| Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma at the meeting in the secretariat in Shillong on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Aug. 29: The rhetoric “no ILP, no rest” resonated in the corridors of power today as Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma and pressure groups did not budge from their respective stands on how best to tackle influx and illegal immigration of people into Meghalaya.
Following the talks, which lasted for more than an hour and where Sangma declared that the Congress had not promised to implement inner-line permit in its 2013 Assembly election manifesto, the groups announced a 12-hour bandh from 5am on Monday across the state.
Pressure group representatives met Sangma in the conference hall of the secretariat in the presence of cabinet ministers, government officials and reporters to discuss their common demand — implementation of the inner-line permit (ILP) in Meghalaya to check illegal migrants.
Speaking on behalf of the pressure groups, the president of the Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Joe Marwein, told Sangma that the groups had come to the meeting with a single agenda — implementation of the ILP.
“We have had enough of discussions on influx at various levels, and there has also been a unanimous decision at the high-level committee on influx that the ILP was the best mechanism to tackle this issue. If the government wants to implement the ILP, we will stay on with the discussion else we will walk out,” Marwein said.
But Sangma, clearly indicating that the ILP idea was a no-no as it would create a “negative perception” about the state, said there were already enough existing laws and mechanisms to check influx and illegal immigration. He cited figures to indicate that the population of other groups of people in the state have not shown any major upward trend.
While the Scheduled Tribe population, according to the 2011 census, was 86.15 per cent, the percentage of the non-indigenous population was 13 per cent, Sangma pointed out.
Asking the groups to cooperate and tackle the issue of influx and illegal immigration together, he told them that the government was drafting a bill to regulate the tenancy system which would go a long way in curbing influx and illegal immigration.
He also said that the government had formed the anti-infiltration directorate besides putting in place labour inspectors in all the 39 rural blocks.
At the same time, the chief minister pointed to census figures of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, where the ILP regime is in place, which indicated that the indigenous population in these states had declined.
For instance, indigenous population in Arunachal Pradesh had declined from 79.02 per cent in 1971 to 68 per cent in 2011, while in Nagaland the corresponding figures were 88.61 per cent in 1971 to 86 per cent in 2011.
The general secretary of the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), Sadon K. Blah, countered Sangma by saying that while figures for the indigenous population are easy to get, it is difficult to ascertain the actual number of people who constitute the floating population.
“We also want to make it clear that the ILP is not a prohibitory provision, but a regulatory provision. It would regulate free flow of human and capital resources,” Blah said.
He also said the absence of a coordinating law on influx in the presence of several other laws and mechanisms could render the fight against influx and illegal immigration to nought.
“Why not bring together several laws, mechanisms and institutions which are meant to tackle a single issue, under a single integrated banner or law and call it the ILP?” Blah asked.
To this, the chief minister countered: “I feel that you have come here with a closed mind.”
Sangma said the ILP could not be implemented in Meghalaya as in 1897, the Garo hills region had been left out of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The ILP is a regime that is within the confines of the British-era regulations.
Before walking out of the conference room, Marwein said: “The government, as far as we understand, does not want to consider the recommendation of the high-level committee on influx which was to implement the ILP.”
Sangma, on the other hand, said: “We will go by the promise we have made to the people and we will effectively tackle influx and illegal immigration and all laws relating to this issue will be integrated.”
As the groups came out of the conference room, the slogan “no ILP, no rest” resonated in the corridors, clearly indicating that the stand-off on the issue of influx and illegal immigration had become aggravated.