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Naga students in deportation drive

Kohima, March 18: Hundreds of non-tribals, mainly labourers and traders, were today deported from the Nagaland capital for allegedly not possessing inner-line permits to enter the state.

The exercise was undertaken by the district administration with the assistance of the Naga Students Federation (NSF), but home minister T.M. Lotha claimed he was unaware of student activists being authorised to identify violators of the inner-line permit law.

The East Bengal Frontier Regulation Act makes it mandatory for anybody from outside Nagaland to procure an inner-line permit to visit the state.

NSF members began the drive against violators early in the day, asking people at random to produce their permits. Witnesses said they were polite but firm. By afternoon, hundreds of allegedly illegal migrants had been herded into a playground. Many of these people, their hands tied, were put on trucks and sent to Dimapur later.

Some non-tribal shopkeepers downed shutters on seeing NSF members doing the rounds. Several alleged defaulters were detained at the NSF office here and their identity cards confiscated. Student leaders claimed some of them did not possess any official document, while those who did have permits were guilty of staying back way past the period of their validity.

The detained non-tribals blamed the administration for their plight, saying inner-line permits were never issued on time. I went several times to the office with the application slip, but my card was not ready, Rakesh, who does odd jobs at the vegetable market here, said.

Rakesh hails from Bihar and has been living here for about a year with his wife and two children.

A typical inner-line permit bears the photograph of the applicant and the signature of a local guardian. It is valid for periods ranging from a week to three months. A permit can be procured by filling a form and paying a fee of Rs 40 after obtaining the signature of the deputy commissioner or an additional deputy commissioner. The applicant must mention the reason for which he wants to stay in the state for a specific period.

However, defaulters often get away by paying Rs 500 each to the police.

District officials reportedly decided to launch the drive against violators of the inner-line permit rule after a meeting with NSF leaders. It was the first instance of the administration collaborating with an NGO in any such campaign. The home minister said he had asked the administration to brief him.

The NSF has long been expressing concern about the presence of illegal migrants, especially Bangladeshis, in Nagaland. The organisation shunted out some people from the state a few years ago on discovering that they did not possess inner-line permits.

Most of those identified as defaulters today are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

A similar campaign against Chakma refugees is under way in Arunachal Pradesh. Mizoram, too, is on the boil with the Mizo Youth Association asking non-Mizos to leave the state by April 7.

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