| Civil society members at the UDP meeting in Shillong on Monday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Sept. 23: The inner-line permit (ILP) issue of Meghalaya featured in New Delhi today with chief minister Mukul Sangma asserting that his government was “firm” in dealing with the agitations by pressure groups to put in place the permit regime to check the inflow of illegal migrants.
“The state today faces the issue relating to the demand for implementation of ILP. The pro-ILP groups have indulged in a series of agitation, but we have remained firm in our approach to deal with the situation. We are maintaining law and order with firm hands and the stand of the state government was made amply known to the people through the media,” Sangma said.
He was taking part in the 16th National Integration Council meeting in Delhi where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the opening and concluding remarks.
Sangma further said that this has “inspired an atmosphere of security” for all people to live and be part of the great national tradition of one single nation.
At the same time, he said his government is committed to maintaining its “social and political integrity” at all cost. “We are very clear that this can be achieved by securing peace and tranquillity in all the districts of the state”. For this, he said, the law enforcement should be proactive, firm and just.
The Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) lashed out at the Congress and asked the people to be cautious of the national party’s “vote bank politics” while iterating its demand that the chief minister step down.
“We are concerned with the vote bank politics of national parties which are encouraging the inflow of illegal immigrants into the Northeast to win Assembly elections. This is a silent conspiracy the Congress has been following in the region with Assam and Tripura as clear-cut examples,” UDP’s working president and legislator Paul Lyngdoh told reporters.
A group of citizens met UDP leaders here this afternoon to work out a solution to the deadlock which the state has been facing for the last several weeks after the government refused to comply with the demand of pressure groups to implement the ILP in the state. Lyngdoh, while referring to the tenancy law which Sangma has been harping on as a means to check influx and illegal immigration, said Meghalaya should learn from neighbouring Assam.
“Assam has six tenancy acts and there are eight million Bangladeshis who are illegally living in that state,” the former student leader said while iterating the UDP’s stand for a modified ILP which would suit local interests without affecting the genuine non-indigenous groups and the demography of the state.
The modified version of the ILP, he said, was important as Meghalaya is a transit point which connects Assam, Tripura and Mizoram. He added that a cut-off year to determine who will be considered as “permanent” non-indigenous citizens of the state would be required.
The party’s concern, he said, was that migrants should not be allowed to turn into “permanent settlers” of the state. “Our people also need to be aware about the dangers emanating from vote bank politics where in some places of Garo hills, illegal immigrants are determining who would be their representative in the Assembly. This is a hard fact which we have to accept, deal with and confront,” Lyngdoh asserted.
He also said the ILP was still applicable at least in the Khasi-Jaintia hills although the same had been repealed from the Garo hills in 1897.
At the same time, he said Meghalaya should not become a “victim of vote bank politics” and that it should not be held to ransom by New Delhi.
Hitting out at the chief minister, Lyngdoh said Sangma had “taken the state for a ride” and that there appeared to be no sense of urgency on the part of the chief minister to break the deadlock.
“He (Sangma) has lost the moral and legal right to continue as chief minister,” he added. Another UDP legislator, Jemino Mawthoh, said Sangma cannot continue as the Meghalaya chief minister if he fails to take care of the deteriorating law and order situation in the Garo hills.
“There should be a new leadership to lead the government as the state cannot continue to be run by Sangma anymore,” Mawthoh added.
Two government offices were completely gutted in Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills district in the wee hours today after allegedly being torched by goons.
Police said around 12.50am, criminals set fire to the office of the executive engineer, PWD, at Nongstoin, the district headquarters of West Khasi Hills, around 93km from here. A few hours after this, goons set fire to the office of the Meghalaya Khadi and Village Industries Board at Pyndengrei under Nongstoin at 1.15am, the police said.
In both locations, the gatekeepers were absent when the incidents took place, the police said, adding that fire tenders could not douse the flames as they received the information too late.