A day after the Manipur government withdrew a controversial Bill meant for the protection of the interests of indigenous people, curfew was relaxed today for nine hours. Violent protests had broken out in the state against the proposed legislation, with one class 11 student killed last week.
On Sunday, the state government withdrew the Manipur Regulation of Visitors and Migrant Workers Bill, 2015, according to a statement released by N Ashok Kumar, Secretary to the Chief Minister. A special sitting of the Manipur State Assembly will be convened soon, Kumar said.
"Yes we have withdrawn the earlier bill... Also, I believe there should be a uniform law across the country," said Manipur's chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh. "Now if Nagaland has an Inner Line Permit System, so either get them to withdraw it or the union Home Ministry should implement it for Manipur too."
The Bill had been passed in March 16 this year by the state assembly, following which it was criticised for doing little to protect the interests of Manipur's indigenous people. Protesters demanded implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Manipur. Singh has sought ILP from the Centre, which would make it mandatory for Indian citizens to seek permission for entering Manipur. It is currently in operation in neighbouring states of Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
With the migrant worker population threatening to exceed the existing majority population in Manipur — the Meiteis — Manipuris are afraid that they would become minorities in their state, much like what has happened in neighbouring Tripura.
Last Thursday, a student died in a clash between police and protesters, resulting in an indefinite curfew. While this was relaxed in the morning hours on Saturday and Sunday, the situation improved on Monday with many people returning to open businesses and shop for groceries, according to local reports.
Outcry Against Bill
The Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) is spearheading the protest against the Bill and has been insisting on the passing of a new one to "safeguard the interests of indigenous people and fulfil their aspirations".
Clashes erupted between agitators and police in the Greater Imphal area on Sunday as supporters of Inner Line Permit continued their defiance of the curfew, which entered its fifth day, and took to the streets in large numbers. Protests defying the curfew were reported across Imphal.
Police said the forces burst teargas shells to control the agitators, who in turn used slingshots and catapults on them.
Both sides sustained minor injuries, police said, adding that the clashes took places after the end of the curfew relaxation hours at 12 noon.
(with PTI inputs)