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Manipur CM is vows to deport post-1961 settlers from the State, is Manipur implementing the NRC?

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Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh announced on Monday that individuals who arrived and established residence in the state after 1961, irrespective of their caste or community, would be identified and deported. This measure is viewed as a step to safeguard the ethnic communities of Manipur, which has been experiencing sectarian tensions since May 2023.

Singh attributed the violence that gripped the state for months to the drug mafia and illegal migrants, particularly refugees from Myanmar. Singh described the current state of affairs in the region as a struggle for existence and cultural identity, highlighting the seriousness of the issues at hand. He stressed the urgency of resolving the state’s crisis.

Singh said, “We are passing through troubled times. The crisis we are facing today is one of struggle for existence, survival, and identity. The properties and identity, inherited over centuries, have now become insecure due to the lack of vision of certain politicians. Our generation is insecure today, so the government is working to make your future secure.”

Singh further emphasised the significance of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s social media announcement about the termination of the India-Myanmar Free Movement Regime (FMR), highlighting its role in tackling internal security and demographic issues.

He stated that the government’s measures, such as erecting fences and revoking the FMR, were aimed at guaranteeing a secure future, thereby curbing rampant illegal immigration and illicit activities like drug trade and weapons trafficking.

The Root cause of the ongoing Crisis is illegal influx

With the ethnic conflict between Meiteis and Kuki-Zomis raging in Manipur since May last year, the issue of “illegal immigration” across the Indo-Myanmar border has taken centre-stage in the state. The Biren government as well as a major section of the Meitei community have alleged that “large-scale illegal immigration” of the Chin people from Myanmar – who have the same ethnicity as Kuki-Zomis – into Manipur over the years has “disturbed” the “demographic balance” in the state, leading to the current volatile situation.

This month, the BJP-ruled central government has made two announcements which are in line with the Biren government’s demand to check this purported influx of immigrants. One, the Centre has proposed to construct a fence along the entire 1,643-km-long Indo-Myanmar border. And, secondly, it has decided to scrap the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar.

CM Biren has also been pressing for the implementation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.

Is NRC is the only Solution?

In August 2022, the Manipur Assembly passed a private member resolution to establish an NRC in the state, following demands by both Naga and Meitei groups such as the United Naga Council and the COCOMI. The Biren government has since been calling for an NRC in Manipur.

In June 2022, the Biren Cabinet decided to adopt 1961 as the “base year” for determining the state’s “native residents” for implementation of the ILP – a system under which “outsiders” who are not permanent residents (indigenous people) of Manipur are required to get a government permit to enter the state.

The decision to make 1961 as the base year was made even though the groups leading the ILP demand – which the Centre extended to the state from January 1, 2020 following agitation — were pushing for 1951 as the base year.

In 1950, the then ILP system had been revoked in the state, and these groups even claimed, in a bid to reinforce their demand for setting 1951 as the base year, that “around 10 lakh illegal immigrants” had entered Manipur between 1950 and 1961.

While the move to designate 1961 as the base year continues to be contested – changing it for an NRC to 1951 was one of the demands put by Meitei radical group Arambai Tenggol in the meeting it held with Meitei legislators at Imphal’s Kangla Fort last month – the demand for an NRC is being stepped up now. So far, Assam is the only state in India, where an NRC exercise has been undertaken.

In our opinion the NRC is highly needed for socio-economic planning and demographic balance of the state. This illegal influx also affects the population growth in valley districts because of huge migration from hill districts.

We also urge the Union government to implement a full-fledged NRC in Manipur with a base year either of 1951 or 1961 at the earliest for safeguarding national security of our country.

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