Thursday, June 26, 2008

In defence of the Inner Line Permit system in Mizoram

The Shillong Times, 26 June 2008 (http://www.theshillongtimes.com/editorial.html)

By: Paritosh Chakma

This article is in defence of the Inner Line Permit regulations in Mizoram in the wake of the recent Gauhati High Court judgement that Mizoram government should not arrest or deport any body for not having valid inner line permit (ILP). I was aghast to hear the judgement. What are the police expected to do if not arrest an "illegal outsider"? The Court's order has definitely provided impunity to all those staying on in the state without the valid papers. Illegal outsiders can pose serious threats to the peace and security of the state.

The government of Mizoram has announced that it would challenge the High Court order "up to the Supreme Court".

If there is a law in place, all must abide by it and defaulters must be punished. The legal formalities under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873 require any Indian Citizen who is not a resident of Mizoram to have an Inner Line Pass to enter the state. Two other North Eastern states - Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh also have the ILP system.

Foreigners touring North East India are required to obtain Restricted Area Permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Most mainland Indians and non-tribals of the N-E region oppose the ILP system on the ground that restrictions violate the fundamental rights of the citizens of India including the right to free movement throughout the country and to take up employment. But everyone must understand that the Inner Line Permit is a "protective discrimination" for the indigenous populations of the states of Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, introduced by the British to protect the indigenous populations from the onslaught of "the outsiders" and has been retained in Independent India.

The ILP's aim is not to harass or prevent entry of non-Mizo Indian nationals per se but to secure the future of the natives by protecting the sanctity of their socio-cultural rights, preventing demographic upheaval leading to invasion of their political bastion by the "outsiders" which has been the case with Tripura. Due to the large-scale influx from Bangladesh, the indigenous peoples of Tripura have been reduced to minority. The defeat of another North Eastern state - Assam - in identifying and deporting millions of illegal Bangladeshis is also known to all of us.

The guidelines for enforcement of the Inner Line Regulation in Mizoram notified on 8.9.2006 clearly state that the visitors must not be harassed at the check gates: "Therefore, the method of checking should be as simple as possible, yet effective so that no one who is required to possess an Inner Line Pass, enters without a pass".

Protecting the natives from influx and demographic invasion by "outsiders" was one of the top priorities in the minds of the Mizo leaders when they demanded statehood. Thus, the Mizoram Accord of 1986 between the Mizo National Front and the government of India provides that "The Inner Line Regulation, now in force in Mizoram, will not be amended or repealed without consulting the State Government." It would have been far better had MNF supremo Mr Laldenga stressed for insertion of the word "consent" in place of "consulting", for "consultation" is not always equal to obtaining "consent" of a party. "Consent" requires the approval of the concerned party who has the right to say "no".

Issuing of ILPs is "subject to availability of a sponsor who is a bonafide indigenous resident (of Mizoram)" and their renewal or extension is allowed "subject to the good conduct of the ILP holder that he/she is not involved in any criminal activity". Hence, it is clear that the system seeks to be an effective mechanism to check illegal infiltration of "outsiders" and their illegal activities in Mizoram.

The ILP's aim is not to harass or prevent entry of non-Mizo Indian nationals per se but to secure the future of the natives by protecting the sanctity of their socio-cultural rights, preventing demographic upheaval leading to invasion of their political bastion by the "outsiders" which has been the case with Tripura. Due to the large-scale influx from Bangladesh, the indigenous peoples of Tripura have been reduced to minority. The defeat of another North Eastern state - Assam - in identifying and deporting millions of illegal Bangladeshis is also known to all of us.

Land is the most important source of livelihood and critical for our survival. Yet, the tribals have been losing their lands to the non-tribals across the country despite presence of various legal safeguards. The Constitution of India under the 5th Schedule protects the land rights of the tribals in mainland India. In the North East India, the 6th Schedule of the Constitution authorizes the Autonomous District Councils to make appropriate laws against land alienation. In addition, at the state level, there are numerous laws prohibiting transfer of lands from indigenous/ tribal peoples to "non-tribals". But the non-tribals have been successful in taking control of the lands belonging to the tribals by adopting various tricks including fraudulent means, marrying tribal women, harassment through police and goons, in addition to purchasing although transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals is illegal.

According to the 2007-2008 Annual Report of the Ministry of Rural Development, a total of 506,307 cases of tribal land alienation have been registered (involving 902,417 acres of land) in India so far. The statistics provided in the report further proves that the tribals have been losing their legal battles in the Courts to recover their lands. Out of the total of 430,450 cases (involving 851,372 acres of land) disposed of by the Courts in the country, 46.1% (198,674 cases involving 410,587 acres of land) were decided against the tribals which means the tribal victims could not get back their lands. Lack of proper legal documents proving ownership of the land and inability to hire good lawyers to fight the cases in Court often acted against the tribals while seeking to restore the alienated land.

