So much has happened in the state during the last fortnight or so. Incidentally all important incidents revolved around words which started with the alphabet ‘C’. To punish drivers parking their cars in the no parking zones, police in Shillong came up with the idea of using clamps to fix on the errant drivers’ vehicles; then there was the three day literary festival named CALM and perhaps in the last fortnight the state has witnessed unprecedented movement for change that has not been witnessed before. Change has happened in the state. The three agencies involved in bringing the changes are the youths, the honourable court and the CBI.
After attending the meeting convened by the Deputy Chief Minister to appraise the stake holders about the new Meghalaya Mine and Mineral policy which the cabinet approved recently, I can only say that all the environmentalists who attended the meeting were a disenchanted lot. The policy seems tailored to benefit the miners. Protection of the environment appears to be of no importance to the government. In a shared taxi on our return journey to Jowai, disappointed, I said to Arwat (a fellow environmentalist) that it seems like we are fighting a losing battle and we will not be able to protect the environment. I told him the story that while in Manchester in the year 1989-90 an Indian friend from Haryana who chose to stay back in England called me ‘bewakuf’ because I told him that I will go back home to India. I told the lad from Haryana that if I stayed back in England there is very little that I will be able to contribute to the society but if I go back home I can help bring change in my hometown and perhaps in the state. I returned home with hope that perhaps I can contribute something to help build a better and a happier community. I told Arwat that perhaps I might have been wrong. Now part of me tells me that it is useless; all my efforts are futile. There is nothing I can do to change the way things are in the society here. But Arwat was much more optimistic than me; he believed that this is the most exciting time to be alive in the Meghalaya because change is beginning to happen now. Have things really started falling in place and is change indeed happening?
I was only able to attend the last day of the three day literary fest called ‘the Shillong CALM 2012’ which stands for Creative Arts, Literary and Music festival. Not happy with the kind of publicity CALM received, the first thing Sambha the organizer of the CALM festival said to me (in Pnar) when I met her at the venue of the fest was, something like, ‘Did you see the kind of publicity festival received?” I think she meant the Chetan Bhagat show which closed with almost no interaction with the audience. What I should have told Sambha is ‘all publicities are good publicity’ and I am glad they have decided to continue holding the Fest and that next year the Shillong CALM 2013 will held in the month of May.
Words will be inadequate to describe the experience I had on November 3 the last day of the fest. I can only say that if the previous two days are as enlightening, exciting and entertaining as the last day then I know I have missed a lot by not attending the previous two days of the festival. The last day started with a programme in conversation with Prajwal Parajuly author of upcoming book of short stories ‘The Gurkha’s Daughter’ who was introduced by Babatdor Dkhar of North East Monologue as the widely acclaimed upcoming English writer from the country. It was a very interesting conversation and Prajwal was honest and entertaining with his answers. The one thing that struck me about this young man was his humility. He was eager to talk to anybody who approached him. While watching him taking a back seat and listen through the M.J. Akbar talk, I couldn’t help but think that Prajwal could one day become much more famous than M.J. himself.
The next programme was for me the best part of the day, it was a talk chaired by Ananya Guha and the talk was by individuals from the two ends of the age spectrum. The first person to take the podium was Jerry Pyrtuh a 17 year old poet who is still studying in class XI at Umshyrpi College Shillong. Every one present was mesmerized by Jerry’s talk about his book of poems ‘The Mystifying face of time’. Audiences were left spellbound by his command over English language and all appreciated his book. Then there was the forever young retired teacher, author and singer Kong Cassadra Syiemlieh who shared with the audience her upcoming book ‘The west wind of popular music’ which looks at the connection between the lyrics of some of the all time best English songs with poetry. Kong Cassandra is 73 years old but the enthusiasm and joy in her face looks like she is ready for another book very soon. CALM fest also saw another Khasi Pnar artist Pauline Warjri of the Aroha choir launching her music book. Music is in the air and with Toshan making it to the finals of the India’s Got Talent show, Shillong is indeed set to be the music capital of every genre.
Another C is for culture and round about the same time, Shillong also witnessed the annual autumn festival organized by the MTDF which culminated with the Pomblang syiem or the Nongkrem dance. But the two Cs that have become the talk of the state are the CBI reports which are the outcome of a court order in connection with the illegal appointment of the Lower Primary School teachers in the Khasi and Jaintia hills. The lesson for politicians here is that young people are not going to take it easy anymore. Young men and women of the state are fed up with what is happening; they seem to say enough is enough; we can’t take it any more. Unlike their predecessors they are not going to eat the humble pie anymore. They are ready to fight and they will leave no stone unturned to fight for their rights. Politicians or bureaucrats will not be able to fool the young people anymore; they have now taken the mantle upon themselves to clean the system and will even seek redress from the court and the CBI or any agency if need be, to clean up the system.
The youth of the state are leading the change that is happening in Meghalaya. Gone are the days when politicians and bureaucrats on the pretext of recommending play favourites and get their own people appointed for the jobs available. The way ahead is merit and no nepotism and politicians who the still have the audacity to say that they simply recommend names for appointment and have done nothing wrong, should be punished for abusing their power and position. The uneducated politician should remember that the candidate cannot canvass for appointment to the post either directly or indirectly and by doing so the candidate is liable to forfeit his/her right to apply for the post.
Something is really happening in the state. The ground beneath is shaking and all these changes happened not because Mukul Sangma created 4 districts in one go, but because the young people are restive and are not going to lie low anymore. They want change and they are the catalysts of change and if change is to happen, it should start from each and every one of them. Meghalaya is happening now, these changes are happening not because the government is introducing some mechanism to change the system, but because the youth has decided to take upon themselves the responsibility to bring change. The RTI and the Court case were taken up by young people from Jaintia Hills and supported by Agnes Kharshiing. CALM was organized by Sambha Lamarr a young lady; I know this because she is my cousin. MTDF too is being led by the ever young RG Lyngdoh, DD Laloo, Larsing Ming and others. I think Arwat is right. This is the most exciting time to be alive in Meghalaya because change is beginning to happen in the state. Young people are standing up to expose corruption by various VEC’s implementing MNREGA in their respective villages. Young people are making their voices heard by opposing the setting up of more cement plants in Jaintia hills. Rina Bareh a young woman from Umlong village cried at the hearing conducted by the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board against the dorbar shnong’s decision to allow setting up a cement plant in the village and selling the community land to the cement companies. This was another sign of young people making their feelings heard. They are not going to be cowed down so easily. So politicians should stop their empty rhetoric because youths cannot be easily fooled anymore. Mr. Chief Minister, are you listening?