Participants at the discussion on NRC in Manipur organized by the AIMS, ANSAM and DESAM at Katomei Village in Tahamzam (Senapati) on Monday, March 12 (Morung Photo)
Morung Express News
Tahamzam (Senapati) | March 12
An alliance of civil society organisations will recommend to the Government of Manipur that it set up a Population Commission for the State of Manipur that will study the changing demographics in the State and suggest a Population Policy tailored to the needs of the State. The first step for this would be to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Manipur State—a step needed to arrest the issue of migration in the State.
These recommendations were drawn at a discussion on the NRC jointly organized by the Apunba Ireipakki Maheiroi Sinpanglup (AIMS), the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and the Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) at Katomei Village in Tahamzam (Senapati district) on Monday.
Giving historical context, Seth Shatsang, President of ANSAM, explained that the “foreigner issue” has been on the boil in Manipur State since the 1970s, with in-migration remaining an issue of “serious concern” for the indigenous people of the State. It now continues as the Inner Line Permit movement in Manipur apart from connecting up to other issues like the demand by some for the Meitei people to be recognized as Scheduled Tribes.
How problematic are shifting demographics in Manipur?
Very, according to Prof. RK Narendra Singh, Head of the Department of Bio-statistics at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal. He has been studying demographic patterns in the North East for years and Manipur has as many challenges, if not more, as the other states in the region.
“The influx of migrants has inflicted serious demographic and social changes vis-à-vis distribution and structure of population, adding to racial, ethnic, religious, political and economic pressures or a combination of these,” noted Prof. Singh. Migrants have come to Manipur State through the international borders (Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar) as well as from other states within the Indian Union. A memorandum to curb problems related to this was submitted to the Chief Minister of Manipur by the AIMS, ANSAM and DESAM in February this year.
Taking the example of the neighbouring Assam State’s efforts to update its NRC to deal with increasing migrants posing several challenges to the indigenous people of the region, Prof. Singh explained how much Assam has achieved so far. The NRC is an attempt to identify bona fide citizens of the Indian Union—this became necessary when migration into the volatile North East region through several international borders began to alarm the ‘original inhabitants’ of the region since the 1970s.
The first draft of the NRC in Assam, published in December 2017, has recognized only 19 million of the 32.9 million claimants of Indian citizenship in Assam, informed Prof. Singh. This leaves millions of people disenfranchised in Assam. Where will they go? Into them, fear neighbouring states like Manipur.
Thus, said Prof. Singh, in Manipur, “to preserve and protect the survival and identity of indigenous people in terms of culture, tradition, ethnicity, etc., it is necessary to check and regulate migrants as well as formulate mechanisms to guarantee constitutional protection.” His suggestions are also rooted in his research from census data over decades that show major shifts in Manipur’s demographics that could be the result of migration, also contributed to by the British bringing in slaves to the region to work on their colonial-capitalist ventures.
In Manipur today, many migrants come of their free will and are able to acquire citizenship documents allegedly by paying officials at relevant departments in the Government of Manipur. “There needs to be a mechanism to fix responsibility and accountability on the issuing departments,” said Artax Shimray, former advisor to the North East Students’ Organisation. He noted that to deal with this problem, the indigenous people of Manipur need to join hands and minds to work with each other instead of against each other.
Other challenges to dealing with this issue remain, like non-availability of complete electoral rolls, no authorized body to deal with migration and population issues and the political problems that could arise out of this.
“The establishment of a relevant population commission could help collate available data, frame modality for updation (of NRC) based on available documents, fix an amicable base year, make people aware and create a situation for the central government to implement NRC updation through the state government,” suggested Prof. Singh.
A discussion moderated by Longjam Ratan and L Adani led to recommendations being finalised by KS Paul Leo, LC Santosh and the house to be made to the Government of Manipur.
“We will recommend to the Government of Manipur to set up a population commission that can set up a population policy for the state as well as raise awareness on problems that minorities face. It will also run an awareness campaign on the importance of NRC in Manipur,” said Ningthouja Lancha, a panellist in the discussion.