| Khyndai-Lad in downtown Shillong wears a deserted look during the 12-hour shutdown on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Dec. 10: The 12-hour shutdown called by 13 pressure groups demanding implementation of inner-line permit today disrupted normal life in six districts of the eastern part of Meghalaya, including national highways, the lifeline of three neighbouring states.
Five districts of Garo hills, the western part of the state, was, however, exempted during the dawn-to-dusk strike. Instead, the pressure groups have called for night road blockade, which will begin from 8 tonight to 5am tomorrow. The blockade will again continue tomorrow from 8pm to 5am.
The groups have also called for office picketing in the entire state on Friday.
Functioning of government offices came to a stand still and those who attended offices, including the ones in the state secretariat, were mostly officials.
Schools, colleges and other establishments remained shut throughout the day and most of the roads in various localities turned into a playing field for students.
With most of the government offices being virtually empty, the government admitted thin attendance in almost all the six districts in Khasi-Jaintia hills region.
The principal secretary (home), Kuljit Singh Kropha, said the overall attendance was 28 per cent in the six districts.
The state capital Shillong also witnessed total shutdown and according Kropha, it recorded an overall attendance of only 20 per cent.
While West Jaintia Hills district recorded the highest attendance with 50 per cent followed by East Jaintia Hills district with 40 per cent and South West Khasi Hills with 42 per cent.
While West Khasi Hills district recorded 15 per cent, Ri Bhoi recorded the least with only 5 per cent, Kropha said.
The district administration requisitioned around 12 buses to fetch and drop government employees.
These buses were on the road only for a few hours.
While major roads, including the national highways wore a deserted look, few vehicles decorated with flowers and balloons plied on the road to ferry people who attended wedding ceremonies.
National Highways 40 and 44, passing through Meghalaya and lifelines for Mizoram, Tripura and parts of Manipur and some parts of Assam, were also affected by the 12-hour strike.
Police said there was no report of any untoward incident during the strike.
The pro-ILP groups have been agitating for the past three months since September 2 demanding the re-introduction of the permit regime to regulate entry of outsiders into the state according to the provisions of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873.
After talks on the ILP issue between the groups and the Meghalaya government reached a dead end on August 29, the pro-ILP groups held a series of agitation like strikes, night road blockades and picketing of offices from September 2 to put pressure on the government to re-implement the permit system.
The state government, which rejected the demand of the pressure groups to implement the ILP, had filed a damage suit against them and demanded a compensation of over Rs 31 crore for the damages caused during the agitation.
The damage suit filed in the special court of Rethelda Rymbai had its first hearing on December 3.
The ILP, an official travel document issued by the Centre to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period, is issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 by the state governments.
The ILP already exists in three northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland — where an outsider who wants to enter these states should obtain a permit.
The Union ministry for home affairs (Northeast) joint secretary, Shambhu Singh had recently said, “The ILP can continue only in states where it already exists.”
The pressure groups, however, said Singh’s statement was the most appropriate for Meghalaya because the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, was still an existing regulatory mechanism in the state but it was one of the forgotten laws in the state.
Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma, who rejected the demand to implement ILP, came up with the proposal to implement tenancy law to regulate landlords and tenants in the state so that the problem of influx and illegal immigration in the state can be addressed.