The issue concerning the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 pertaining especially to Dimapur district fails to die down as various organisations are still persistent in their demand that it ought to be implemented in the district. It is back in the news again with a fresh representation, this time from the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC), to the chief minister to bring the district, the largest plain area in the state bordering Assam into the jurisdiction of said regulation. From the perspective of the history of Dimapur district besides the current status of it being the state’s commercial hub that it has attained, the regulation would be a regressive step.
The regulation empowers the state’s government to issue inner-line permit (ILP) to visitors from outside the state. This means that outsiders are not allowed to move freely in the areas the ILP is in force. It also restricts outsiders to settle and reside within the state. So in effect under the regulation a person from outside the state truly cannot have a profession within the area.
This is directly in contrast to Article 19, Article 19, and Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The three articles give every citizen the right to ‘move freely throughout the territory of India,’ or reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, or to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business.
A similar reply was purported to have been given by the Centre when similar demands for the inclusion of Meghalaya under the regulation was made in 2013. The Centre also stated then that the ILP system could not be imposed where it was not in existence when the Constitution came into being or was revoked later.
As for the plain areas of Dimapur district, where the commercial hub of the state is located—a district that is poised to become a manufacturing hub in the future—the introduction of the regulation will harm the economy of the state. The growth of medical tourism that Dimapur is seeing at the moment will have a sharp decline. The many big commercial centres which no doubt have Naga stakeholders will die out within a few months. The inter-state trade, especially in the unorganised sector, will see a major decline. All in all it is a shortcut to completely chopping off the economy of Dimapur and the state, which is seeing some growth at the moment.
Instead it has to be strictly enforced in letter and in spirit in the hill areas where it is presently covered. The present workarounds being employed for various persons who are non-Naga and non indigenous inhabitants of the state need to be stopped. Except for persons in public service, armed forces, and other quasi-government agencies, no other should be allowed to settle in these areas. All the organisations demanding the ILP for Dimapur should first have the courage to demand its strict implementation in the hill areas. Otherwise, the day is not far when these leaders, however well-intentioned, will just be termed another group of frogs in the well.