Shillong: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Saturday demanded that the entire state, including the non-scheduled areas, be exempted from the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
He urged the Centre to take measures for protecting the indigenous communities of the Northeast.
"We are thankful that the Centre has exempted Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh (from CAA) and to a large extent Meghalaya, but we demand a full exemption for our state and similar measures for Assam as well," he said at an event in West Garo Hills district.
Most of the non-scheduled areas of Meghalaya are in Shillong and comprise around 3 per cent of the state's total area.
Observing that the Meghalaya Assembly had passed a resolution seeking implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state, Sangma said, "We are firm in our demand and will continue engaging with the Centre till complete exemption (from CAA) and protection is provided to our people."
While interacting with hundreds of Nokmas (village chiefs), Sangma urged them to play their roles in safeguarding the interests of the indigenous people.
"The government will make policies to protect the land and its people. But our local institutions should continue playing a vital role in ensuring protection at the grassroots level," he said.
Sangma urged the village chiefs not to sell their lands to outsiders, who he said adopt unfair means to obtain land in Meghalaya while referring to cases of 'benami' land transfers.
He also suggested documentation of 'Nokmaship' and the lifestyle of the Garos so that the future generation understands the importance of the Nokmas in society.
Sangma said budget provision will be made in the current financial year for the construction of traditional village courts in the Garo Hills.
"For progress in the state, there have to be leaders at the grassroots level who can coordinate the exercise of rural development and create political awareness among people. Nokmas also work as mediators between the government and the people," he said.
Sangma said work is being done to bridge the communication barriers between village councils and the state government so that the issues faced in the villages could be addressed there itself.
"We are working towards establishing a tribal research institute, a vision of my late father P A Sangma, which will act as a conduit for facilitating the preservation of our indigenous communities. Research on the tribal communities will be used in policy-making," he added.