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Govt for curbing voting rights of ‘outsiders’

Mukul bats for People’s Representation Act amendment

SHILLONG: The State Government is in favour of amending the People’s Representation Act to restrict the voting rights of those from outside Meghalaya so as to ensure that such people vote only in their respective states.
During the Question Hour in the Assembly on Monday, HSPDP legislator Ardent Basaiawmoit said that the voting rights of people from outside the state should be restricted to their respective states as a measure to protect the political rights of the indigenous people of Meghalaya.
In his reply, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that whether the voting rights of people should remain within their receptive states merits a debate.
“We had floated the idea in the past to engage with the Centre and the political parties so that there is a situation where we can exercise adult franchise as voters, who are the actual stakeholders of the State,” the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister also said that the State Government has already introduced two Bills aimed at addressing the concerns of the people on influx.
“Controlling influx is a long drawn exercise. In addition to the measures we have already taken, other measures to address the issue can be deliberated upon,” Sangma said.
Earlier, the Opposition members had asked the State Government to initiate steps to check mixed marriages and outsiders controlling social and political life of the indigenous people of the State.
CM open to assimilation
However, the Chief Minister, commenting on the mixed marriages, said that falling in love with a person of one’s choice is natural as it depends on the psychology of the person.
“All are not marrying within the same tribe. My two daughters are outside the State and I don’t know what will happen to them,” the Chief Minister told the House.
However, Sangma said that there is a need to evolve a system, though it is a challenging job.  According to the Chief Minister, there is huge movement of people unlike the past. “We are at cross roads, but we are dealing with human minds and the question is whether we should debar youths from marrying outside the tribe,” the Chief Minister asked, while adding that a mechanism can be adopted to deal with the situation while at the same time allowing healthy assimilation.
Earlier, Basaiawmoit said that there is concern over the large scale entry of people from outside the State and Country to Meghalaya.
The legislator wanted to know whether the indigenous people have the right to self determination to ensure that the demographic structure of the people is protected.
According to the legislator, a situation will come when outsiders will control the socio-political lives of the indigenous people. He also pointed out that there are growing instances of outsiders marrying local girls.
Saleng Sangma (Independent) suggested that a non-indigenous person marrying a tribal woman should be deprived of the benefits meant for tribals in order to ensure that the indigenous people are not exploited by way of mixed marriages.
Role of district councils
He also said that the state government should engage district councils to ensure that the trade activities are not controlled by outsiders.
Independent legislator John Leslee Sangma pointed out a peculiar situation in Garo Hills where a non-tribal who marries the daughter of Nokma automatically becomes the next Nokma.
“Another concern is a non tribal person contesting elections in GHADC,” Sangma said.
Citing the case of GSU opposing non tribals securing caste certificates, the legislator asked, “What will the government do if the non-tribals misuse the Sangma title and buy land in Garo Hills?”
The Chief Minister, however, said that the government is aware of the social issues and added that it was open to further discussions on points raised by the members.
Commenting on the role of district councils in protecting the rights of the indigenous people, the Chief Minister said that the State Government should not be seen as interfering with the functioning of the district councils as the Congress manifesto is clear that the government was in favour of empowering traditional institutions.
To a supplementary question raised by Basaiawmoit on the tussle between the Chief Minister and CEM, Mukul Sangma said that there was no conflict between the two.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Donkupar Roy suggested the need to form a high power committee consisting members from both the sides as well as officers to address the concerns raised by the members so that a solution can be arrived at.

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