Rethinking the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System – Akatolu Assumi, (Ph.D. scholar) Assistant Professor, Department of History

The main purpose of introducing ILP was to protect the indigenous people of Northeast India against the influx of outsiders. But, by looking at the number of illegal migrants flocking in, it has become a matter of concern and a challenge in Nagaland. The issue of ILP has been genuinely raised by all concerned individuals and organizations and yet no concrete solution has been found till today. How far are we willing to compromise with a system that has many loopholes? The issue of ILP is in a state of turmoil now but it is never too late to bring a change and address this issue in a sensible manner.   

Rethinking the Inner Line Permit (ILP) System

The history of a line
The ILP has a curious history. On March 1, 1873, the Government of Bengal forwarded a draft Regulation initiated by its Department of Agriculture, Revenue and Commerce under Act 33, Victoria, Chapter 3, Section 1, which gives the power of summary legislation for backward tracts to the Executive Governments. In Great Britain, Acts before 1963 were named by the year/s of the monarch’s reign for the session of Parliament in which they were passed.

The draft Regulation was called, “A Regulation for the security of certain districts on the Eastern Frontiers of Bengal, and for the better ordering of the trade with the hills men living on the border of those districts”. The Regulation was to be extended to the districts of Cachar, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Kamroop, Durrang, Nowgong, Seebsagur, Lukhimpoor, and to the Naga Hills, Khassiah (Khasi) and Jyeteah (Jaintia) Hills, and Garo Hills with effect from April 1, 1873. The draft Regulation had ten Sections. The important sections of the Resolution were Section 2 and Section 7.
It was introduced by the British colonial administration as the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation in the then undivided province of Assam, which included practically all the states of the present-day Northeast, except Manipur and Tripura, which were then independent kingdoms. The use of the word ‘regulation’ was not accidental and says something about the line’s original purpose.
As colonial historian E.A. Gait notes in A History of Assam, a Regulation is a summary legislation for ‘backward tracts’ as distinct from an Act which are laws passed after discussion in the legislature. By this Regulation, then, an Inner Line was created along the base of the hills surrounding the plains of Assam, and British subjects had to get special permission from the administration to go beyond the line. In essence, the ILPS was meant to protect the British revenue districts of the Assam plains from the “wild” hills men.
Not long after the British annexed Assam in 1826 after the First Anglo-Burmese War, this new territory, still administered from Fort William as a part of Bengal, began showing revenue potential especially after the Bruce brothers’ discovered tea in the 1830s. Along with tea were also lucrative prospects in rubber, timber etc.
The Governor-General in Council of British India in a Resolution on January 17, 1872, decided to define the line of the ordinary jurisdiction to be exercised by the officers of the Government of India in the rubber-producing districts; to declare that Government will not be responsible for the protection of life beyond that line; and to require that the movements of British subjects beyond that border be subject to certain restrictions, or even, it might be in the case of Europeans forbidden altogether. The Governor-General in Council also thought that special care should be taken to prevent the transfer of land possessed in the plains by hillsmen to European or native planters. Accordingly, the Lt. Governor of Bengal was asked to prepare a Regulation which will meet the above requirements.
Way back in the 18th Century when India was neither a country nor a legal State, there came a law canon by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria to safeguard, through punitive regulatory provisions, aimed at regulating transit facilities to non- hill people into the hills and the entire North Eastern Region through the Government of India Act, 1870, viz., The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The Law bequeathed judicial powers on the districts authority of Kamrup, Darrang, Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur (Garo Hills), Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Naga Hills and Cachar to frame restrictive prohibitions for the entry of only Indian Citizens or passing through such districts from going beyond such line without a pass under the hand and seal of the District Officer/officers.
Today, Inner Line Permit is used by the non-Nagas travelling to Nagaland beyond Dimapur. Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. The applicant submits the ILP form which is processed by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Office. However, a concern regarding the ILP is on the question of why the ILP is required only beyond Dimapur? Is Dimapur not a part of the so called inhabited area of the Nagas? We have already come to a dead lock with this so called system of ILP given to the preserved states. Presently, some states like Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur are seeking and there is an ongoing demand for the introduction of ILP in Assam, Meghalaya, and Manipur to regulate the entry of outsiders into the state. But as Naga people are we losing the importance of protecting the indigenous hill people by not maintaining the ILP system strictly? In fact, implementing ILP system rigorously will not only solve the problem of illegal immigrants but also other problems that are created by the illegal immigrants which is a serious issue to be addressed. With this in mind we can overcome and safeguard the continuous flow of illegal immigrants by taking steps like implementing the ILP stringently so as to preserve our culture and protect the indigenous tribes of Nagaland.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email:

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