Meghalaya | Ichamati issue: KHADC forms expert committee; denies harassment charges
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Meghalaya | Ichamati issue: KHADC forms expert committee; denies harassment charges

The committee has ten days to formulate a reply which they would submit to the Governor along with a copy to state and central leaders.

SHILLONG

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has formed a special expert committee to examine the recent representation sent by three individuals to Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik in which they accused several NGOs including the District Council of harassment and atrocities against the Hindu community in the state especially in interior and border villages of Ichamati and Bholaganj.

KHADC Chief Executive Member (CEM) Titos Chyne informed that the committee would comprise of legal experts and advisors, who will study the letter.

The committee has ten days to formulate a reply which they would submit to the Governor along with a copy to state and central leaders, he said.

The three individuals – Prantush Sarkar, Mridul Das and Binayak Roy, had submitted the representation to the Governor on October 15 along with copies to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

They accused the NGOs and the state machinery of alleged harassment against the Hindu community.

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"There are no harassments against the Hindu community or any other religious groups as alleged by these three individuals, and their allegations of the District Council being partial towards the Christian community (are) baseless and unfounded," Chyne said.

In response to allegations that the KHADC was against the people of indigenous faiths like Niam Tre, Niam Khasi, Songsarek, etc, the CEM said, “With all due respect, most of the Syiems and Dolois under the jurisdiction of the district councils still follow the indigenous faith and to accuse (us) of working against their indigenous faith is untrue.”

He further clarified by stating that some of the traditional heads were removed by the district council based on complaints of under-performance and other issues and not on religion.

According to the representation sent by the three individuals, the district council has been abusing the power of issuing the trading licences and labour licenses to uproot and de-establish the non-tribal population of the state.

It also alleged the council of cooperating with pressure groups such as the Khasi Students' Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) and the Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC) in trying to uproot non-tribal Hindu-speaking people.

Chyne, in turn, stated that though Meghalaya is protected under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, there are rules and acts which enable people belonging to non-indigenous communities to carry out their businesses in the state such as the (Trading by Non-Tribal) Regulation which includes issuing of trading and labour licenses.

“So far, we have issued as many as 4,000 such licenses to non-tribals and there is no impartiality in issuing these trading and labour licenses as alleged. The issuance and renewal of these licenses will, of course, depend on the existing acts and rules and not on the whims and fancies of one or two persons,” Chyne said.

Recently, an indigenous group – Ka Sur u Paidbah, Ka Bri u Hynniewtrep met the Meghalaya speaker and president of the United Democratic Party, Metbah Lyngdoh, to discuss issues concerning the indigenous population living in Meghalaya including the Ichamati issue.

The general secretary of the indigenous group, Egenstar Kurkalang condemned the representation sent by the three individuals, who he claimed were trying to flare up the issue and mislead the public because of their business purposes.

“As citizens of the state who want peace and unity, we condemn this type of representation and allegation levelled against the Khasi community,” he said.

He alleged that the trio who met the governor was involved in Benami to carry out limestone business in international border through Majai which is “illegal”.

“Because of an issue which occurred on Feb 20, they (trio) are now trying to burn the peace and incite communal hatred not only in Meghalaya but also in Assam, West Bengal and even in Delhi,” Kurkalang added.

It may be noted that on October 15, the president of the All India Mahila Congress, Sushmita Dev, had also sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the redressal of the alleged atrocities committed against the Bengalis in Ichamati-Bholaganj region and other places in Meghalaya.

The former MP from Assam had, in her letter, pointed out that the situation in Meghalaya for the Bengali-speaking people is far from safe, especially in Ichamati and Bholaganj.

“I do not endorse any kind of violence, but that incident has unleased communal tension in that area – Bholaganj. The Bengali community people, who are innocent and totally unrelated to the violent incident of Feb 20, are being continuously harassed on the pretext that they are illegal migrants which is entirely incorrect. The Bengali community has lived there for several generations, and now they are the wrath of the tribal people," Dev said referring to the Ichamati incident.

Dev also informed that she had written to Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, "but to no avail".

"I am writing to you as (the) NPP is an NDA alliance partner and therefore, it becomes your duty to put an end to this discrimination and violence against the Bengalis," she said.

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