Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has said that his entire state, including the non-scheduled areas, should be excluded from the Citizenship Amendment Act, PTI reported. Sangma on Saturday also called for a similar exemption for the state of Assam.

“We are thankful that the Centre has exempted Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh [from CAA] and to a large extent Meghalaya, but we demand a full exemption for our state and similar measures for Assam as well,” he said at an event in West Garo Hills district of the state.

The non-scheduled areas of Meghalaya come under its capital city Shillong, and is made up of around 3% of the state’s entire area. Last month, the state’s Assembly had passed a resolution that sought the implementation of the Inner Line Permit in the state. The permit is a document that outsiders need before travelling to places defined as “protected areas” in some states in the North East. The Inner Line Permit system covers the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, most of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura, Manipur and certain pockets of Assam.

“We are firm in our demand and will continue engaging with the Centre till complete exemption [from CAA] and protection is provided to our people,” Sangma said. The chief minister also urged hundreds of Nokmas or village chiefs to protect the interests of the indigenous inhabitants, The Hindu reported. Sangma’s National People’s Party is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Meghalaya.

Sangma said his administration will form policies to protect the land and its residents, and asked the village chiefs to not sell their lands to “outsiders” who he claimed adopt unfair means to acquire land in the state. A significant part of the state is under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution where the indigenous community get land rights. However, some parts of Shillong and plain areas of Garo hills are exempt from the provisions.

Although measures to protect interests of most of the North East states had been put in place, but Assam faced challenges under the amended Citizenship Act, Sangma said, according to The Sentinel. He added that “different protections” should be given to the people of Assam if possible, The Indian Express reported.

The Citizenship Amendment Act triggered widespread protests in the North East states, whose residents fear that populations defined as indigenous to the region will be culturally and physically overrun by migrants as a result of this law’s provisions. Elsewhere in India, the bill has been opposed due to its allegedly discriminatory view towards Muslims.

Also read:

From ‘exclusion’ to ‘protection’: An ordinance in Meghalaya raises questions on Inner Line Permits

Citizenship Amendment Act protests across the country are reviving old heroes and forgotten ideals