ILP seekers ready to talk to Meghalaya government

The Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), one of the 13 groups on protest in Meghalaya, said Thursday night that it was ready to hold talks with the government to break the current stalemate over the Inner Line Permit.

"We extend our willingness to come to the negotiation table and we expect that the government, on its part, will also show its gesture of goodwill by curbing the arrest of our members," FKJGP General Secretary Welbirth Rani said.

Meghalaya is experiencing a series of shutdowns, night road blockades and picketing of offices from Sep 2 after the breakdown of talks between the government and the protesting groups on the ILP issue.

Several cases of arson were reported in East and West Khasi Hill districts and more than 50 pro-ILP activists have been arrested. The statewide agitation has already claimed the lives of two citizens.

On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Rowell Lyngdoh said that the government's door is open for discussion on the ILP issue with the agitating pressure groups.

"The government is open for dialogue with the agitating groups on any demand," Lyngdoh told journalists.

Thirteen organisations include the Khasi Students' Union, the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia, Garo People and the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front are demanding the introduction of the inner line permit (ILP) system, the absence of which, they say, would lead to the number of people entering Meghalaya getting out of control, given the state's proximity to Bangladesh and Assam.

Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the union government to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period.

It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those states to obtain permit for entering into the restricted areas.

However, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has ruled out implementation of the British-era inner line permit (ILP) system to check illegal migrants from Bangladesh, but promised strict laws to curb infiltration of illegal immigrants.

The ILP issue had figured prominently during the recent autumn session of the Meghalaya assembly.

However, a resolution tabled by opposition Hill State People's Democratic Party legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit to introduce the ILP was overwhelmingly defeated as the government was completely averse to the idea.

Once the ILP is imposed, every individual, whether Indian or otherwise, will have to obtain a permit to enter Meghalaya.