|Carmel Sohtun displays a black flag inside the council on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Shillong, Oct. 31: An enraged member of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) today displayed a “black flag” inside the council when a resolution to urge the Meghalaya government to implement the inner-line permit (ILP) in the state was rejected by the ruling benches.
On the third day of the council’s winter session, Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) member Adelbert Nongrum, UDP member T.W. Chyne and Independent member Carmel Sohtun tabled resolutions on the ILP.
After council chairman Fabian Lyngdoh ruled that the resolutions be taken up simultaneously, Nongrum initiated the discussion on the need to impress upon the Mukul Sangma government to implement the permit regime as a mechanism to check influx and illegal immigration into the state.
Taking a dig at Sangma, Nongrum asked, “If the chief minister had termed the ILP as “outdated”, then why is the Indian Penal Code of 1860 still put into practise?”
The ILP, which has its origin in the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873, has been the cause of bitter disagreement between the state government and more than a dozen agitating pressure groups.
Nongrum, while castigating the state government for arresting “innocent” youths, warned, “If a militant turns into a politician, it is harmless, but if a politician becomes a militant, then the consequences would be detrimental.”
“This House now should set aside all party affiliations and in one voice adopt the resolution to urge the government to implement the ILP in the entire state,” he said, adding that the ILP was still a “living law”, which does not require the Centre’s sanction for implementation.
Taking part in the discussion, Sohtun said the ILP would not be detrimental to development and progress, but would only safeguard the indigenous people from the onslaught of illegal immigrants.
Chyne, while commenting on the proposed Meghalaya Regulation of Landlords and Verification of Tenants bill said the same would only “legalise illegal migrants” who come into the state.
“We should stop from the gates before an illegal migrant can enter into our domain,” Chyne said while supporting the ILP demand.
He said the popular demand for ILP has arisen because the people have lost faith in all the existing laws dealing with influx and illegal immigration.
At the same time, he said the government could not just sit tight while the agitation carries on. He, therefore, appealed to the government to invite the agitating groups for a dialogue.
“Some youths belonging to a pressure group have already expressed their desire to join a militant organisation. If they do so, what will happen to their future?” Chyne asked.
KHNAM member James Ban Basaiawmoit said tourists would feel more secure if the ILP were implemented, as they would be given permits to enter the state.
Asserting the need to protect the indigenous community, he said, “Do we want to see our youths holding a hand grenade instead of a pen, and lugging an AK-47 rifle instead of a schoolbag?”
Replying to these points, council chief executive member P.N. Syiem said the ILP was beyond the jurisdiction of the district council, and appealed to the members to concentrate on matters which fall under the council.
“We are pained to see the ongoing agitation, and we feel that the state government should adopt mechanisms to bring normality,” Syiem said.
He also asserted that the council would not allow any law passed by the state government which would impede local customs and traditions.
He said the executive committee would bring in the Khasi village administration bill on Monday, which would also be another piece of legislation where concerns on influx and illegal immigration would be addressed.
“The ILP is a matter of the state government. Let us not waste our time and energy in raising issues where we do not have a strong say. Let us concentrate and give our all to issues where we, as a council, can put (matters) into practice,” he said while appealing to the members to withdraw the resolution.
An infuriated Nongrum thumped his table and refused to withdraw the resolution. It was then put to vote. Only six members — Nongrum, Sohtun, Chyne, Basaiawmoit, Latiplang Kharkongor and Embhah Syiemlieh — supported it while 12 others opposed.
Sohtun, before walking out of the House, took out a “black flag” from his jacket and displayed it prominently before the members.