Chief minister Pema Khandu-led Arunachal Pradesh government has resolved to urge the Centre to include the frontier state bordering Bhutan, Tibet and Myanmar under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution so as to protect the rights of its indigenous population.

State home minister Bamang Felix said this on Tuesday, adding that “the decision to make the appeal was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister on Monday”.

Unlike parts of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya that come under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, Arunachal Pradesh falls under the 5th Schedule which does not provide special rights for the indigenous communities.

Addressing the media at the civil secretariat here, Felix said: “The Cabinet during its sitting deliberated on the report of a consultative meeting held on August 19, following which a consensus decision to reach out to the Centre regarding the inclusion of Arunachal under the 6th Schedule was taken.”

The state government earlier this month formed a committee under the chairmanship of deputy chief minister Chowna Mein to hold a meeting with the Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) to discuss issues related to constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of the state.

Felix said, this was for the first time in the history of the state that a platform to have a broad discussion on the constitutional safeguards of Arunachalees was created under the leadership of Khandu.

“This subject was never discussed on any platform in the past 34 years or since statehood was conferred on Arunachal,” said Felix.

“However, following the consultative meeting and suggestions that have poured in from our learned councils and advocates, we have come to understand that we were living under the wrong expression of being protected by the Inner Line Permits (ILP),” he added.

ILP is an official travel document issued by the state government concerned to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.

The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act of 1873 prohibits all citizens of India from entering Arunachal without a valid ILP.

The home minister further said the provisions of Article 371(H) which protects Arunachal at present also does not ensure full protection to the state’s people as it provides no special provision or rights to the indigenous people.

“We may have our land, air, and water but we don’t have its ownership,” he said.

Felix said a ‘resolution’ that seeks the inclusion of Arunachal under the 6th Schedule would be moved and discussed in the upcoming monsoon session of the state legislative assembly and the same would be later submitted to the Centre.

The resolution would also seek that the special provision with respect to Arunachal Pradesh be further strengthened by amending Article 371(H) by inserting provisions for the protection of religious or social practices and customary law and procedure of the tribes of the state.

Felix said provisions for the protection of the administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to the customary law of the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and ownership and transfer of land and its resources are the other resolutions that would be placed before the Centre for its consideration.

According to the provision of Article 371 (H), the state governor has special responsibility with respect to law and order in the state and in the discharge of his functions in relation thereto.

DAMIEN LEPCHA

Damien Lepcha is Northeast Now Correspondent in Arunachal Pradesh. He can be reached at: lepcharaul@gmail.com