Monday, May 28, 2012

Nongtalang, another Sohra in the making

By HH Mohrmen
About a decade ago along with the youth group of the Church, I took part in the tree plantation programme in Mawkisyiem locality of Sohra. There is nothing unusual about the programme except that before we planted the saplings officials from the forest department advised that we dig a big hole of about 2 feet deep and of 20 inches in diameter to plant the seedlings. We were also advised to put some leaves and shrubs and even cow dung in the hole which will serve as manure for the saplings. The forest official explained that this is necessary because mining and torrential rain has washed away the top soil from the area downstream. This is the reason that Sohra is also sometimes called the wettest desert because ironically in spite of its reputation of being the place which receives the heaviest rainfall yet the people of Sohra face water crisis during lean periods.
Rampant mining and extensive deforestation in the Sohra area has stripped the area of its forest cover and its top soil making it difficult for trees to grow again and with little or no forest cover, there is no system to retain the rainwater and prevent it from flowing to the plains of Bangladesh. Nongtalang is fast becoming like Sohra and if the current pace of limestone mining continues, Nongtalang will be the next Sohra sooner than later. The two semi-townships situated in a similar topographical location and being close to Bangladesh, also share many things in common, but the only difference is that Nongtalang still has a large area under forest cover. For a long time the semi-township is the envy of the nearby villages because water was never a problem for the people here even during winter season.
Nongtalang is perhaps the only village which has many public washing and bathing platforms with water running twenty four hours a day and the villagers have evolved a unique way of life around the abundant water. As a matter of fact, these water platforms characterize certain aspect of the culture of the village with water at the centre of it. People do not need water tanks to store water here. Where is the need for a water tank when there is continuous water supply in the public platform day in and the day out? Villagers dash to the water supply point which is always close to their house for washing their clothes, bathing and even washing their pots and pans. In fact the houses in the village do not even have bathrooms. If at all any house has any bathroom it will be a makeshift bamboo extension of the house for washing crockery and utensils only. Villagers old and young, men and women wash and bathe in the public washing point found in different parts of Nongtalang.
In the vicinity of the village in almost every entry point to the village there are again these water points with running water throughout the day. The purpose of these water spots is for people to take bath on returning from their fields before they enter the village again. With regards to water, Nongtalang is perhaps a living testimony to the saying, ‘There is enough in the world for everybody’s need but not enough for anybody’s greed’ because there is enough water for everybody in the area. But sadly, that is going change very soon.
Due to rampant limestone mining in the area, there is a drastic change in the landscape of Nongtalang. The forest cover has gradually diminishes but the effect of mining on the water bodies of the area is of a grave concern for the people who live there. The water which is supplied to the semi-township is being affected; water level has receded as forest areas were cleared for mining of limestone and the colour of the water which used to be crystal clear now turns muddy. The water of Amdap which is a source of water supply to the ‘Ria-bealliang’ four localities of Nongtalang was seriously affected because mining is going on very near to the source. The colour of the water turns muddy even with the slightest rainfall and renders it useless to the people of the village who depend largely on this source for their daily needs.
