Under pressures, Manipur withdraws Bill on regulation of visitors

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Curfew defied, agitators resort to stone pelting following the death of a 16-year-old student during an agitation in Imphal. Photo: Deepak Shijagurumayum

After facing the intense heat of a week-long protest, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has announced that the government will withdraw the controversial Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrant Workers’ Bill, 2015, one of the primary demands of JCILIPS (Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System) -led agitators in the state.

“The state government has decided to withdraw the Manipur Regulation of Visitors, Tenants and Migrants Workers Bill, 2015 (as passed in the Manipur Legislative Assembly on (16/03/2015) for which a special sitting of the Manipur Legislative Assembly is being convened shortly,” reads a statement issued by N Ashok Kumar, Secretary to the Chief Minister.

On July 8, a 16-year-old student, Robinhood Sapam was killed while many students were injured following police actions to disperse the agitators heading towards state assembly, demanding imposition of Inner Line Permit (ILP)- a travel document to restrict entry of outsider in Manipur. The incident happened in the aftermath of 19-hour-long general strike called by JCILPS demanding the imposition of the ILP act in the state.

As the situation continues to worsen in the several parts of the city following the death of the student, District administration, on July 8, imposed an indefinite curfew in the Imphal West and Imphal East district of the state. The protesters demanded the withdrawal of MRVTMW Bill 2015 which was passed with a clause that enables migrants to purchase land in Manipur. Protesters have been demanding the imposition of ILP (Inner Line Permit) since the last few years.

Romesh Sapam, father of Robinhood, urges the government not to treat protesters the way Rohinhood was treated, and demanded punishment of the police personnel involved in the killing of his son. “ I wouldn’t claim the deceased body of my son until the Government agreed to the demands my son had wanted,” Romesh told Tehelka on phone.

Defying the curfew clamped by the authorities, agitators took to the streets and put up blockades to halt the movements of vehicles, and women in mourning attire staged sit-in protests. Police forces burst teargas shells to control the agitators, who in turn used slingshots and also pelted stones. Effigies of MLAs, Ministers and Chief Minister were burnt during the protest.

As part of the agitation in National capital, New Delhi, Manipur Student’ s Association of Delhi (MSAD) organised a protest rally in Vijaynagar area on July 11. “ MSAD members had a meeting on July 9 and we have decided to organised a mass rally in India Gate on 28 July, demanding the imposition of the Inner Line Permit System ,” Priyobata Irengbam, President of MSAD said.

Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those states to obtain permit for entering into the protected state. The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India. In north-eastern states, the permit is currently in place at Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram.

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