Leaders at the meeting in Shillong on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
Shillong, Sept. 24: The anti-foreigner movement in Meghalaya appears set to get bigger, reminiscent of a similar movement which gripped neighbouring Assam in the eighties.
Sharing a long border with Bangladesh, states like Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura have been at the receiving end of illegal immigration. These states, especially Assam and Tripura, are believed to be swamped by lakhs of “illegal” settlers from the neighbouring country. In Meghalaya, the numbers may be less alarming, but influx is now a reality.
As a fallout of this trend, intermittent agitation across the Northeast has been witnessed time and again as the issue of influx continues to be a topic of heated debates.
The political, economic, social and demographic effects of the alleged exodus from Bangladesh have snowballed over several decades with regional political parties and pressure groups harping on systems to check and curb the process and deport such “illegal” settlers.
More than a dozen pressure groups came together in Meghalaya to make a common demand for the implementation of the inner-line permit (ILP) regime in the state. Today was the turn of four political parties to join hands in asking chief minister Mukul Sangma to put in place the British-era mechanism to check the inflow of illegal migrants.
The parties — Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM), United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), and the National People’s Party (NPP) — met here this afternoon to demand, in one voice, the implementation of ILP.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, KHNAM president Pyndap Saibon said the parties have resolved to form a joint forum to take the issue forward.
The forum, which is yet to be christened, also strongly condemned the “adamant” attitude of the Sangma government, which, according to Saibon, has aggravated the tense situation, besides affecting the commoner.
The parties also resolved to hold rallies across the state to mobilise public support on the inner-line permit. Saibon said a series of agitation would also be organised if the government continues to stick to its stand.
At the same time, Saibon said the government should release all pressure groups’ activists arrested by the state police, and stop “hunting” for the leaders of these groups.
On the question of a modified ILP, Saibon said so long as its original spirit, which is to safeguard the indigenous population, is retained, the original form can be refurbished.
The KHNAM also announced its decision to take part in the sit-in to be organised by women’s groups here tomorrow to protest against the government’s “adamant” attitude.
Yesterday, while speaking in New Delhi, Sangma asserted that his government has been “firm” in dealing with agitation by pro-ILP pressure groups.
Permission denied: East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner Sanjay Goyal has denied permission to Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) and Khasi Women Welfare and Development Association (KWWADA) to hold their demonstration at the parking lot near the additional secretariat building here.
Goyal, however, asked the groups to hold the demonstration at Students’ Field, Jaiaw from 11am to 3pm.
“The denial by the deputy commissioner to provide space at the parking lot will not deter the women from assembling there. We have a right to protest near where the non-functional governmental institutions are, and where the representatives of the people sit,” CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing said in a statement.
She said the women’s groups would only listen to the “voice of the people” and not to “puppets of a dictatorial government”.