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FROM THE EDITOR’s DESK
The demand for implementing the Inner Line Permit (ILP) has once again dominated the social and political landscape in the northeastern state of Meghalaya.
Series of agitations and protests are being held across the state by pressure groups like the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Hynniewtrep National Youth Federation (FKJGP), Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC), Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) besides others.
The ILP issue is nothing new. It’s a long-pending demand of the pressure groups and political parties of Meghalaya. It took an ugly turn in the year 2013 when the state witnessed unrest and violence. Back then, 13 pro-ILP groups came together to pressurise the government to “fulfil the aspirations of the people”.
After a series of agitations that resulted in the loss of lives and property, the state government (Congress government then) passed the Meghalaya Residents’ Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) in 2016.
Fast forward to 2019, the demand for implementation of the decade-old Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation Act, which restricts entry of outsiders in the state, gained momentum following the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in both houses of the Parliament.
Meghalaya was among the northeastern states that were against the CAA, and while Nagaland (a reference to Dimapur: which was earlier outside the purview of ILP) and Manipur were accorded the Inner Line Permit, the demand for the same by Meghalaya is undecided.
The passing of the CAA had heightened the tribals’ fear of being overrun by non-indigenous people. The apprehension of becoming another Tripura (where tribals are a minority) deepened. Amidst the chaos, the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly passed a resolution in December last year, to urge the Centre to implement ILP in the state.
But even after almost a year, the Centre is still sitting on the resolution passed by the Meghalaya Assembly. From the looks of it, the Centre seems hesitant to grant ILP to Meghalaya.
Simple explanation: Meghalaya is a transit state unlike Mizoram or Nagaland, and implementing ILP will become a hassle. Another thing is that almost 90 per cent of the areas in Meghalaya fall under the 6th Schedule, which means these areas do not come under the purview of CAA.
What about the 10 per cent that falls under the “Normal Areas” – or simply the 10 per cent of Shillong city?
This is debatable. Earlier, Congress legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh, who represents East Shillong, a constituency where most parts fall under “Normal Areas”, debated that these areas might face the brunt of influx, which is why ILP would be necessary to implement checks and balance.
Justifying the Congress’ stand on ILP, she had stated that when the party was in office, there was no law as “dangerous” as the CAA.
“Things have changed; situations were not the same as they were 10 years down the line and, in this situation, the Government of India had accorded ILP to the entire state of Nagaland, therefore, we may demand the same because like Dimapur, we also have Shillong city where there is a large area referred to as “normal areas”,” she stated.
In March this year, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved the amendment to the Meghalaya Resident Safety and Security Amendment (MRSSA) Bill 2020.
The bill is awaiting the Governor’s approval. Reports suggest that the bill was sent back to the government by the governor’s secretariat with “certain observations”.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on December 9 had informed that Governor Satya Pal Malik would visit New Delhi post-December 17 to discuss the ILP issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders.
With things being set in motion, the future looks interesting. We can only wait and watch whether the Centre will accord ILP to Meghalaya.