The Morung Express

BEFR 1873: Time to alter ILP’s ambit

Dr. Asangba Tzüdir

The publication of the final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens which left out over 40 lakh applicants (though they have another chance of proving their eligibility) have created ripple effect in the state of Nagaland. Following which, security has been tightened checking for migrants without Inner Line Permit (ILP). Various Naga Tribe Student bodies have also started checking for migrants without ILP. The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) has also responded to the issue by intensifying the checking. A Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants (JCPI) was also formed which submitted a representation to the Chief Secretary, and a meeting was held whereupon a committee headed by the Commissioner and Secretary to the Chief Minister was formed and tasked with coming up with a comprehensive action plan and mechanism to streamline ILP, an interim report of which was to be given within 15 days.

 

But the crux of the matter being Dimapur, the commercial hub, not coming under the ambit of ILP, is often considered to be a safe haven for an overwhelming number of undocumented migrants. Now, the NSF, has intensified the call by holding a public procession in the State Capital Kohima “in protest against the influx of illegal immigrant” and with “demand for inclusion of Dimapur under the purview of ILP.” To this end, a memorandum was handed over to the advisor to Chief Minister calling for immediate measures to be taken for inclusion of Dimapur district within the purview of ILP. The lack of stringent implementation of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) 1873 and the exclusion of Dimapur district from the purview of ILP was strongly highlighted as a cause for the present state of affairs.

 

The BEFR of 1873 which had the Governor General’s assent included among others the Naga Hills district. Now, a seemingly tricky part is that it did not automatically extend to the entire state of Nagaland with the attainment of Statehood and Dimapur falls outside the purview of ILP. A look at The Nagaland Code, Volume –I (Revised Edition) 2004, Government of Nagaland, Justice & Law Department, throws light on the provisions regarding the tricky issue. It clearly mentions the “power to prescribe and alter inner line” which states that, “it shall be lawful for the State Government to prescribe, and from time to time to alter, by notification in the Official Gazette, a line to be called ‘The Inner Line’ in each or any of the above named districts.” (applicable to the districts of Kamrup, Darrang, Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Garo Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Naga Hills, Cachar).

 

Now that the Justice & Law Department, Nagaland Government has brought out the revised edition of ‘The Nagaland Code Volume – I” 2004, it is ‘understood’ that the ‘spirit’ of the provisions of BEFR 1873 can be extended to Nagaland and the districts therein. And therefore the demand for inclusion of Dimapur within the purview of Inner Line Permit is deemed justified from the legal perspective. As such, the matter rests with the Justice & Law Department and the Government of Nagaland to deliberate wisely with a strong ‘political will’ considering the urgency and ‘graveness’ of the Naga situation that is being likened to “living in a human time bomb.”

 

The various stakeholders should continue to act as pressure groups because the legal system first needs to be placed within the context in order to enable the law of the land to play an enforcing rule. This will also prevent the proclivity of taking the matters into own hands.

 

Dimapur, being the gateway to the state, the process to check the illegal influx in Nagaland can only and should begin from the entrance. This can happen only when Dimapur is placed under the Inner Line Permit.

 

(Dr. Asangba Tzudir is a Freelance Research and Editing Consultant. He contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to asangtz@gmail.com)