Residents of Nongtalang are farmers and beetle-nuts and pan leaf are the major crops of the area. Of the two main crops that the people depend for their livelihood, pan leaf requires continuous and yearlong flow of water to survive. The people of Nongtalang traditionally used bamboo to irrigate pan leaf plantations and are perhaps the first people to use drip irrigation. Pan leaf needs non-stop watering but the supply should be drop by drop hence the people of Nongtalang in particular and the War Jaintia in general are experts in irrigation. Water therefore is not just for washing, bathing and cooking. The entire pan leaf plantation will not survive without continuous flow of water, hence the rampant mining and clearing of forests is an imminent threat to the livelihood of the people in the village.
Nongtalang is one of the very few villages which still maintains its strong tribal cultural roots, the large followers of Niamtynrai help keep the tradition alive. Sadly mining has robbed the people of their tradition of being close to nature and even disconnecting them from the deities they worship. By tradition most tribals have names for all the hills, the hillock, the rivers and stream and even peculiar rocks, but mining has leveled hills to the ground and turned the rivers and streams dry. Extensive mining has even made streams and rivulet disappear. Mining has not only robbed them of their livelihoods but has also deprived them of their culture and tradition, rivers, mountains and the forest which they use to worship as ‘u Ryngkew u Basa’ are being plundered and brought to the ground by the miners. Forests which are believed to be the dwelling place of both good and evil deities is gradually being cleared to make way for the giant machineries to plunder on nature.
In the absence of a state mineral policy, the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council has taken upon itself the responsibility to issue NOC (No objection certificate) to limestone mine owners and exporters in Nongtalang. The question is how can JHADC issue NOC for Limestone mining without even conducting public hearing to determine the impact of mining in the area? Does the JHADC have all the expertise and the technical knowhow to conduct such investigation? And the most important question is; what is the mandate of the JHADC? The mandate of the Council is to protect the forest, water sources and culture and tradition of the people or to destroy the same?
The damage done to the environment is rapid not only because miners use heavy machines but the miners even uses high power explosives like TNT dynamite, to mine limestone. Now; one may question; how can miners use explosives, is it legal to use explosive? Has the government authorized the miners to use explosive? And if so, do they have qualified persons to supervise the use of explosives in the mine? Residents of new Nongtalang complained of noise pollution because the heavy machines were used continuously even during the night.
The situation has reached a point where people cannot just sit and wait anymore, they have decided to stand up and fight for their right to life and livelihood. Now it is for their representative and the government to address their grievances before it is too late- before Nontalang goes the Sohra way.
(The author is an independent researcher and an environmental activist)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Government Functions or Campaign Platforms

