| Protesters at the public meeting and (below) Agnes Kharshiing addresses the meeting in Shillong on Thursday. Pictures by UB Photos |
Shillong, Aug. 16: The rhetoric “No ILP, No Rest” that echoed at a public meeting here this afternoon, was reminiscent of the “No Hill State, No Rest” rhetoric that dominated the hills in the 1960s.
The spirit of the two slogans is somewhat parallel. While one seeks a separate state of and for the hill people to defend and promote, in particular, the welfare of the indigenous citizens, the other demands a British-era law to defend the hill people and the indigenous citizens from the apparent onslaught of “outsiders”.
It was on January 21, 1972, that the popular slogan “No Hill State, No Rest” ceased from being just a catchphrase as the “hill state” of Meghalaya was declared a state of the Union that day.
As for the “No ILP, No Rest” slogan, one has to wait and watch till August 29 when Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma sits across the table with representatives from at least 10 pressure groups to discuss the pros and cons of the inner line permit (ILP) system.
If the Sangma government agrees to implement the system on the appointed day, the slogan might die down. If not, the pressure groups have threatened to launch a series of agitation until the slogan is converted into action.
Pressure groups, including the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People FKJGP), Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) and the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), today made it clear that they would accept nothing less than the ILP, which they believe is the only mechanism to defend indigenous people from “outsiders”.
Speaking at a public meeting near Motphran here, leaders of the pressure groups sent a very comprehensible message to the state government: “We want nothing less than the ILP”.
The speakers pointed out that if the ILP could be implemented in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, there was no reason why it could not be implemented in Meghalaya.
The ILP was introduced in some parts of the Northeast via the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 during the British rule. Under the system, any Indian citizen, not a resident of these states, needs a permit from the authorities to enter the state.
“The government says ILP will hamper development but even without it, where is development in our state? We need our identity, not development,” HNYF general secretary Sadon Blah told the gathering. Its president G.H. Kharshanlor said while the groups were demanding ILP, politicians appeared to be busy making a business out of influx.
GSU president Tengsak G. Momin said the Garo hills was ready to protest if the government did not implement the ILP to safeguard the indigenous people.
The government has invited the pressure groups for talks on August 29 and the political parties will meet on September 3 to discuss the issue.
KSU president Daniel Khyriem exhorted the people to wait till August 29. He said if the talks with the government remain inconclusive, the groups would not shy away from taking the path of agitation to press for ILP.
Political parties like the United Democratic Party (UDP), National Peoples’ Party (NPP) and the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) have also asked the government to implement the permit system to check influx.
Yesterday, while delivering the Independence Day speech at Polo grounds, the chief minister said the problem of illegal immigration was one of the major issues confronting the state. He also said the government was contemplating bringing in legislative measures to tackle influx.
He said the Anti-Infiltration Directorate, headed by an additional director-general of police had been set up and 114 additional posts have been sanctioned to strengthen the anti-infiltration network.
A district task force has been constituted under the deputy commissioners, under whom special squads have been formed led by a magistrate to carry out anti-infiltration drives regularly and systematically in the infiltration-susceptible areas of the district, Sangma said.
Sangma said the labour department has been carrying out the registration of migrant workers, for which additional manpower has been provided to them.
“The National Population Register could also be a useful instrument to keep a watch over infiltration in the long term. This exercise will eventually lead to compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens. Therefore, the entire process would be subject to rigorous checking and verification, in consultation with the local institutions,” the chief minister said.