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Tourism takes a plunge

Following Thursday’s incident, tourism in Meghalaya has taken a dip. The much touted Scotland of the East is now under night curfew – a situation that most tourists would want to avoid. Tourism in rural Meghalaya is booming with home-stays doing brisk business but since Thursday there have been cancellations galore. A city will always have its share of problems but that needs to be contained through effective policing and administrative insights based on experience. The altercation on Thursday between two communities need not have escalated into a law and order problem affecting the whole city, nay the entire state. That Meghalaya’s biggest commercial hub – Iewduh – had to go under curfew is a huge loss for those who subsist on the meagre earnings, selling their wares on a daily basis.

Rapid and unplanned urbanisation has turned Shillong into a city of ghettos. These are impenetrable spaces where people of one community reside and have no opportunities for socialising with the larger world outside. That lack of exposure makes them inward looking, prejudiced and incapable of embracing new ideas and least of all, of co-existing with others who don’t think and behave like them. A ghetto is defined as a poor area with high crime rate and poor educational levels. People populate ghettos because of safety in numbers, more so when they experience a sense of insecurity.

In Shillong, whenever a communal outrage breaks out the elders retreat into safe spaces and mobs take over. A mob is irrational and obeys no law. Hence even a curfew is violated with impunity. Mobs are fuelled by their own anger at perceived injustices they have nursed for a long time. It takes a small spark to fuel full scale violence. What makes it worse is when elected representatives join this mob fury instead of calming the storm. Meghalaya does not seem to have learnt lessons from the past – a dark past that has crippled its development for decades and nearly destroyed its educational status. The less said about religious heads the better. Is this not a time to appeal for peace across all communities and religions?     

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