With the general election to the state assembly around the corner, it is not surprising to see reports in the newspapers that the MLAs of the MUA coalition partner and ministers in particular going gung-ho to woo voters. Unlike the current MLAs who are also candidates at the same time, the non-MLA candidates do not have the advantage of leveraging power and position which the perks of office of sitting MLAs afford them. Not surprisingly, the ruling party MLAs and ministers in particular are taking undue advantage of their power and position in their efforts to woo voters to their side.
There were reports that minister are trying to entice voters by merely distributing mosquito nets to their potential voters. Come summer, and mosquito nets are no doubt necessary to protect poor citizens from the blood sucking insects, but people also need food, shelter and livelihoods. More importantly what people need during these few months before the election is protection from being subjected to wrongful allurement for short term gains. In other words poor citizens need protection from being exploited by the candidates and especially by those in power. Then certain minister also promised to provide monetary reward to party functionaries of a polling station that can bring the MLA the maximum numbers of votes in the next election. Now is this legal? I don’t know. Are there no election rules that forbid sharing information of voters’ preference in the polling station? Suppose the information reaches a vindictive MLA, what will be the future of the people who did not vote for him?
Of course it is not against the law to encourage party workers to get as much votes as they can for the minister, but the question is where will the money for the reward come from? Is there a new scheme in the MUA government for rewarding polling stations which can give the highest numbers of votes for the minister? Can any MLA use the MLA constituency development scheme to reward party functionaries of a particular polling station for being able to get maximum number of votes for the MLA?
Then there are cases where minister cannot even make a distinction between government functions and campaign platforms. Ministers were found to have misused government function (particularly in the rural areas) to canvas for votes on their own behalf. The particular minister on the pretext of inaugurating the project the department he is in charge of said that this is just the beginning. He called on the voters to elect him and promised the crowd that more goodies will come their way if and only if he is voted to power. Even if there is no prohibition in the rule book against using government functions as campaign platforms, yet one would expect a minister to be able to distinguish between the two and not abuse his power and office.
Talking about the MLA constituency development scheme, this is the first time that the election in the state is going to be conducted in the new constituencies; villages were added to or deleted from the reorganized constituencies. The tricky question is, can the MLA allot current MLA schemes to villages newly incorporated to his or her constituency? Or can the MLA deny MLA development schemes to the areas which were part of the old constituency (2008-2013) but is not part of the new reorganized constituency anymore? This is a pertinent question. Can the people take the MLA to court if delimitated villages which were part of the MLA erstwhile constituency were denied their rights to the 2008-2013 MLA constituency development schemes?
Charity and Politics do not mix
This writer has predicted that the numbers of less educated but rich candidates will increase in the ensuing election and this is happening especially in Jaintia hills. There are candidates with big bank balances and they do not need MLA schemes to contest elections. On a certain day last week almost all vernacular papers reported about a certain candidate who constructed a road to a certain village and claimed that he did it not to woo voters. It was reported that the candidate (notwithstanding the fact he already announced his intention to contest from the constituency) goes on to say that he did it because he wished to reciprocate the blessings that God has generously bestowed on him. Now first of all, I do not subscribe to the idea that being rich is a blessing from God. God only knows how the wealth was accumulated in the first place. I would not drag God into this and if we go by this justification, does that mean God does not bless poor people, hence they remain poor forever? Everybody knows that the person we are talking about is a classic rags to riches story from Jaintia hills. He started as a shepherd and went on to become one of the richest man in the state. But to call the wealth that he has amassed as God’s blessings is a little over the top. Are we hearing somebody say that even God is on his side? We live in the world where rich people can say anything and get away with it.
If the candidate’s generosity has nothing to do with that of him being a candidate, then why build a road to a village which falls under the constituency from where he intends to contest? There are thousands of other villages in the state which desperately needs roads, why are those villages not considered? As the saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home.’ There are many villages in Jaintia hills in need of roads. Why has the aspirant MLA not considered those?
If a rich man really wishes to share his wealth, he does not need to be an MLA to do that. He could just institute a trust and start sharing one’s wealth with ‘the children of lesser gods!’ There are examples of Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Warren Buffet who shared their wealth by starting philanthropic foundations. But have never contested any election. We also have examples of rich people in Meghalaya who have given back to the community without expecting anything in return. It reminds me of the story of a Presbyterian church pastor who had to make his visitation riding on a horse because there were no roads in the area. This was telecast by a particular electronic media. A few months later the same media carried a story of a road being made to the village and it was constructed free of cost by Bah Honsen Lyngdoh. Bah Honsen said that he was moved by the story and he did not even campaign for any candidate in the area in lieu of his generosity.
Nowadays rich people in Meghalaya wish to contest elections because they want to get richer. They see being in power as the way to acquire more wealth and by being MLA they can also enjoy the status of a VIP/public representative that wealth cannot provide no matter how thick their bank balance. In Khasi hills they call this allurement for power – “light saw” (red light) and in Jaintia hills they call it “chyrtong syiar,” (the cockscomb or crest)
People must be able to separate the rice from the chaff because we all know that the future of the State and more importantly the future of our children depends on the person we vote to power every five years.
(The writer is an independent researcher and an environmental activist)

