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Tribal body writes to President on ‘The Manipur People Bill, 2018’

Correspondent IMPHAL, Sep 12 | Publish Date: 9/12/2018 10:20:25 AM IST

A tribal body in Manipur has, on Wednesday, written a petition to the President of India asking him not to give his assent to ‘The Manipur People Bill, 2018’, recently passed by the Manipur Assembly.

The Manipur People Bill, 2018 passed by the state Assembly, on July 23 last, to fulfil the long pending demand for a mechanism similar to Inner Line Permit System to protect the indigenous people of the state by checking influx of migrants into the state. The bill submitted for assent of the state Governor has recently being furnished to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi for President’s assent. 

All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and Bengali speaking people in Jiribam district of the state had already registered objections to the bill. 

Tribal Rights Vigil Manipur (TRVM), in a memorandum submitted today, requested President Ram Nath Kovind to withhold his assent to the bill, alleging that, “The bill is blatantly discriminatory against the tribal communities of Manipur.”

Past incidents regarding the precursor of the said controversial bill have only resulted in the creation of suspicion, insecurity and fear amongst the scheduled tribes, it reminded.

TRVM alleged the bill was a clear case of legislative inadvertence due to which nine tribal lives were lost in the wake of August 31, 2015 in which the precursors of the bill were mischievously passed by the previous government in the state Assembly. 

The indefinite and simultaneous protest movement that took place both in Manipur and New Delhi during which a “Coffin March to the Parliament” was also held.  The persistence of more than 600 days of protests led to the then President Pranab Mukherjee refusing to give his assent to the controversial and provocative bills.

The petition alleged that, “The lame alibi in the preamble of the bill ‘for the protection of the interest of Scheduled Tribes’ is deliberately misleading as the bill does not  entail nor encompass the interest of the Scheduled Tribes.” 

Rather, the bill questions the territorial rights of the Scheduled Tribes populace and the legitimacy of their citizenship in the state of Manipur, it added.  

If the purported intention of the bill was to stem the tide of influx of outsiders or protection of the interest of the Scheduled Tribes, the logic behind the cut-off year was irrational since Manipur attained statehood in 1972. 

 “Any cut-off year, be it 1951 or 1971, is therefore ambiguous and arbitrary which can only indicate mala fide intentions on part of those desirous of implementing the bill,” TRVM pointed out. 

It said that it can be ascertained, without any doubt, the veracity and inclusiveness of the 1951 Census of Manipur which was carried out at time when a large proportion of the population, especially the tribal populace, may not have been included as the government machinery would not be able to reach the far-flung interior hill areas of the state.

Moreover, the mandated registers certainly will not include the names of any tribal as the present tribal areas were not part of the then Meitei princely territory of Manipur in 1951.

Further the bill did not address the issue of ‘illegal migrants’ from outside the country which therefore defeated the claims of ‘massive influx’ from neighbouring countries as is being propounded by supporters of the bill, it said.  

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