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Explained: What is the Meghalaya law held up by Gov?

The existing 2016 Act deals with registration and documentation of non-state residents living in Meghalaya. The Ordinance, cleared by the Cabinet in November, seeks to extend similar rules to cover all non-state residents visiting or living in the state, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said last month.

By: Express News Service | Guwahati |
Updated: December 20, 2019 9:34:32 am
Explained: What is the Meghalaya law held up by Gov? Tathagata Roy had tweeted controversially on the Citizenship Amendment Act.

ON MONDAY, Nagaland Governor R N Ravi was given additional charge of Meghalaya, whose Governor Tathagata Roy is learnt to have gone on leave. In the days leading up to the move, Roy had tweeted controversially on the Citizenship Amendment Act, and had also upset many in the state by not giving assent to amendments to The Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016. The amendments had been approved by the Meghalaya Cabinet by an Ordinance.

What is the Ordinance about?

The existing 2016 Act deals with registration and documentation of non-state residents living in Meghalaya. The Ordinance, cleared by the Cabinet in November, seeks to extend similar rules to cover all non-state residents visiting or living in the state, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said last month. “This Act is indicative only for those people who are interested in visiting our state as tourists, labourers or for education and business. With this Act in place, they will need to comply with guidelines to be prepared in the form of rules,” Tynsong had told The Indian Express.

What is the point of the amendment?

It came in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam, which led to concerns among civil society and political leaders, including Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, that people excluded from the Assam NRC might try to enter Meghalaya. Besides, political parties and activists in Meghalaya had long been demanding replication of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, which has now been extended to Manipur following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While the ILP-regime states are exempt from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), practically the whole of Meghalaya is exempt by virtue of special protections under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The Ordinance itself was not a fallout of the citizenship legislation, but a precautionary measure in view of the Assam NRC.

How would the registration take place?

Amid concerns that followed the Ordinance, the Meghalaya government clarified last month that the modalities for registration of visitors have not been finalised. The Director of the Tourism Department issued a statement on November 5: “The registration process will be designed keeping in mind the convenience of tourists who are visiting our state. It will be a simple process with both online and offline registration options and will be similar to the registration when you check into your hotel. There will be no need to stand or wait in queues when you enter the State. We understand that your time and resources are precious. Meghalaya welcomes all domestic and international travellers who wish to explore our landscapes and experience our culture and traditions. Make your plans and watch our official channels for further updates.”

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So, Governor Roy had not given assent?

By some accounts, he had refused to sign the amendments. Robertjune Kharjahrin, chairperson of CoMSO, an umbrella organisation of 22 NGOs and civil society organisations in Meghalaya that are opposing the new citizenship law, told The Indian Express recently: “There has been a lot of anger among the people in Meghalaya against the Governor because he has been refusing to sign the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act. This was compounded by his tweet about North Korea.”

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First published on: 20-12-2019 at 04:11:12 am
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