Writing on the wall
New Delhi, Dec. 5: The Centre has ruled out imposition of the inner-line permit (ILP) system in Meghalaya, saying that it would harm the state’s economy and was also “unconstitutional”.
Pressure groups in the state had petitioned the Mukul Sangma government for this permit, and launched a series of agitation to buttress their demand.
Acceding to the demand for bringing the state under ILP would violate provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution that relates to protection of rights on freedom, a government official said today.
At least two persons have died in Meghalaya in the past three months amid ILP-related violence. At present, Indian citizens require an ILP to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The ILP system was brought into being by the British with the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 for administrative purposes.
“It (ILP system) is archaic and will affect development, besides being unconstitutional,” joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union home ministry, Shambhu Singh, told this correspondent today. He said the system could not be imposed where it was not in existence when the Constitution came into being or was revoked thereafter.
“This regulation extends proprio vigore (of or by its own force independently) to the districts of Cachar, Darrang, Kamrup, Khasi and Jainta hills, Lakhimpur, Naga hills, Nowgong and Sibsagar,” the act states.
The regulation, which provides for the ILP, had been reportedly repealed from the Garo Hills region in 1897 but is still in place in Khasi-Jaintia hills.
The Centre cites, although not in the letter to the chief secretary of Meghalaya, that Article 19 (d) and 19 (e) will be violated if the regulation is applied in Meghalaya.
The first relates to freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India and the other is the freedom “to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India”.
Officials argue that even if it is imposed, it would be considered ultra vires or termed unconstitutional.
Pressure groups demanding the ILP in Meghalaya said Singh’s statement that the ILP can continue in states where it already exists, was “most appropriate” as the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 was still an “existing” regulatory mechanism to check influx into the state.
A section of the media here had reported that the ministry had sent a letter to the state government declining the demand for introducing ILP in the state.
“This (statement made by Singh) is the most appropriate for Meghalaya because the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act 1873 is still an existing regulatory mechanism to check influx into the state. Its status is only one of the forgotten laws to be implemented in the state,” Hynniewtrep National Youth Front general secretary Sadon Blah said in a statement.
However, Blah said, “We doubt whether such a letter really exists or was it really sent to the state government because till date we have not seen a copy of such a letter. This might be just a ploy of the government to subdue the demands for implementation of ILP in the state,” he said and demanded that the contents of the letter should be made public.
He said this was not a time for “rhetoric and populist propaganda” but for “action” to fulfil the aspirations of the indigenous people of the state.
“Even if the ministry had sent such a letter, it only shows that it is not thinking in line with what is mandated by the Constitution where there are a plethora of constitutional provisions favouring the protection and promotion of minorities’ right to self-determination,” he added.
Arunachal stand: A PTI report today said Arunachal Pradesh has no plans to scrap the 140-year-old act. The ILP and Protected Area Permit (PAP) are required for entering Arunachal Pradesh, as it comes under the restricted area category, sharing its border with China, Myanmar and Myanmar.
A person entering the state is given an identity card as per the mandatory provisions under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873.
“There is no proposal to abolish it,” Arunachal Pradesh chief secretary Hari Krishna Paliwal said.
He said the process for getting the permit has been streamlined. “One can also apply online and pay fees through the Internet,” Paliwal added.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Paliwal said online application would be cleared within two days.
The permit is required by Indians other than natives of Arunachal Pradesh for entering any place in the state.
This permit is issued by the state government offices at Delhi, Calcutta, Tezpur, Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Jorhat.
A foreigner requires PAP or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to enter the state.
They can obtain the permit from all Indian missions abroad, foreigners regional registration officers in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, chief immigration officer, Chennai, home ministry, Delhi, and Arunachal Pradesh home commissioner’s office at Itanagar.