Meghalaya pressure groups slam Amit Shah over Inner-Line Permit

The Home Minister is likely to visit Shillong in March to discuss Meghalaya Residents’ Safety and Security Act

Pressure groups in Meghalaya have slammed Union Home Minister Amit Shah for his alleged flip-flop on the issue of Inner-Line Permit (ILP), a British-era system of regulating inflow of outsiders.

Their reaction followed Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma’s announcement that Mr. Shah would be visiting Meghalaya in March to discuss issues such as “infiltration” and implementation of the Meghalaya Residents’ Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) with civil society groups and NGOs.

The MRSSA, awaiting the Centre’s nod, would make it mandatory for every person entering Meghalaya to register at strategic facilitation centres so that the State could keep a tab on their whereabouts.

“The Union Home Minister had earlier said he would call us to Delhi to hold talks. Now, he is saying that he will come to Shillong again. This is nothing but a ploy to delay the implementation of ILP,” Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president Lambokstar Marngar said on Thursday.

He said there was no justification in denying ILP to Meghalaya when the Centre gifted the permit system to Manipur more than a year ago “without agitating for it as much as we did.” The KSU and other organisations have been demanding ILP for almost 42 years now.

Leaders of the Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisations too said they were unhappy with the outcome of the meeting Mr. Shah had with Mr. Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong in New Delhi on Wednesday.

“It appears that the protection of Meghalaya’s indigenous population and their identity is not important to the Centre,” the confederation’s chairman Robertjune Kharjahrin said, questioning the need for discussing the MRSSA without being decisive about ILP.

Meets ‘exiled’ leader

On Thursday, Mr. Shah met West Bengal’s “exiled” leader Ananta Rai at his temporary residence in western Assam’s Chirang near Bongaigaon town.

Mr. Rai is a self-proclaimed king of Cooch Behar in northern West Bengal and a spiritual leader of the Koch-Rajbongshi community he belongs to. He had claimed to have been in exile for fighting for the “independent state” of Cooch Behar.

“Good news for the Koch-Rajbongshi community is on the way,” Mr. Rai told journalists after Mr. Shah paid him a visit. Mr. Shah’s visit is believed to be significant because of Mr. Rai’s clout in the community who comprise a sizeable chunk of voters in western Assam and northern West Bengal, which along with parts of Bangladesh once formed the medieval Koch kingdom.

The Koch-Rajbongshis are one of six communities — the others are Adivasi, Chutia, Matak, Moran and Tai-Ahom — that have been demanding ST status for decades.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules Assam in alliance with two regional parties, has been splurging on the Adivasis, referred to as “tea tribes.” The Adivasis form about 20% of Assam’s population and swing votes in about 45 of Assam’s 126 Assembly seats.

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