The Inconvenient truth

Call it what you like, doubtful voters’ issue, foreigners issue or registration of voters in the electoral roll, the issue is very sensitive and crucial and it is the same issue that has shrouded the state since the last part of the seventies. Students’ movements have come and gone but the influx issue still remains. Although, depending on where one stands, some would say the issue is about the Bangladeshi and Nepali nationals who illegally settled in the state; others would say that it is the issue of large numbers of non-tribal migrant labourers who also settled in the state, but the truth is that there is a common fear lest the indigenous population get overwhelmed by the non-indigenous people.
It is a very complex issue and nobody wants to take the bull by the horns, because politicians are afraid of losing their vote banks and the support of the mine owners and contractors who depend largely on labourers from outside the state and the country for their operations. There has been a lively debate on this issue in the internet and I must say it helps one realize the frustration of the young people of the State because of the government’s failure to solve this problem. Ironically, this voters’ imbroglio in Meghalaya also coincides with the movement against discrimination of the people of northeast in the rest of the country and I think the issues resonates because it also has to do with one’s attitude towards the outsiders.
In a Facebook debate, reacting to the derogatory remarks of certain people towards non-tribal as “ka ‘khar-iap” I posted; “If they call you chinky in Delhi, they are branded as racist and if we call non-tribals ‘khar-iap, then are we not equally racist?” My point is, can we just call everybody ka ‘khar-iap? No doubt there is a huge floating population of non-tribals and may be even non-Indians in the coal and lime stone mining areas and this is a matter of concern, but there are also cases of genuine non-tribal Meghalayans in the state. And then there are those who are married to Khasi Pnar men and women (I have many of my relatives who are married to non-Khasi Pnar) how can we say that they are not genuine residents of the state? There are also large numbers of inter-marriages in the coal mine areas. This is something that one cannot stop and which has to be taken into consideration or are we trying to say that the children out of wedlock are not true Khasi Pnar blood. In that case isn’t it true that some of the foremost leaders of the KSU were children or grand children of mixed marriages?
It is true illegal immigration is a global issue, even countries dominated by immigrants like the USA and Australia are now very strict with their immigration laws, but the situation here is different and in the process the government must see that genuine citizens are not denied their rights.
Some are of the opinion that the State must have a mechanism in place to check large scale influx. There are also suggestions that perhaps the State can think of the inner-line permit as a way to check the entry of illegal immigrants, but then that would affect the flow of tourists into the state. The Meghalaya Land Transfer Act is one mechanism designed to protect the indigenous people from being alienated from their land, but the act has been abused time and again.
The issue calls for a debate. It cannot be decided under pressure. If the state in more than three decades has not been able to come up with solutions to this vexed problem, how can we expect the same people to solve the problem in few days? Even political parties seem to speaking in one voice on this one issue. The State Congress President has expressed his conformity with the pressure groups. But the Chief Minister had to clarify his statement the very next day and claim that he is being misquoted when he realized that his statement could backfire upon him and that the Election Commission has even sought clarification from the UDP president Dr. Donkupar Roy on his statement at Pynursla on the May 6 on the same subject. So the issue is not as easy as we think it is. The EC directive should be respected, but the issue is larger than what meets the eye.
The pressure groups too must accept the truth that the issue is very complicated; we must take extra precaution that no untoward incidents happen during protests. We must remind ourselves that there are Khasi Pnars in Bangladesh and in Assam and there are also large numbers of Khasi Pnar students who are currently pursuing their studies and also work outside the state. Our protests should not put them in awkward situations or endanger them. UDP fishing in trouble waters With only few months left before the election bugle sounds, it is no surprise that every political party will take undue advantage to outdo the other. Every leader in the party ensures that he/she makes the best use of any available opportunity to canvass for their respective party. The UDP which is an equal partner of the Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) coalition government make a volte-face and decides to take on its own partner in the MUA.
If the UDP’s allegation against the Congress that the party which leads the coalition government has not consulted its partner in such a major policy as the policy to tackle law and order situation in the state, the question is what prevents the UDP from pulling out of the coalition government? What surprises the commoners is that while the president of the UDP Dr Donkupar Roy is busy castigating the Congress for the failing law and order situation in the state, Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong who is also another working president of the party was busy sharing the dais with Congress Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma along with other congress ministers when the report card of the MUA government – promises kept (the vision endures- the pledge continues) was released at Yojna Bhawan on May 3. It was quite a photo-ops session!
On the law and order situation in the Garo hills, the government has the sympathy of everybody. Even ordinary citizens of the state extended their support to the government in its effort to tackle the militancy problem in area, but the criticism comes from a rather unexpected quarters – the MUA coalition partner- the UDP.
UDP is part and parcel of the current MUA government; it cannot just hope to take credit for the good work and blame the rest on the Congress. The party is an equal partner in the coalition. So as much as it expects bouquets from the public, brickbats too will be hurled on both the partners. So anti-incumbency (if there is any) will affect both the parties. In fact if there is any party that has to be blamed for the mess in Meghalaya, it is the UDP because it is the only party which was on the treasury bench for a full term of five years (hopefully) beginning with the MPA and different versions of the MUA in the last five years.
(The writer is a Jowai-based researcher and an environmental activist)

