commissioner to Manipur Legislative Assembly/Cabinet over sale of land in scheduled area in the hills. This essentially means that the fate of tribal land ownership or the rights of tribal’s over their land and resources will rest on the state or an authority dominated and controlled by the dominant community. This will enhance the power of the State Government to unduly interfere in tribal affairs.
TSA maintained that they are seriously concerned that the already marginalised and disadvantaged tribal’s due to reasons including, but not limited to, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 which has already adversely affected tribal land ownership rights due to its applicability in some parts of hill districts, will be further marginalised and disadvantaged due to the new legislation.
The concerns held by the tribal’s over the bills are more due to the failure of Hill Areas Committee (HAC), sanctioned under Article 371-C of the Indian constitution to provide constitutional safeguards for hill areas of Manipur, to protect tribal interests and in the absence of 6th schedule provisions, the constitutional safeguards for the tribal’s, in tribal or hill areas of Manipur, is genuine and most legitimate.
TSA in a press note appealed upon the Government of Manipur as well as the Central Government against acting under the pressure of a particular community against the wishes of others. TSA further appealed the Government of Manipur and the JCILPS to either withdraw the anti-tribal bills or review and amend them such that they suit not only the interests of a particular community but of all indigenous communities of Manipur.