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Need for peaceful coexistence

By Gary Marbaniang

The turn of events in the past few days after the scuffle in Punjabi Lane on the 31st of May 2018 has taken everyone by surprise. There are no two ways about the need to find a permanent solution to a problem that has remained in the spotlight for many years now. In the first place, the population in that small piece of land has literally burst at the seams. Secondly Punjabi Lane is situated adjacent to one of the biggest indigenous tribal market in the whole of Asia and there is an immediate need to build a market complex to decongest lewduh and to accommodate all the hawkers belonging to the indigenous community. Thirdly since Iewmawlong and Motphran are the starting points for the traffic jams in the city of Shillong, building a flyover in that area will go a long way to help ease the commotion and the traffic congestion in the city.

At the end of the day, the public will have to put their good faith on the wisdom of the present government to take the final call on this matter and hope that the decision taken will be in the general interest of the people of Shillong and Meghalaya at large. We should not, however, paint a whole community in a negative light just because of one small incident, especially when the community in question is a religious minority. In the past few days, the city of Shillong has been in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Thank God nothing untoward happened as this would have left an indelible scar and created a lasting rift between the two communities. This would have also created a bad impression of our community in the rest of the country. Our State is at an important juncture on its path to economic growth and development and communal violence is the last thing that we need.

Communal violence has played spoilsport to the economic growth and development of many countries. Zimbabwe is a prime example of a country suffered tremendously due to communal disharmony between two communities. The communal tension between the two main communities in that country severely impaired its economy and was partly responsible for the worst inflation crisis in modern times. The hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe is notorious for its similarities with the hyper-inflation crisis in Germany in the early 1920’s and lest we forget one man managed to take political mileage out of this unwarranted economic crisis and stirred an entire nation to accept him as their saviour. The same person single handedly started the mother of all wars in modem history. Contrasting the situation in Zimbabwe with the Nordic countries should be the eye opener to make us realise the world of possibilities that a peaceful environment can create. After the end of the Second World War, good governance and peace has reigned supreme in the Nordic countries. These are the two main reasons for the impressive economic prosperity and equitable distribution of income that the people of these countries are blessed with.

When my sister broke the fake news that was widely circulated on social media about the death of a Khasi boy on the fateful evening of 31st May’2018 it literally re-ignited my inborn hatred for the others. I didn’t realize it all these years but I was like a dormant volcano erupting and emitting all that feeling of hate. When this newspaper published the report stating that the Chief Minister said that most stone pelters had been brought in from West Khasi Hills, it incensed many people for varied reasons. Even if the report is false, a large number of Khasi families settled in Shillong can still trace their roots to that particular district. When that lava of hate erupted in my heart and in the hearts of many Shillongites that day, I guess it is our Maram roots that triggered that response. My mother hails from a village in East Khasi Hills but  her mother tongue is a variation of the Maram dialect. Rather than brushing aside the incident and sweeping it under the carpet and blaming the youth of West Khasi Hills for sustaining the fracas, the people of Shillong need to do some soul searching and address the real issues at hand.

If we draw parallels between the stone pelters in Kashmir and the Khasi youths today, the one thing that stands out is the deep levels of frustration and anger at the whole system! I bet that most of the stone pelters who took to the streets recently and instigated the worst violence that our town has seen in years have a bleak future and a deep resentment not only against the others but against those in authority. This is a very dangerous trend! The disgruntled youths were waiting for the perfect storm to vent their pent-up frustration and anger. My humble suggestion to the people in power is to reach out to these youths by providing an avenue for them to channel their energies in a positive way. If the government can start a Skills Development Programme or open world class sports facilities in the predominantly Khasi localities of Shillong and enable them to earn a livelihood and stand on their own two feet by honing their skills and equipping them with the necessary skill sets to succeed in life, it will go a long way in transforming the lives of the youths and the localities they live in.

Rather than diagnosing the symptoms we need to take preventive measures to prevent the disease of hate in the first place. When I was growing up in Riatsamthiah in the 1990’s and 2000’s the level of hate against the others was at its peak, but, luckily our neighbourhood had an avenue to channel that energy. There was ample space in our neighbourhood to play all kinds of sports and this was the perfect distraction for us to stay on the right path.

We also need to take a giant leap of faith and eradicate this feeling of hate from our society once and for all. A collective effort is needed from the entire citizenry of Shillong to root out this evil that has afflicted an entire generation. The first thing we can do is to admit that there is a serious problem in the first place. It is not just the Khasi people that need to introspect; the non-tribal population in Shillong also need find out the real reasons for the simmering tensions that still persist 46 years after statehood. It is a shame on the city of Shillong that even after hundreds of years of living together we have still not learnt to peacefully co-exist.

If we really want economic growth and development, the three main indigenous communities in the State need to work closely with the genuine non-tribals here to create a strong mechanism to check illegal immigration. There is also a need to create a positive environment so that we will not view each other with disdain and hatred but with love and mutual respect. The three main indigenous communities should take their rightful place in society and we should reciprocate the love by treating the genuine non- tribals who have been part and parcel of our State well before its inception with genuine love and affection.

 

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