Manipur NPF leaders in Delhi over three controversial bills

New Delhi, May 21 (Agencies): With the Manipur government forming an all-party committee to ensure central clearance of three contentious bills passed by the state assembly in August last year, four MLAs, who had given their resignation in protest against the bills, are in Delhi to voice out their grievances.


“We met Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju on May 19 and Home Minister Rajnath Singh on May 21 and expressed our concerns over the three bills,” said Awangbou Newmai, President of the Manipur unit of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) who is accompanying the four MLAs.


St. Victor Nunglung, L. Dikho, Samuel Risom and V. Alexander Pao – all from the NPF – had given their resignation from the state assembly on September 4 last year after it hurriedly passed the three bills on August 31 in a specially convened session. Their resignations were not accepted by the Manipur Legislative Assembly Speaker.


Ostensibly to safeguard the rights of the ‘indigenous people,’ the Manipur government, bowing to pressure from agitators in Imphal valley, passed three controversial bills — the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment) and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill.


The very day, protestors, mainly comprising indigenous people of the hills, torched five houses of their Assembly representatives. The resultant police action left at least nine people dead.


The nine bodies are still lying in a Churachandpur hospital mortuary with the families refusing to bury them till the hill peoples’ objections are registered and changes made.


The state government had passed the bills following a three-month-long agitation spearheaded by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) demanding the enforcement of an inner line permit system to check the influx of migrants.


The JCILPS says that according to the 2011 census, Manipur’s population is 2.7 million. Of this, only 1.7 million are indigenous people while the rest are people who have their roots outside the state.


However, according to the indigenous peoples inhabiting the hills of Manipur, the three bills would directly undermine their rights. The main objections pertain to the 1951 cut off for citizenry, matters related to land alienation and passing the bills as Money Bills.


Manipur NPF president Newmai also said that the passing of the bills was against the constitutional provisions of Article 371-C.


According to a Hills Areas Committee (HAC) order of 1972 and its General Statutory Rules (GSR), any bill pertaining to people of the hills of Manipur should be passed through the HAC in the state assembly.


Newmai said that the four MLAs have come to Delhi after Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh convened a meeting and formed a multi-party committee to ensure that the three bills were cleared by the Centre. NPF is not part of the committee.


He said that last year, under pressure from the JCILPS, the government formed a committee to frame the bills.
“From the very beginning we said that the committee was one-sided and it would accommodate the interests of only one community,” Newmai said.