In an unprecedented and unparalleled countermove Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has impaled the activists of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) with the setting up of a special court to try them and force them to pay for destroyed properties. It will have a direct impact on Manipur where several civil organisations have also been clamouring for the re-implementation of the ILP system.
The Meghalaya government is going to set up a special court to try those who are sponsoring blockades in flagrant violation of the Supreme Court orders against all kinds of blockades. What is more, the movers and shakers of the ILP in Meghalaya will be forced to pay financial solatium for the private and public properties destroyed during the protracted agitations. Government sources said that private and public properties worth over Rs 40 crore had been destroyed during the ongoing agitations and the activists of student and civil organisations spearheading the agitations will be liable to pay the money.
However, the organisations are tight lipped on the drastic actiontaken up by the government. But indications are that the ILP movement may fizzle out since the state government has taken an uncompromising stand. In Manipur too, the civil organisations have been demanding the re-implementation of the ILP in the state. The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 which was another nomenclature of the ILP as lifted from Manipur on November 18, 1950.
The Manipur government underpinned by a cabinet decision taken on July 12, 2012 and unanimous Assembly resolution taken on July 13, 2012 for the reimplementation of the ILP in the state had written a letter to the Union government on August 3, 2012 requesting to do accordingly. So far there is no official response from the Union government. However the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde was reported to have expressed his view that the ILP cannot be enforced in Manipur now. But the activists failed to comprehend it since the ILP system has been in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland all these years.
The ILP campaign in Manipur was slowed down in the wake of the killings of migrant workers, the latest being the massacre of nine workers in Imphal in September. There has been no claim from any militant outfit. It became apparent that police may try to drag the activists in the plot to create terror among the migrant workers in the state. Mr. Sangma says his government has firmed up not to enforce the ILP in Meghalaya and this uncompromising stand rendered all talks with the activists infructuous. He further said that the ILP is no cast iron safety for the indigenous peoples and the migrant workers continue to come and settle in those states where this system is in force. Quoting census reports he said that the population of the indigenous peoples in Arunachal Pradesh had fallen from 79.02 per cent to 68 per cent from 1971 to 2011. Likewise the population of the indigenous peoples in Nagaland had fallen from 88.6 per cent to 68 per cent during this period.
However the students and youth activists in Meghalaya launched various forms of agitations including night blockade and curfew along the state and national highways. It was a crippling economic blow to Meghalaya and the NE states since movements of trucks and other vehicles were paralysed. Officials feel that once the special court comes up and starts functioning the organisations sponsoring these agitations will be marginalised and bottled up.
From the very beginning the Union government has been planning to do away with the ILP in the NE region. It is felt that in the name of isolating and rounding up foreigners genuine Indians are harassed. On the other hand, the civil organisations say that this is a ploy to swamp the indigenous peoples with people from India and abroad. The increasing population of foreigners from Bangladesh and Myanmar in this sensitive region is no secret. The then Union Home Minister S.B. Chavan had convened a meeting of the Chief Ministers of NE region on July 19, 1994 to discuss the abolition of the ILP system from the NE states. Nagaland objected saying that it is against the letter and spirit of the 16 point agreement signed between the Naga elders and the Union government.
Mizoram summoned a special session of the Assembly to take a resolution saying that the ILP shall continue in the state. Meanwhile the activists in Meghalaya and Manipur charge the centre with double standard and discrimination since the ILP is in force in three NE states. There are daring the central leaders to give an acceptable explanation for the discrimination.