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Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Wednesday said the state government is in the process of communicating with all the groups on the comments and allegations surrounding the Ichamati issue even as he reiterated that this is not a major issue.
“Of course, a few months back, it was a major issue but I think there are no such complications right now,” Sangma told media persons in Shillong on Wednesday.
He asserted that the government is trying to ensure that all these unnecessary comments made by different groups, both from the state and outside, can be resolved at the earliest.
"We are in the process of communicating and talking to everybody, along with the government of India. I don’t personally feel there is any major issue. By talking and communicating with every group, we should be able to normalise the situation," the CM added.
Fresh controversy over the Ichamati issue was re-ignited following allegations of harassment to Bengali-speaking people in Ichamati-Bholaganj under Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, levelled by a section of people.
Representations on the same were also sent to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Governor Satya Pal Malik recently.
KSU holds protest
Earlier today, members of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), North Khasi Hills District (NKHD) took to the streets to protest and oppose the proposed visit of the National President of the All Bengalis' Youths and Students' Association (ABYSA), Chandan Chatterjee to Meghalaya on October 21.
The rally was undertaken following a proposal sent by Chatterjee to the Meghalaya government, seeking permission and security to visit Ichamati to take stock of the alleged harassment and atrocities meted out to the Bengali-speaking people in the villages bordering Bangladesh.
The KSU has asked the ABYSA not to aggravate the Ichamati issue and to refrain from inciting communal hatred in the state.
"We, as a union, have come here to protest against the proposed visit of this man (Chandan Chatterjee), who spewed anti-Khasi comments, tarnishing the image of the Khasi community as a whole," said President of the KSU-NKHD, Ferdynald K Kharkamni.
"We strongly oppose these kinds of people who tarnish the image of the Khasis without proof to substantiate their claims," he added.
On October 20, the state government had written to the National President of ABYSA, recommending him not to visit Ichamati and stated that the government is fully aware of the situation and has already initiated necessary steps to alleviate the hardship faced by the local residents of Ichamati.
Meanwhile, in Shillong and Sohra, KSU members were seen putting up banners in and around the city and town, condemning the allegations levelled on the Khasi community by certain groups.
These banners were, however, later taken down by the police.
"They were the ones who started by giving false information to the government of India and other central commissions; they wanted to paint a communal colour in the name of religion," KSU general secretary Donald Thabah told TNT-The Northeast Today on Wednesday.
Thabah further clarified that the KSU has never objected to any religion. "Puja or Eid festivals are being celebrated in the state. It is their belief and their personal relationship with God. They can carry on but what we are against is that they should not come and try to interfere and take away our land which is rightfully ours," he added.
Govt replies to NCPCR; says no harassment cases reported
According to the report submitted by the state government to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), there are no cases of harassment faced by the residents of Ichamati particularly the women and children. However, there were instances of economic hardship faced by residents of the area due to COVID-19 pandemic.
In a conversation with media persons on Wednesday, Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said, in a democratic country, everybody has the right to voice their opinion but it should not be at the cost of creating enmity and vitiating the atmosphere.
"We found that allegations are totally baseless and as of now, there is no law and order breakdown, no tension in Ichamati. Residents, whether tribals or non-tribals are living peacefully," he clarified.
Rymbui further stated that the government is very vigilant. "What is need to be done to protect the interest of the people of the state, that we have to do," he added.
Appeal of the Meghalaya Police
The Meghalaya Police has appealed that the tempo of communal harmony is sustained in the state and requested citizens and netizens to avert from any kind of unsavoury comments and enactment of any forms of social disturbance on basis of community lines.
"There have been some people who are trying to spread communal hatred in the social media platform and other public places intending to falter the social harmony system prevailing in the state. Through this medium of appeal, it is exhorted that they may please refrain from such activities which negate the social fabric and anyone trying to incite communal disharmony in any form, legal action shall be taken," read a release issued by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, GK Iangrai on Wednesday.
It may be recalled that a clash broke on February 20 this year at Ichamati under Shella block in East Khasi Hills, between the KSU members and a few non-locals, leading to the death of one of its members, a local taxi driver identified as Lurshai Hynniewta, 35, a resident of Khliehshnong Sohra.