Wanted a policy on natural resources management

Every government should have a mechanism to control or direct the business of extraction of its natural resources for sustainable developmentof the state. The question is do we really have such mechanism is Meghalaya? Andwhy not?
Perhaps the reason why the government has no control or management in the business of extracting natural resources in Meghalaya isdue to the fact that the state has too many layers of governance. It is a knownfact that for every single town or village we have several layers of authority which assert their power and authority over the area. Each strata of the governance in the system is of theimpression that it has the supreme authority on any matter pertaining to thearea under its jurisdiction.
For instance the Dorbar Shnong which is at the grass roots level of our democratic system can issue a no objection certificate to any individual or company to start any business venture in the area under its jurisdiction. Despite the fact that the dorbar shnong does not have thewherewithal to examine the consequences of allowing mineral extraction and the setting up of manufactuing businesses they give out permissions for such extraction without consulting experts in the field to enlighten the village council on the matter. They would just go ahead and issue theno objection certificate to the individual or the company in spite of the shortcomings. Very often we find that the company or individual, for their ownvested interests would prepare all the necessary documents for the project including the NOC and the headman’s job is only to sign on the dotted lines.
Apart from the Dorbar Shnong we also have the Dalois or theSyiems who likewise has the authority to issue NOC to any business group to mine in the area and like the dorbar shnong the daloi or the syiem seldom consult experts in the subject before issuing NOC for extracting mineral resources from the elaka.
Then we also have the district council empowered by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to act as a custodian of land, customs and traditions in the areas under its jurisdiction. On top of that we have the state government and its agency the Directorate of Mineral Resources and theMeghalaya Pollution Control Board which are supposed to control, manage and givedirections on how mineral resources in the state are to be properly extracted. Does the DMR even have the numbers of the existing coal mines in the state or for thatmatter any statistics pertaining to mining? The Mines and minerals (DevelopmentRegulation Act 1957 under section 4(1) prohibits mining without lease, mining plan, environmental plan, environmental clearance, forest clearance, health and safety precautions for workers.
In the year 1987 the Ministry of Energy in the departmental order letter D.O. No. EM/5/309/87 dated July 2, 1987 addressed to Government of Meghalaya directed the state government to regulate mining through the Meghalaya Mineral Development Corporation (MMDC) by granting sub leases to local operators but till date not a single sub lease has been granted by the MMDC. My fellow environment activist had filed RTIs with the DMR and all the information collected is that the DMR has not granted even a singlelease/sub-lease to any coal mining company or any individual before they started their activities which is mandatory as per laws.
The depleting forest cover in Jaintia hills is directly linked to coal mining as huge tracts of forests have been cleared in gross violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 which prohibits mining in forest areas without the approval of the central government regardless of who owns the land.
In spite of all different strata of governance in the state, coal and limestone are being mined at random in total disregard of the law. In the case of coal it has become a practice that the coal mine owner does not even require any kind of permission before undertaking mining in any area. The owner can mine at his whim and fancy and does not need any lease or NOC from any authority to start mining. We were also made to understand that Meghalaya does not fall under the purview of the national mining laws because of two reasons. First, because of the customary land holding system that we practice, and because mining inthe state is a traditional business and it is done in a small scale. Limestone mining can perhaps be a traditional business of the people but coal mining can never be a traditional business. Coal mining in the state started when the British arrived in the area. Before that people did not even know of importance of the mineral. It is an unknown commodity because to this day people in the state hardly use coal either for heating or for cookingpurposes. And finally; coal or limestone mining is not a cottage or small scale industry; it is mega business which cannot be called small anymore.
Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1974 has been blatantly violated by the coal mine owners with the discharge of acid water into the rivers and streams from coal mines. Coal mine owners can mine anywhere; it is a free-for-all as long as one owns the land. It matters not if the mine area is near the river or next to the paddy field of a neighbour. He who owns the land owns everything beneath it too which is in violation of the universal laws. What about Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)? Mine owners do not have to bother about that. They do not have to bother about the depleted coal mines either. One can leave the abandoned mine open and let AMD continuously flow from the mine to the river and who cares if the open mine is an imminent danger to humans and animals in the area.
There is no rule of law pertaining to mining; the miners can mine their and pollute all the rivers; they can convert once fertile land into barren wilderness. There was even a case of coal mine owner who diverted the rivers to enable him to extract coal from the river bed. When thismatter was brought to the notice of the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board, the buck was passed to the district administration on the pretext that it is a law and order problem.
There are no rules or regulations with regard to the extract of natural resources in Meghalaya. It is a case of anyone doing anything, anywhere and the government turns its Nelson’s eye to the illegal act that is being carried out in broad day light. Neither the relevant central government laws are being implemented nor has the state government made any law to govern extraction of mineral resources in the state. Hence there is an immediate need to put in place a mining or mineral policy for a sustainable extraction of minerals in the state.
(The author is a researcher and an environmental activist)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Consequences of damaging public property during protests

