Meghalaya chief minister criticised for travelling abroad amid agitation

Pressure groups in Meghalaya Sunday criticised Chief Minister Mukul Sangma for travelling abroad despite ongoing agitation over influx and illegal immigration of Bangladeshi nationals into the state.

“It is evident that this government is 'one man' government and the situation warrants the chief minister to be present, and resolve the burning issue of the state but his foreign trip speaks volumes of his seriousness on the issue of influx,” Khasi Students Union (KSU) chief Daniel Khyriem said.

Sangma, along with a team of officials from the commerce and horticulture departments, left for Slovakia Saturday. The team is expected to return Tuesday. “This is another compelling reason to view with scepticism the claim and commitment of the government to resolve the issue,” he said, while announcing another bout of three-night road blockades from Nov 5 to Nov 7.

The blockade is expected to mount pressure on the Meghalaya government to implement the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to regulate the entry of outsiders entering the state. The night blockade -- to be effective between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. in all the 11 districts -- will affect movement of vehicles on National Highways 40 and 44, the lifelines for landlocked Mizoram, Tripura and parts of Manipur and Assam. “We are forced to adopt such methods due to the adamant attitude and failure of the Mukul Sangma government to implement the ILP as recommended by the high level committee on influx in 2012,” Khyriem said.

Meghalaya is experiencing a series of shutdowns, night road blockades and picketing of offices since Sep 2 after the breakdown of talks between the government and 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. Two people have died during the statewide agitation.

Fourteen 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 or 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, 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.

Khyriem said the ILP was still very much alive in the state, as the government had not produced any documentary proof on the claim that the Garo Hills region was repealed from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873 in 1897.