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Burdened with an itinerant Government

Patricia Mukhim

Right to Information activist Agnes Kharshiiing was attacked and has suffered serious head injuries. It’s not difficult to find out who the attackers are IF (and there is a big IF here) if the police do their job. For, it’s the police that should have stopped the illegal coal mining in the first place. In other words Agnes was doing what police should have done but chose not to do which is to expose the illegal coal mining activities that have been carrying on despite the NGT ban. Agnes is committed to digging out the truth but that’s a dangerous proposition in today’s Meghalaya.
And we have the Chief Minister and Home Minister out on a European tour, yet again. This is Government on roaming mode. The CM had just returned from France. Clearly, the NPP which leads the Government is on a roll and does not really care about its image.  Remember how we used to complain about the MUA under Dr Mukul Sangma and how we griped about the number of political appointees? Well now the MDA government is telling us – “Go to hell…you can do nothing. We own the Government and it is our brief how we run this Government. The other regional parties are simply hangers-on. Period. ” The NPP chief may not be saying this in so many words but don’t they say, “Actions speak louder than words?”
As for the Home Minister he seems to have decided to play it cool…say nothing…do whatever he wants with the Home Department; appoint whoever he chooses and who fits the bill according to what he thinks is  germane to his scheme of things.
Yes, the NPP as a party seems to be conditioned to chaos created by the Khasi Hills District Council Chief who abhors the stillness of stability. Every day we awake to a new outrage from the Hon’ble KHADC, CEM, HS Shylla. And no, you can’t speak up because there is a likelihood of trolls descending on you like a ton of bricks.  So the KHADC Chief wants to prove the point that Para 12 (a) of the Sixth Schedule shall be made redundant soon and that whoever crosses swords with him will regret having done so. These indeed are traumatic days of coarse language and cat-calls on Facebook which appeal to the basest human instincts. Outrage is the order of the day and Mr HS Shylla traffics his speech in a manner that appeals, not to the thinking populace but to that section of the constituents who believe we are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth unless the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and the Lineage Bill – a divisive, destructive piece of legislation that shows that Khasi women cannot be trusted with the being custodians of culture and heritage, are implemented. And we are all stunned into silence unable to react except for all this being part of drawing room conversation among the chattering class. But what else can we expect when people put politics at the centre of their psychological, emotional and even spiritual life? Like someone said, “This is asking too much from politics, for, once politics becomes your ethnic and moral identity it becomes impossible to compromise because compromise becomes dishonour.” Let’s face it. We have reached a crisis point and we don’t know how to deal with this looming crisis.
Coming back to our own penchant for expecting new political players to be different, more accountable, more prudent and more oriented towards peoples’ needs, we would have realised that this is a futile aspiration. Governments succumb to the pressures of those who pay them the money so they can get elected. The entire five years is ‘pay back’ time. At the moment the UDP which has been in the dog-house for nearly seven years seems to be controlling the plot and the direction of the MDA Government. Some of the contractors who are loyal to the UDP think this is the time to make good their service to the Party. Check out where all the major contracts are going now. Not that the same was not happening under the MUA but just that we were naive enough to believe things would be different.
In this Government even a straightforward appointment of the State Police Chief has had to go through tortuous twists and turns. You begin to wonder who is advising the Home Minister; then you dig up some dirt and realize that the HM takes his cue from some cop with an unsavoury past. It’s not common for a police officer to be seen in the social company of the Home Minister. But perhaps things here are different. We tend to even sup from the same cup so long as the desires converge and each one gets what he wants.  The roots of political dysfunction have sunk so deep in this society that if there is going to be any improvement then it is the society with its multiple connections and galaxy of relationships that has to improve. But politicians will not allow that. Look at how HS Shylla has demonised those with a dissenting voice against the series of hurriedly passed legislations. They have been constructed as the “enemies of the jaidbynriew” (Khasi society). This binary of, “You have to concur with my legislations and Khasi national ambitions or you are a traitor,” will have far reaching effects on society.  We have already begun to list out those enemies. A cursory glance at some Facebook posts administered by certain self-appointed guardians of this society (who the cyber crime cell of the Police here is just unwilling to tackle) will give you a feel of the poison darts that are regularly shot at dissenting voices. But of course we are told to let it pass and not give much credence to such posts! That’s supposed to be sane advice to victims of social media trolling. Sigh…
Meanwhile the Government and the Opposition Congress are daily engaged in a war of attrition which adds no substance to governance. The city of Shillong and the Police Bazar pedestrianised area is now a huge free-for-all market and in the evening an equally huge garbage dump. Today there’s only about  two feet of space left out of that 20 ft or more walk from Delhi Mistan Bhandar to Dreamland Cinema. Pedestrians and shoppers bump into each other and sometimes inadvertently stamp on the goods laid out on the streets and get a drubbing for it. Those hawkers are certainly not old residents of Shillong. I say with some certainty that they are new entrants protected by some MLAs and politicians. And my curiosity is aroused by the fact that some very powerful pressure groups are unwilling to take them on. What’s the deal here? I asked some hawker from whom I bought stuff just so I can establish a comfort zone for him to speak up. He said, “We pay hafta to so many people to protect us.”  Of course he dared not name the collectors but said, “If you are from here, you will know who the bosses are.”  So that’s the story of the hawkers and one has to believe them because it takes guts to spread the wares bought from hard earned money if they were unsure of protection to carry out their trade.
Shillongites have all but lost their voices. That’s why those who can afford to, have burnt holes in their pockets to let out mini atom bombs during Diwali. Is that a letting out of frustration, anger and the impotence of being completely helpless?
Meanwhile brothers James and Conrad will return in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival (Nov 14-17) – another jamboree created by the MUA Govt and which will continue because some people will make a killing out of such festivals. But will we still have the Cherries respond to the demands of the MDA Government and blossom in their pink finery until then? Already many have faded after they have delighted us during the peak flowering season between the last week of October and the first week of November.
After what happened to Agnes Kharshiing we should not even be participating in any state sponsored tamasha. Civil society should be on protest mode and put the government on notice. Today it’s Agnes Kharshiing tomorrow it could be anyone of us. We need to build solidarities to defeat the agents of destruction.

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