Meghalaya's demand to implement Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state has met with stiff opposition from a Congress MLA in Assam, who said the 1873 legislation will result in "harassment" of bona fide Indian citizens visiting the hill state. Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, who met and submitted a letter to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Tuesday, said the system, if enforced in Meghalaya, will obstruct regular movement of people from nearby states.
An official source close to the CM, however, told PTI that Sangma has not found any merit in the the assertions made by Purkayastha. The Assam legislator, in his letter, said, "I earnestly submit before you to rethink on the issue (of ILP) and set this proposal aside for the greater interest of the northeastern community." The ILP system, an offshoot of Bengal Eastern Frontiers regulations 1873, was introduced during the pre- Independence era to regulate entry of outsiders and safeguard the interest of tribals.
It allows inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. Four northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur — currently have the system in place. The Meghalaya Assembly had in December last year unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Centre to implement the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime in the state.
The Assam MLA further requested Sangma to ensure that Bengalis do not face any discrimination. He claimed that several Bengalis have been subjected to "physical and mental atrocities".
"I plead before you to immediately take measures to stop all kinds of harassment and discrimination against the Bengali citizens in Meghalaya. For the sake of maintaining peace and harmony, we would also expect you to give a clear message to those groups, who are banking on divisive stances," Purkayastha said in his letter to Sangma. In October, posters with the message — 'All Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangladeshis' — were put on display in Shillong to "instigate inter-community conflicts", he stated.
"Bengalis residing in Meghalaya are not intruders or anti-nationals, they are bona fide citizens of India.Identifying all of them as 'Bangladeshis' is audacious and an act of disrespect to the entire Bengali community," he added.
Rejecting the allegations, Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said the state government was committed to the safety of the people of Meghalaya. "The government has taken all steps necessary to provide security to its citizens," he added.
Meanwhile, the Khasi Students' Union (KSU) — an influential organisation in the state — has threatened to implement its "own Inner Line Permit (ILP) system" if the Centre doesnt approve of the resolution passed by the state Assembly any time soon. "As an indigenous community, we would be compelled to implement our own ILP if the Centre takes more time to fulfil the long-pending aspiration of the people of the state," KSU chief Lambokstarwell Marngar said on Tuesday at a programme near the India-Bangladesh border in the state.