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Lotha faces 10-hr debate challenge

Cong shifts focus from corruption to BJP policies

SHILLONG: The observer of the AICC Minority Department, Rejaul Karim Laskar, has taken up the gauntlet that was thrown down by BJP’s Hayithung Bill Lotha to Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Laskar invited Lotha, who is the national secretary of BJP’s Scheduled Tribe Morcha, to come forward for a 10-hour debate on the policies formulated by BJP and the Congress for the minorities.
After Sangma’s criticism of Lotha following corruption charges, the BJP leader had challenged the chief minister to debate on the issue for five hours.
Though Lotha wanted a debate on corruption in the state government, the Congress deviated the focus on BJP policies.
“As the observer of the AICC Minority Department, I suggest that instead of wasting the chief minister’s valuable time and distracting him from his work of development in the state, which he is doing with great sincerity and dedication, Lotha should engage in a debate with me regarding the policies of BJP and the Congress on tribals and minorities so that the people of Meghalaya can decide for themselves as to which party is sincere in its commitment to protecting the constitutional rights of the groups,” Laskar said in the statement.
Delineating on the tribal policies of and violation of tribal rights by BJP, Laskar said the Narendra Modi government is systematically leasing out tribal land to the corporate.
“The Congress enacted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 to confer legal rights to triblas and other bona fide forest dwellers on the land and other forest resources. But the Modi government has diluted tribal’s legal rights on forest resources conferred by this act by introducing the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority,” the Congress minority leader said.
“Restrictions on cattle trade is also callous to the traditional food habits of tribals,” he added.
Laskar also accused BJP of ill-treating Christians. To establish the extent of saffron atrocity, the leader, in his statement, referred to an article by IPS officer Julio Ribeiro where he wrote, “As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country… I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.”
“I will come with all the facts and figures and let Lotha come with all the facts and figures. I am ready to face Lotha in an open debate in presence of media persons and other concerned citizens,” Laskar’s statement read.

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