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India: Violence against non-tribals in Meghalaya - Shame on you Shillong! // Patricia Mukhim on non tribals in Meghalaya – non citizens or half citizens?

by Dilip, 18 November 2013

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Non-tribal trader set on fire in Shillong

SHILLONG: A little over a month after ILP supporters set ablaze a non-tribal trader inside his shop in Shillong, unidentified miscreants on Saturday barged into a tea stall at Bishnupur Bazaar of the city and set its owner on fire after pouring petrol. The victim was identified as Bisheshwar Das (50). "Das was admitted to a private hospital in a critical condition. Two other persons, identified as Meena Ram Joshi (70) and Mitilda Syiem (17), also sustained minor injuries. They were discharged from the hospital after first aid," a police officer said. Joshi and Syiem, both customers, were inside the stall when the incident took place. 
East Khasi Hills SP M Kharkhrang, who rushed to the spot, said efforts were on to nab the miscreants. On October 9, Vikash Nandwal, owner of Meghalaya Machineries at Motphran, was attacked in a similar way. He died in a hospital in New Delhi after battling for 17 days. The same day, miscreants tried to set ablaze a labourer working in North Eastern Hills University. However, he had managed to escape. Petrol bombs were also hurled at a Durga Puja pandal at Umsning (Nayabunglow). However, nobody was injured as they failed to explode. Again on the eve of Diwali, petrol bombs were hurled at a non-tribal house at Mawiong on the outskirts of Shillong. Minority non-tribals and their business establishments in the city and its outskirts are being regularly targeted in the wake of the ILP agitation.
An important article, criticising the hateful and violent practices of so-called defenders of Khasi tribal interests. Thank you, Patricia - DS
What we in Meghalaya forget very easily is that even the Hill State Movement was not an exclusive Movement by the three tribes. It was a shared history because the All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference (APHLC) under which banner the Movement was launched, also included non-tribals as members. The argument at the time was that genuine non-tribals whose antecedents date back to about three generations should be given a share of the fruits that accrue from a separate state. Alas! Today we neither respect history nor want to revisit it. And this is a dangerous precedence because history tends to repeat itself for those who refuse to learn from it... I would think that mutual respect and a shared objective is likely to achieve more for Meghalaya than the constant bitching about losing out to non-tribals. And like I have said in the past our narratives which are built around fear need to be unbundled. What is it that we fear? Why do we fear? Who do we fear? It’s time to analyse this irrational fear on which politicians take a joyride.

Can we claim to be completely self-reliant in our day to day transactions? Don’t we need other people to be of service to us? When we need a good doctor do we check his tribe, caste, class or do we repose our faith on his expertise and his credentials? The same is the case with a good teacher or lawyer! So if we are inter-dependent then is it not fair to share a slice of the cake with those who strive to build Meghalaya as much as the tribals do?.. We also perhaps forget that the Indian Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all citizens irrespective of their caste/creed/tribe. We the tribes already enjoy special protection under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Parochialism seems to have gone over the top in Meghalaya. The objection to Mr AT Mondal’s appointment as Speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly by a particular pressure group to which a particular legislator once belonged is the height of paranoia. Meghalaya cannot be compared to Mizoram or Nagaland in terms of demographics. Shillong the state capital of Meghalaya was a British outpost and later the capital of undivided Assam which included almost all the seven states. Shillong has a sizeable non-tribal population and so does large sections of Garo Hills particularly areas bordering Goalpara in Assam. The people of Meghalaya cannot just forget history and pretend to write on a clean slate. In any case Mr AT Mondal is an elected legislator. We cannot discriminate between tribal and non-tribal MLAs once they are elected.

The politicization of ethnicity has been a vote-getting strategy for many since 1979. All the bloodshed and violence of that era can be traced to the desire of a few politicians to acquire political power by stressing on differences and by creating a fear psychosis that the non-tribal would walk away with all our land, our jobs and our women. There were periods when women and girls who were seen walking with non-tribals were shamed and the men were punched. This, even before finding out if there was any connection at all or if the girls and boys were class or college mates. It was a reign of terror and it was much hated by many but few dared to speak up for those who spoke up would have been bashed up as well. So we all kept silent and obeyed the diktat of organisations that acted like social policemen.

Then came those violent eighties and nineties when the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) prohibited girls from wearing salwar kameezes and those who dared to wear them were physically attacked and their clothes torn. The salwar kameez is a comfortable dress especially while traveling on trains etc. You would be hard put to climb a railway sleeper berth in your jainsem with strangers staring up at you. Surprisingly, no one had the guts to tell men that they were donning an alien dress and that women cannot be forced to be show-pieces of cultural more: 
Shame on you, Shillong for condoning acts of violence against your non-tribal brothers and sisters. Shame on you, for not having the courage to stand up against injustices. Shame on you, for allowing your society to be ruled by gangsters and criminals in the guise of social workers and student unions. Shame on your politicians for protecting the very same criminals who rape your children and murder non-tribals. Shame on your Church elders for turning a blind eye to such evil acts. Shame on your policemen, who shy away from their bounden duties and silently abet criminal elements. Shame on your intellectuals, who are ever ready to fight and voice their opinions on trivial issues but will keep silent about harassment of its own citizens. Shame on your schools for not teaching your children the difference between right and wrong. Shame on your goodwill ambassadors – your music bands and your football clubs, who never use their mass appeal to condemn evil acts. Above all, shame on you for calling yourself the ‘Scotland of the East’ when you should be calling yourself the ‘Neo-Nazi Capital of the East’. Shillong, you have no place in a modern society because yours is a fool’s paradise. You have hurt the sentiments of the entire nation with your racist philosophy.
Yours etc.,
P. Ravindran

KSU terror with Govt support?
The 35th Anniversary of the Khasi Students Union was celebrated in predictable fashion – by assault, destruction and vandalism, things that we have learned to associate with the KSU in 35 long years. The KSU is the sole remaining face of terrorism against Indian nationals in Meghalaya. They are operating with impunity due to silent support from a weak Govt which refuses to recognize this growing threat. Their members are not students but hooligans who are used as political pawns to blackmail the government and attack non-tribal people. They have strong affiliation with the banned HNLC and are known to be the over-ground face of the banned terrorist organization.

That the attacks of 4th April were pre-meditated is glaringly obvious to one and all. One cannot miss the significance of the fact that a procession by known troublemakers was allowed to march unescorted through the heart of Shillong with less policemen on the streets than usual. One can be sure that the Meghalaya Police had advanced knowledge of the events that unfolded. The only action they took on this intelligence was to make themselves scarce! There were enough precedents in KSU’s chequered history to show that trouble was in the offing. Why then did Deputy Commissioner Sanjay Goyal give permission for this event? Why were policemen absent from the streets and no security measures taken? To make matters worse by rubbing salt in the wound, Home Minister Roshan Warjri comes up with a weak statement about being proud of her roots and her culture instead of condemning the KSU in the strongest possible terms and arresting their leaders. Unless the Govt acts to declare the Khasi Students Union as a terrorist organization, no citizen of India will feel safe in Meghalaya. And for that, we have to thank Daniel Khyriem, Paul Lyngdoh and their notorious brethren who have held us hostage for 35 years. We demand that the Govt takes strong action against the KSU to restore the confidence of all Indian citizens in Meghalaya. The issue must also be taken up with national political parties and the Central Govt. to curb the KSU menace once and for all.
Yours etc.,
James Pariat,


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