There has been no report of any alienation of tribal lands in Mizoram and the state government too has not released any such data. The Inner Line Permit regulation has been instrumental in averting such illegal activities by non-locals. On 1 April 2008, Mizoram Home Minister Mr Tawnluia informed the State Assembly that 22 Bangladeshis who entered the state illegally were arrested and deported to Bangladesh during 2007-2008.

In order to protect the interests of the indigenous peoples of Mizoram, it is extremely necessary that the Inner Line Permit system is strictly enforced. But ILP is not enforced strictly. For example, every non-Mizo resident passenger is asked to produce ILP during entry at the check gate at Vairangte, but I have not seen the law enforcement personnel checking the validity of the ILP of the persons during exit. If police do not check the ILP validity during exit, it means any ILP holder can overstay in the state without the fear of being caught and prosecuted for the crime. At the same time, it is equally important that no bonafide citizen of India, irrespective of caste, creed, sex, colour or religion, or any foreigner having entered the state for valid purposes with valid papers should be harassed in any way. In order to detect illegal outsiders, the police have been entrusted with the duty to conduct "surprise checks" in every district at least once in a month. However, due to the failure of the police to do so, there have been reports of raids conducted by non-state actors to identify the alleged illegal outsiders. Such acts, though done while keeping in mind the interests of the state, are absolutely illegal and uncalled for. This will further create a deep sense of fear among the non-locals including tourists which is not in the wholesome interest of the state.

It is everyone's duty to uphold the human rights of ALL while enforcing the laws of the land.

9 comments:

ILP Indian said...

Dear Paritosh,

Read your posting with ref to ILP system in India. But the system must be reciprocal.

As large number of Chakma and other Mangolian orgin infiltrators also enters India/Assam through the Assam-Mizoram Border we are proposing the exactly the same kind of law and ILP provisions to be implemented for the persons entering rest of India from ILP states - Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. All persons entering other Indian states from these ILP states should also obtain an "entry permit" from Indian Office like Assam House in Delhi/Kolkata/Mumbai or DC offices in the border Districts. In view of international terrorism threats from other countries illegal foreigners may also enter India through borders with Myanmer, China, Nepal, B'Desh etc. As the bottom line here is not to allow illegal infiltrators from outside to enter India, every Mizo/Naga/Arunachali should apply for a entry permit giving copies of Voter ID Attested by DC / Residence Certificate and if they are "suspected" by the issuing officer their application should be sent back to their home districts in their states for verification. Till then they should wait before entering any other Indian state.

Moreover, we support the kind of mechanism followed by the NGOs like YMCA, MZP to check ILP regularly, other states like Assam must also allow NGOs to check the genuineness of every person entering other states. Assam Police should also arrest and deport every person from other ILP states who do not have such permits.

In that way we will have a very good check against all infiltrators in the region irrespective of their race, language and religion.

We shall appeal to the people and NGOs of the border districts of the ILP states to start checking every 'suspected infiltrators' who look like Bangladeshi from dress or name or look like a 'Chinese / Burmese / Nepali' infiltrator and check their papers at border posts with the help of local police as it is the duty to police to check anybody against possible entry of foreigners into India.

Once ILP is used by every Indian states against possible infiltration by others it will be a very strong "United States of India". After all Maharashtra is for Marathis and 'non-marathis' should not enter without any sponsor from Maratha origin. Otherwise Marathis will be minorities and their language and culture will be threatened by outsiders. The same "protective discrimination" for the indigenous populations of the Maratha people should be allowed to protect the indigenous populations from the onslaught of "the outsiders". The logic should be same for all Indian states - Tamil, Kannad, Assamese, Kerelite.

So, as it will take time for all states to have ILP, for the time being ILP mechanism should be equally used ILP states to enter non-ILP states.

That will make India and a great 'united' nation. When big countries like European union countries are allowing even citizens to travel freely among 25 countries, and these have much larger "illegal outsiders" and terror threats, we should create more strong walls among ourselves to protect ourselves from "outsiders".

Long live Great India.

Paritosh Chakma said...

Dear “ILP Indian”,

Your demand for imposing similar ILP restrictions for citizens from ILP states “entering rest of India” is driven by impulsive reactions, not guided by sufficient thoughts/ reasons on such a complex and sensitive issue.

Your “Maharashtra is for Marathis” syndrome can be dangerous.

How I wish all the ethnic minorities had their own states to be governed by themselves to chart their own political destinies. But you also know well, this cannot happen in reality.

You aspire for “protective discrimination" for the Marathas, Tamils, Kannads, Assamese, Kerelites etc. You would also wish every body enjoyed “positive discrimination” as well, or if that not possible, not to have affirmative action programmes for any community at all!

The demand not to have "protective discrimination" in the form of ILP regulations for selected states is as baseless as the protest against the resevation policy of the government in favor of tribals and dalits. The Mizo leadership was far-sighted enough to ensure that the ILP system stays intact in Mizoram at the time of signing peace agreement with India.

