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ilpA special court in Meghalaya Tuesday held its first sitting to try criminal cases against leaders of 14 pressure groups sponsoring the ongoing agitation demanding re-introduction of the British-era Inner Line Permit (ILP).

However, none of the leaders of the agitating pressure groups, barring Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) leaders Agnes Kharshiing and Evangeline Thabah, appeared before the special court of Rithelda Rymbai.

“We have requested the special court to give us time to reply to the damage suit filed by the government,” CSWO President Agnes Kharshiing told IANS.

She said the court directed her organisation to appoint a legal counsel and file a written statement to defend the charges.

The CSWO has pulled out from the pressure groups that include the Khasi Students’ Union, the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, and the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front.

It said it would not be part of any agitation any more as it felt that they could fight the demand legally.

The Meghalaya government has filed a damage suit of over Rs.31 crore against the groups for damages caused by them during the agitation.

The government said the shutdowns, road blockades and office picketing were unconstitutional and affected both the public and the government.

The pressure groups say the absence of the ILP system would result in unchecked migration to Meghalaya, given the state’s proximity to Bangladesh and Assam.

ILP is an official travel document issued by the union government allowing inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland to obtain a permit for entering restricted areas there.

However, the Meghalaya chief minister has ruled out re-introduction of the ILP.

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