By HH Mohrmen

Since the anti-foreigners agitation of the late seventies in Meghalaya protestors in the state in general and Shillong in particular has this unexplainable penchant for destroying public property. The recent incidents of public properties being destroyed in broad day light has reached its nadir and calls for immediate introspection and debate on the general public attitude towards public property and the act of vandalism.
From what was reported in the media, it is obvious that whenever there is a call for protest by pressure group, antisocial elements take advantage of the situation to create chaos and in the process targeted only public vehicles and buildings. This makes one question the kind of mindset the antisocial elements in the garb of the protestors have. The perception of the perpetrator of the act of vandalism is that public property is “government property” (mar sorkar) as if government is an alien organization or that government is an outside entity or even the enemy of the people. Public property be it roads, footpaths, buildings etc are seen as someone else’s property and hence easy target for one to destroy. This mindset is still prevalent in the society, as street lights are unnecessarily targeted, signboards and even unused government buildings are stoned and window panes are damaged without any rhyme or reason. It makes me wonder what could be the level of education of those responsible for the act. I am extremely worried and even fear for the future of our state if the perpetrators of the crime are educated youths. Fear because currently, there are only two groups in the society which provide our state a stable supply of politicians, the business sector and the pressure groups. If the politician is not a businessman, he or she must then be a former leader of certain pressure group in the earlier part of his life. So if the future leaders of the state are former leaders of pressure groups who condone the acts of vandalism and have no guilt of destroying public property then, I don’t know what kind of future is in store for the state?
What makes people (in spite of being educated) to treat public property with disrespect? Is it a tribal trait to treat public property with indifference? As far as I know, it is not in the Khasi Pnar tribal milieu to have an attitude of unconcern towards common property; “ka bhalang or ka bha uba bun balang” the welfare of the society is the value that is still held dear by the tribals of this area. Traditionally; in the tribal way of life; it is a taboo “ka sang ka ma” to damage or even touch that which does not belongs to us (“ban ktah ia ka bym dei ka jong ngi”). The question that still begs the answer is why this liking for destroying government property among the young people? What is so Khasi Pnar about destroying public property or how can an act of vandalism become a patriotic act?
Can the prevalent attitude towards public property be a colonial hangover that we have not been able to rid ourselves off? It seems the general perception amongst the public is that the government (like during the days of the British raij), is a power which forcefully occupies our land. Or are we still of the opinion that Government is the authority in a distant land which governs us against our will hence, the property or anything that has to do with the government is something that is against us. I think this is a common attitude shared by the general public because the public in general or the pressure groups in particular always remained tightlipped whenever such incidents are reported.
It is irresponsible for the group or groups which call the protest to simply conclude that it was an untoward incident and blame it on the so called anti social elements, whenever the incident of damaging public property occurs. By remaining silent when this act of vandalism is carried out during the group’s scheduled programme they are inadvertently encouraging the bad elements to commit more criminal acts during the union’s or association’s programme. And there is no denying the fact that the stories of burning vehicles or burning buildings create fear in the minds of the public and this in some way helps make the strike effective.
The public too, never really has the time to question, who these (so called) antisocial elements are. We seldom hear pressure groups which calls the agitation programmes claim responsibility for the incidents that occur during the group’s programme, neither have we ever heard pressure groups condemn any untoward incidents. It looks as if it is a general rule that everyone should remain silent and one seldom hears of any group or even individual condemning the barbaric act. We, all (the general public of the state) remain silent and hence share the same perception that public property is not for us and are instead against us. Public property, be it an expensive government vehicle, a bridge or a government office building belongs to the government therefore it does not belong to me. Government property is nobody’s property, hence we don’t care what happens to the property and it does not hurt us a bit to see these government assets being ruthlessly damaged. If that is not the case then why is there no group or individual coming forward to condemn the drastic act? In spite of the many cases of vandalism being reported in the media, we have not seen a single public condemnation of the act. A criminal act cannot by any way be a justifiable means to achieve any goal; no matter how noble the cause is. A crime is a crime no matter why and where the act was carried out.
Since it is a criminal act one would also expect that the police would act according to the law and immediately register a case and conduct an investigation to find the culprit/culprits responsible for the damage and loss to the public exchequer. But one is yet to come across a single case against those who are involved in damaging public property during protests organized by pressure groups. One also wonders if any of the two public servants whose vehicles had been damaged recently have lodged a FIR informing about the unfortunate incidents. Who cares? It is not my car anyway. It is public property that has been damaged; I don’t stand to lose anything here. This is how we all treat public property. No one really bothers what happens to peoples’ assets.
One would expect those responsible pressure groups which organize the protests, to own up to the acts of vandalism that happen during the groups’ agitation programmes and at least apologise for the same. Instead the protesting groups remain silent and by doing so they are indirectly condoning the criminal act. Since neither the organizations nor the public condemn the barbaric act, the antisocial elements assume that what they did was right even when they have dared to commit the heinous acts in broad day light. And in spite of that nobody dares to open their mouths against the crime!
If this is the kind of attitude that we all have towards public property, then the people of the state still have a long way to go before we can even call ourselves citizens of a democratic state. If we don’t even care for the properties that were created or built for common good then can we still call ourselves educated and cultured citizens of Meghalaya?
(The writer is a researcher and an environmental activist)

