In the run-up to the likely introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill during the current session of Parliament, the concept of Inner Line Permit has been part of the conversation. On Saturday, when political and civil society representatives from the Northeastern states met him to express their concerns about the Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured them that the Bill would provide protection to such regions and states where the Inner Line Permit (ILP) is applicable, and autonomous administration has been granted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
Last month, the Meghalaya Cabinet passed amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016, and the impression widely created is that the amendments will lead to rules similar to those in an ILP regime. What exactly is the ILP system?
Explained: What is Inner Line Permit system?
Simply put, an Inner Line Permit is a document that allows an Indian citizen to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system. The system is in force today in three Northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram — and no Indian citizen can visit any of these states unless he or she belongs to that state, nor can he or she overstay beyond the period specified in the ILP.
The concept comes from the colonial area. Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas. This was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions. In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”. This was to address loval concerns about protecting the interests of the indigenous people from outsiders belonging to other Indian states.
An ILP is issued by the state government concerned. It can be obtained after applying either online or physically. It states the dates of travel and also specifies the particular areas in the state which the ILP holder can travel to.
The CAB connection
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill aims to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship. If it is implemented with provisions for excluding from its ambit the states under the ILP regime, it means that beneficiaries under CAB will become Indian citizens but will not be able to settle in these three states. As a matter of fact, the same restriction applies to existing Indian citizens.
Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are not among those drastically affected by migration from Bangladesh. Mizoram shares a border with Bangladesh. The three states that have seen the highest migration, however, are Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, none of which has an ILP system.
While Meghalaya has amended a law, it is not yet clear what exact rules, visitors to the state would be subjected too. And officially, it has not been said to be a replication of the ILP regime.
Demands for an ILP system have been made in various Northeastern states. The North East Students’ Organisation, an umbrella body of all powerful students’ bodies of the regions, said in a press statement last month that it “reiterates its demand for overall implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in all NE states”.
Last year, the Manipur People Bill, 2018 was passed unanimously by the state Assembly and now is said to be awaiting Presidential assent. The Bill puts several regulations on ‘outsiders’ or ‘non-Manipuri people’ in the state. The Bill had undergone series of negotiations regarding defining the “Manipuri” people, after which a consensus was reached regarding 1951 as cut-off year for the definition.
In Assam too, there have been demands by certain sections for the introduction of ILP. Groups like the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, a youth organisation, has been organising protest demonstrations seeking ILP throughout the state.
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