The issue of ‘influx’ of non-tribals, essentially meaning Indians coming from other states, raises its ugly head time to time in the hilly states of North-east. The problem never took an alarming turn in some states having inner line permit (ILP) as a measure to check entry of outsiders while others like Meghalaya and Manipur saw worst of violence-marred agitations in recent years. Three persons died and scores of property torched and damaged during the four-month-long agitation by pro-ILP groups in Meghalaya in 2013. The agitation started in August-September last year and signs are no better as the ‘season’ approaches.
Some people say trouble times begin in Meghalaya as the first produces of squash and potato hit the market and it dies down with the festival season in December. It happened so many times in the state that non-tribal Indians sometimes rue that they feel like second class citizens. They pay the income tax unlike the tribals, yet face the brunt of agitation in the name of protection of tribal rights over land and resources, their customs, traditions etc. The groups leading such movements get massive support from the public. Common people are susceptible to threats of losing rights over land and resources. It’s usual for them to lose temper over such ‘threats’ and take law into their own hands. Besides, vested interests sometimes give religious tinge to such movements, leading to attacks on places of worship of minority communities in the state.
Although the state government has constituted three committees to take steps on different aspects of the proposed ‘comprehensive mechanism’, it is unlikely to be able to satisfy the pressure groups – the latter have slowly built up pressure on government, indicating days of trouble ahead. They gave up the agitation just before the election early this year on the government’s promise to put in place a ‘comprehensive mechanism’. One of the government committees has been tasked with identifying ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ points to check influx. Presumably, the ‘entry’ points will be manned by officials who will check documents of outsiders and grant them entry permits. On the other hand, permits will be checked at the ‘exit’ points. In a populist tone, apparently to allay apprehension of non-tribals, chief minister Mukul Sangma went on to say that these points will be made ‘attractive’ to allow tourists to spend time there without feeling uncomfortable. This is too optimistic as no tourist is going to love being grilled at check points even if he or she is given the world’s most comfortable chair to sit there. As of now, it seems that the problem (if it is so) of influx is headed for no solution and woes’ of common Indians, who don’t belong to any indigenous tribes, will continue for years to come.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 12)