Guwahati, Nov. 5: Taking a stand contrary to what policymakers, prospective investors and tour operators have been advocating, a conglomerate of student organisations of the Northeast have made a case for extending the inner line permit system to all states of the region.
Inner line permits are at present required to enter only Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
The North East Students’ Organisation (Neso), which raised the issue during its fourth annual conference in Agartala last week, today said the entire region must be covered by the inner line permit system to safeguard local cultures and people from “the onslaught of outsiders”. Neso chairman Samujjal Bhattacharyya said the Northeast required a “Kashmir-like constitutional shield” in the light of the threat to the indigenous population’s rights to land and resources.
Just the other day, the outlawed Ulfa threatened to strongly resist attempts to explore oil in the Brahmaputra basin and, in a more rhetorical vein, declared that it would no longer allow Delhi to exploit Assam’s natural resources. It said the state did not have “unlimited” reservoirs of “natural wealth” and Delhi must stay away from whatever is left.
Neso’s demand for an all-encompassing inner line permit system may have, however, disappointed more people than Ulfa’s statement.
Arunachal Pradesh governor S.K. Singh is one of those who have been advocating the withdrawal of the inner line permit and restricted area permit systems — the latter is applicable to foreigners visiting the region — to encourage more investment and tourism.
Ironically, the same set of student leaders insisting on the extension of the inner line permit system — seen as a hurdle in the way of industrial development — decided during the four-day Neso conference in Agartala to mount pressure on Delhi to declare the entire region as a special economic zone.
The Neso leadership also called for the constitution of a special education commission to find ways to stop “brain drain” from the region. “The lack of high-quality technical institutes is forcing students to migrate outside the northeastern states every year to pursue higher and specialised education,” it said.
The Neso conference also discussed the perceived threat to the region from jihadi groups.
Assam police chief D.N. Dutt told the media last week that the Bangladeshi jihadi group responsible for the serial blasts in that country in August last year has made inroads into the Northeast. Dutt said the Jamatul Mujahideen, one of two radical groups banned by Bangladesh last year, was co-ordinating the activities of all jihadi groups operating in the region with the help of foreign agencies.
Neso secretary-general N.S.N. Lotha said Delhi must initiate “strong action to tackle this problem immediately”.