It will help protect the rights of the indigenous people, says State’s Home Minister Bamang Felix

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Arunachal Pradesh has decided to appeal to the Centre for bringing the Frontier State under the purview of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution towards protecting the rights of its indigenous peoples.

The decision to approach the Centre was taken at a Cabinet meeting headed by Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday, Home Minister Bamang Felix said.

The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Consensus decision

“The Cabinet discussed 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 Pradesh under the Sixth Schedule was taken,” Mr. Felix said on Tuesday.

A resolution would be moved and discussed in the monsoon session of the 60-member Assembly from August 27 and would be submitted to the Centre, he said.

The State government had a fortnight ago formed a Consultative Committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein to hold a meeting with the community-based organisations (CBOs) for discussing issues related to constitutional safeguards for the indigenous peoples.

The demand for the creation of two autonomous councils — Mon Autonomous Region in the western part and Patkai Autonomous Council in the eastern part — had led to the creation of the committee.

The Cabinet discussed the report that the committee submitted after a meeting with the CBOs and students’ organisations on August 19.

Living under wrong expression

“No government had sought Sixth Schedule status since Arunachal Pradesh became a State more than three decades ago. From the suggestions from the Consultative Committee, community leaders and advocates, we have come to understand that we were living under the wrong expression of being protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP),” Mr. Felix said.

The ILP, warranted by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, is an official travel document issued by the State government concerned to let in an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period.

Mr. Felix also said the provisions of Article 371(H) for Arunachal Pradesh do not ensure full protection to the State’s people. “We may have our land, air and water but we don’t have its ownership.”

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