The advent of modern nation states necessitated the framing of numerous rights and privileges of citizens. While providing constitutional rights which are aimed at protecting the people, most countries under the garb of exceptional enactments have burdened the citizens with intended as well as unintended consequences.
The results of framing policies in a country like India are directly or indirectly related to the notions of protection and empowerment informed by colonial interventions. Moreover, the citizens often find it difficult to grasp the difference between protection and empowerment as concepts. The predicament arising thereon has most of the time led to unprecedented tension and political unrest.
Against this backdrop, the Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) regime was extended to Manipur on Wednesday with President Ram Nath Kovind signing an order to this effect. The decision came two days after the Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced in the Lok Sabha that ILPS would be extended to Manipur and other areas in the Northeast. With the order, Manipur has now officially become the fourth State after Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram where the ILPS regime is applicable.
The ILPS is an offshoot of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. It was originally crafted to protect colonial commercial interests by prohibiting British subjects from entering into identified areas to prevent them from establishing any commercial ventures that could go against colonial objectives. Though the words “British subjects” were replaced by Citizen of India in 1950 and the ILP officially continued to be used as special protective measures to safeguard the distinct identities of the indigenous communities of Northeaster States.
Here, one should understand that protective laws and empowering rights are complex issues. The goals of protective laws are to shield vulnerable classes and communities from unwarranted assault on their very existence while empowering laws seek to enable susceptible groups. Any measures taken up by the Government of India as well as demands related to protective or empowering legislations invoke sharp political outbursts.
While assessing agitational politics through the historical perspective, most observers often see the issues purely from the parameters of means/end objectives. This is why, there is a need to relook at why and how unscrupulous politicians in India have taken maximum advantage of the objectives of protective laws and empowering rights.
Once the people are trapped within the whirlpool of enticing objectives of protective laws, there is every little possibility of empowering themselves. This trend indeed deepens dependency syndrome in a self-perpetuating asymmetrical federalism. This calls for a befitting review of the ILPS as a regulatory mechanism to prevent influx of illegal migrants and immigrants.