Police round up columnist over anti-mining article

Police round up columnist over anti-mining article

Post Bureau, Shillong (May 1): A researcher and environmental activist H Helpme Mohrmen was questioned by Shillong police on Tuesday in connection with an article criticising the government for its inability to regulate mining activities in the state. An FIR... (Continue reading)

UDP files FIR against columnist; police register complaint

Persecution and harassment of media continues

SHILLONG: In a grotesque case of arm-twisting of the media, a Jowai-based columnist HH Mohrmen was on Monday detained in police station over two hours for his recent write-up in The Shillong Times questioning the inordinate delay on the part of the Government to come out with an official mining policy.
Police summoned Mohrmen to the Laitumkhrah Police Station to quiz him on edit-page special article directed against the ‘unregulated mining and the flagship programmes’ of the Congress-led MUA government in Meghalaya.
Mohrmen was summoned after supporters of Deputy CM Bindo Lanong lodged a FIR against him. Mr Lanong who holds the portfolio of Geology and Mining, came under scathing attack from Mohrmen for the questionable delay in formulating the Mining Policy.
East Khasi Hills superintendent of police AR Mawthoh confirmed “Mohrmen was questioned based on a FIR filed against him”. He added that the columnist was let out after giving a statement.
Narrating the incident, Mohrmen said he was called to the police station to clarify on a FIR lodged against him. “I was initially forced to sign a bond with the police,” he said, adding that on the intervention of a senior officer and other colleagues from the media, he was let out after two hours.
Mohrmen said he had written a column against the MUA government in which he highlighted the delay of “mining policy” and the need for “managing and controlling mining activities” in the state. It may be reminded that Lanong had earlier announced that the Mining Policy would be a ‘New Year’s gift’ to the people of Meghalaya.
In the FIR five persons alleged that Mohrmen had “tarnished and damaged the reputation” of the Deputy CM.
Intriguingly, all those who lodged the FIR belong to UDP even as the FIR states that the deputy CM i/c mining has already sent the policy on February 27, 2012 “which can be seen from the Cabinet Agenda Meeting on 28th February 2012 at 3.00 PM in the formal item No 3 (copy enclosed).”
Procurement of a copy of the cabinet agenda by ordinary citizens has raised eyebrows as the document falls within the purview of the ‘Official Secrets Act 1923′.