Is the Sixth Schedule still relevant in Meghalaya - Daily Current Affair Article

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Recently, Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) was accused of spreading violence in the state and declared all Bengalis of the state as the natives of Bangladesh.

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Meghalaya and three other states are governed through special provision of the sixth schedule of the constitution under article 244. The sixth schedule applies to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. These states are have Autonomous District Council and Regional councils that are empowered to run the administration and make laws in areas such as, land, forest, tribal customs and traditions, etc. These councils are powerful and have right to make laws and also collect few taxes.

The sixth schedule was incorporated to protect the rights of the minority tribals living in an area largely dominated by the majority. But in these states where tribals are in majority and even holding major assembly seats treat the non-tribals in much neglected way. They are marginalized in the society and are continuously facing violence and are forced to be expelled out of the state.

How did non-tribals come to the state?

In the 19th century the British brought the Bengalis to assist them in the administration as they were the educated ones. They also encouraged natives of Bihar, Nepal and Punjab to settle and who soon got assimilated in the mainstream. Before the partition of East Pakistan there were close ties and warm relations but after partition the Hindus were forced out of Sylhet and many came naturally to Meghalaya. But once Meghalaya was born, its 85% jobs were reserved for the natives and non-tribals were prohibited to purchase any land in the state.

Pity state of the non-tribals- the problem

With the agitation caused by the members of KSU, Inner Line Permit (ILP) is also restricted so that outsiders cannot enter the state. It is also acting as a deterrent in the success of Look East policy for which seamless connectivity and exchange within northeastern states is very essential.

Tourism industry will be largely affected because of ILP and it will also deter the investors to invest in the state for economic development. Pandemic has already affected the tourism industry and thousands of local youth were hit hard by its impact.

KSU is forcing the non-tribals out from the state through repeated violence. It is happening like the forced migration of Kashmiri Pandits. This has severely affected the Bengalis, Biharis, Nepalese, Sindhi, Punjabi, etc who have been living here from many generations.

The sixth schedule differentiates the non-tribals residents and also infringes there fundamental rights. Right to equality before law (Art. 14), Right against discrimination (Art. 15) and the right to settle in any part of India (Art.19) are specially violated. They are being treated as marginalized who have been living in Meghalaya for generations. State has been a failure in providing them protection and giving them a dignified life.

The situation has arisen where rights of minority non-tribals need protection. Hence the existence of the sixth schedule is questionable as it is eroding the stability, peace and economic development of the region.