Meghalaya groups renew demand for ILP curbs

Students’ union has warned of protests.

Seven Meghalaya-based organisations have renewed their movement for the implementation of the British era inner-line permit (ILP) and the scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The agitation prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had led to communal violence between a section of the tribal and non-tribal people, primarily the Bengali speakers.

The groups, led by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), have warned of an intensified agitation if the Centre continues to ignore their demand of immediately implementing the ILP, a travel document that would require Indians to possess for entering Meghalaya.

The ILP is in force in four northeastern States — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.

“We are planning surprise protests in the days to come, and the Centre would be responsible if there is any breakdown in law and order in the State,” said KSU president Lambokstarwell Marngar.

The organisations have also demanded that entry and exit points in the State be constructed faster. Of the 19 such designated points, work has started for only one.

Wellbirth Ranee, president of another influential NGO named Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People said they were also against the decision to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act against the will of the people of Meghalaya.

Tribal organisations in Meghalaya have been demanding ILP since 1985 for “defending the State from outsiders”. Intermittent movements have often led to friction, and the last incident February led to the death of a KSU leader.

Some organisations had in October started a campaign saying “all Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangaldeshis” and asking all “foreigners” to get out of the State.

A few days ago, 87 prominent Bengali residents of Meghalaya had requested the State government to “ensure the absolute rule of law to bring about an end to the untold harassment and discrimination of the citizens” while expressing shock at the claim that all Bengalis in the State were illegal migrants.

They requested Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma to draft a clear-cut policy commensurate with the letter and spirit of the Constitution in respect to the rights and privileges of all ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities residing in Meghalaya.

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