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Wed, 08 Apr 2020

Northeast Today

Meghalaya raises apprehensions over ILP delay

Meghalaya raises apprehensions over ILP delay
March 23
13:25 2020

The passing of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), on 11th December 2019, called for a nationwide unrest, the epicentre of which was the Northeastern region of India. The region, which has been under the threat of influx from the bordering areas, took no time to demand for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) across the Northeast. While Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh has been granted the privilege since a long time, Manipur became the fourth state to come within the ambit of ILP. The centre, however, does not seem to be in a hurry in case of Meghalaya. Mumeninaz Zaman writes

Unlike the rest of the country the Northeastern region, which comprises 8 states is distinctive in its customs, practices traditions and political conditioning, hence to avoid any conflict a separate political and administrative structure was in place. The Sixth Schedule appended by the Constitution of India, was prevalent in various parts of the region. Under this jurisdiction, autonomous councils and districts were created in tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura for particular tribes. The autonomous councils and districts enjoy certain executive and legislative powers. Areas under the Sixth Schedule and with an ILP will not be part of the CAA.

The ILP is drawn from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. It was introduced to protect the economic interests of the British crown. According to the system in order to enter in the ILP enabled states, any outsider, including Indian citizens, need an ILP which is an official travel document. The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India. It also gives privilege only to the indigenous communities to settle, own land and get jobs in these areas.
After partition of the Indian sub contient, the Indian government replaced the term “British subjects” with “Citizen of India” and retained the ILP to protect the interests of the indigenous tribal communities of the Northeast.

Northeast has been vulnerable demography wise and have been facing the burden of the refugee crisis, since a long time, this includes- illegal immigration, refugees who faced religious persecution or those who migrated for economic and social stability in the region. This has further threatened their indigenity.

While the rest of the country is protesting against the Act (CAA) for being anti-Muslim, for Northeast the worry is entirely different. Here if the Act is implemented without the ILP, then the beneficiaries under the Act will become Indian citizens and will be further allowed to settle anywhere in the country. However, the implementation of ILP halts the refugees from settling in the states under the system.

Hence, as soon as the Citizenship Bill became an Act, it heightened the fear among the indegnous people of Northeast India. Several civil society groups, political parties, intellectuals, various organizations including the students union were rushing to New Delhi to contend that the Act will threaten the culture and language of the indigenous people of the northeast.

As CAA faced resistance in the Northeast, the region has been largely left out of the purview of the Act. Accordingly, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh were exempted from the Act, later the Centre decided to extend ILP to Manipur on 10th December, 2019.

If the Act is implemented, with the ILP system also in place, it would mean the refugees who are granted citizenship under the new act will not be permitted to settle in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram and Manipur.

Nevertheless the centre has not yet given a green signal to Meghalaya for the implementation of ILP in the state. The frequent delays and assurance that the centre will look over the issue is rather fueling speculation on the Governments intention.

Accordingly, adhereing to the demand by the people of Meghalaya for the implementation of the ILP, the Meghalaya Assembly on 19th December unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Government of India to implement the ILP in the state. The resolution was moved in a one day special session by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and all members from different parties, including BJP supported it.

Sangma rushed to Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah for the implementation of the ILP, but no concrete measures have been taken so far.
As published in reports, the Chief Minister said quoting assurance from the Home Minister, “The Constitution of India has different provisions to protect the rights of the tribals and Government of India will never allow those rights to be diluted in any ways. If there are any measures that would tantamount to encroachment on the tribal rights, the Govt of India will work in coordination with Meghalaya to safeguard the interest of the people. In every possible way the central Government will always ensure that tribal rights are protected,”.

Other major apprehensions that came to fore were Meghalaya being a Sixth Schedule state, the need for implementation of ILP “to safeguard and protect the rights of the indigenous people” does not arise. Reports also suggest that Sangma’s NPP-led government had adopted the resolution to calm people’s rage after Tura MP Agatha K. Sangma had voted in favour of the CAA in Lok Sabha. However, it is the responsibility of the Centre to introduce ILP in Meghalaya. Meanwhile in a recently held press meet by the state BJP informed that, the delay in the implemention of ILP is due to an in-depth study being carried out on the constitutional provisions of the state.
On the other hand pressure groups of Meghalaya have vowed to continue with their protest which may aggravate in the future if the resolution is not materialized.

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