Your own demand for Inner Line Permit for all states of India to check “illegal infiltrators” itself explains the importance and inevitability of the ILP regulations in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. However, your demand for ILP for all states of the country is unwarranted and unjustified as this would alter the very political set up of India. However, exceptions for a few states may be made depending on the merit of the case.

I do not support your views on giving license to civil society groups to check ILP “regularly” as such unbridled use of power by the non-state actors can lead to harassment, intimidation, xenophobia against the non-locals as was seen in the past in Mizoram. The police are best equipped to handle this. However, there is a need for NGOs to be vigilant. At best, NGOs can launch “checks” in cooperation with the police.

Modern Saint said...

I agree to you with some extent. But the ultimate aim is to curb the religionism.

The homogeneous society is great and definitely have some great advantages as well.

No wonder, Mizoram have high HDI comparable to that of Norway, sweden and Iceland.

Homogeneous population also led to more involvement of it's citizen in public affairs leading to less corruption and more transparency developing a bond b/w administration and its citizens.

we need to develop this kind of bond b/w administration and its citizens in various indian states.
Gujurat is the only non north-eastern state to mimic it.

But sometimes, it also led to economic and social isolation hindering the economic and social development.

India is basically a collection of tribes where each tribe co-exist and expect others tribes to co-operate and respect each other.
However, it has never happened in the last 5000 years.

THe scenario is very different in "urban" India where ppl are individualistic and abhors any kind of religionism, communalism or tribalism and appreciate an overall homogeneity around India. The goal is similiar: to have a high HDI and high economic development.

there is no perfect solution to the answer. extreme religionism or chauvinistic nationalism will not help to achieve both the goals.

So, we need a pragmatic approach. We need mizos to create a scenario like scandinavian countries where highly skilled person or opulent can come and invest in his state bringing new ideas and economic development. further, mizos with strong cultural ethos should develop an enterpreneurial spirit and start their own enterprises.
IPL is not the solution; it is just one step to achieve one of the goals.

It is the time to move on.

maina said...

Dear Paritosh,

Went through your post just now...
In a time when most of the NE students raising their voice against racial discrimination in the northern states like U.P., Haryana and mainly in Delhi, dont you feel it interesting to call the people from the same country but different state as "outsider"?
If you could treat the people from all other states except Arunachal, Mizoram & Nagaland as outsider, then why do you expect them to treat you as insider? ILP Indian is quite right in proposing ILP for each and every state in India.

I doubt whether the Britishers made this law to protect local people or was a part of their divide & rule...But if we really wish to be treated equally within any part of India, then try to stop the various methods of showing your localism..Otherwise we will have to remain as we are...Different from the Northern, Southern & Western India....

Please stop this regionalism.......We are Indians...Try to make your mind according to that....

maina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shakun said...

Dear Paritosh ,
ILP system in Mizoram is good to save mizos from onslaught of outsiders ..But Mizoram ,Arunachal ,Nagaland & Assam are facing severe threat from infiltrators.They are not from India but from China ,B.Desh, Nepal& Myanmar. Then what use of ILP. It only restrict indians entry in indian territory .

shakun said...

Dear Paritosh ,
ILP system in Mizoram is good to save mizos from onslaught of outsiders ..But Mizoram ,Arunachal ,Nagaland & Assam are facing severe threat from infiltrators.They are not from India but from China ,B.Desh, Nepal& Myanmar. Then what use of ILP. It only restrict indians entry in indian territory .

Tapas Mahajan said...

I read your article very carefully and it gives me an idea why ILP is permitted. I have few query and suggestion regarding ILP. Hopefully you will give me some sort of feedback on this regard.

1. ILP is given only from Silchar, Kolkata and from Delhi. Most of them were provided from Silchar only, as it is the entry point of the state. In such a scenario people need to stay a whole day in Silchar waiting for their legal formalities. Can we not have such facilities in check points?
2. Why Mizoram Govt. collect inner permit amount of Rs 150-200 (during my visit in 2009) and why an Indian citizen have to pay this amount in order to travel a state with in his or her nation ?
3. Validation of Indian citizen ship is not sufficient?
4. ILP is given with in 5-7 hour at max. How you can verify someone’s background within this time period?
5. Is this a simple formula to collect money from people?
6. There are multiple checking points within the entrance of Mizoram state. Travelers have to deboard 2-3 times and had to check all his bag, luggage, permit etc. And you are saying no harassment?????
7. There is other process to identify illegal migrants. You can check their legal document like citizen certificate, i card and many more.......I think all these are valid for lifetime
Hope you will give some feedback to my concerns!!!!!

kawngtea singson said...

Before the British left India. Mizoram was an isolated state. a state of its own inhabited by various tribes of Mongolian origin.They were backwards and uneducated and their main occupation were agriculture and hunting.my point is... Mizoram is only a part of india bacause the chose to be. the Mizo people are small in population and sure they do need some kind of protection. ILP did just the work. They have to be given special consideration as they even speak a completely different language... i hope u get my point