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Observe Meghalaya Mining Day

Editor,

The Jan 12, 2019 issue of the Shillong Times carried a front page ad from the Department of Arts and Culture announcing various drawing and music competitions for Meghalaya Day to be celebrated on Jan 22, 2019. May I suggest that this year’s celebration be appropriately sombre in view of the mining tragedies in the state and the focus of the country on our shame and mis-governance. Short shrift has been given to law and order, and there is barefaced defiance of strictures from the highest tribunals and courts of the country.

I commend the Shillong Times for its daily updates and commentary on this month-old human tragedy. The government just seems to be going through the motions of minimum lip service, hoping that the citizens will soon be distracted by other happenings and the state apparatus and actors can go back to business as usual. Caught wrong-footed between its own vested interests and mining patrons on the one hand, and necessity for compliance with statutory orders and moral propriety on the other hand, the government has lost its moorings.

Perhaps the situation can still be salvaged with a new attitude of remorse and reconciliation with the people, and for the chief minister to keep good faith on his promise of safe and environmentally responsible mining. Better communication and action on mining policy and plans must be demonstrated. The initiative lies with the government.

This situation must not be allowed to go away. I suggest to the Shillong Times to title their front page daily report with the number of the new day that the crisis has entered. Last Saturday The Hindu featured a full page titled “Meghalaya’s Rat Hole Traps”. The report and a video can be seen on the online edition at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meghalayas-rat-hole-traps/article25973337.ece.

Those who may doubt the resolve of the courts, environmental agencies and civil society efforts would be advised to revisit the story of the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited, one of the largest iron ore mines in the world, located in a bio-diverse area in Karnataka. It was shut down in 2006 for environmental lapses.

Perhaps Meghalaya Day 2019 can be the beginning of a new era in responsible mining in the state. Will the government take the opportunity?

Yours etc.,

Glenn C. Kharkongor,

Via email

Need to change religious rigidity

Editor

I am extremely shocked and anguished to read the news items which appeared in your esteemed daily under the caption, ‘Nepali woman, two sons die in menstruation hut’ (ST, Jan 11, 2019). Though it was a case of suffocation, yet the woman and her two minors would not have died had the woman not been confined to that non- ventilated hut for seclusion due to her menstruation. Because of such out dated taboos, three precious lives were lost. Now it is learnt that such practice had been banned and made a criminal offense in Nepal  hence women folk here should awake and forsake such futile rituals.

 A society has to be a progressive.  It should not cling to the belief of its forefathers. It needs to change with the changing times and circumstances. Keeping ego aside we should adopt what people in other religions or communities are following in similar circumstances.

 Another religious practice, which is hampering my community, is the observance of thirteen days of ritualistic mourning on the demise of a family member. Continuance of this thirteen -day long penance and seclusion by the family member of the deceased does not appear to fit well in this modern world. I don’t want to go in details in highlighting the ordeal, a family has to undergo, physically, mentally and financially in the event of death of a family member. We all are aware of it and many of us, would like to modify or make it easier but who will be the first to break this taboo? In the absence of any law, like one we have in Nepal for menstruation practice, we all are following the same archaic thirteen day ritual.

We will all have to die one day for we don’t know yet how to lead an everlasting life. So why not change to the existing system individually? This can be done by giving a will or declaration, in writing, to be executed on one’s demise. Perhaps then the surviving members of the family or the kinsmen may respect such a will of the testator.

Yours etc.,

Krishna Chettri,

Shillong-2

Need to act swiftly counter fake news  

Editor,

Apropos the article, “Stringent punishment for mob violence” by Aneeta Synrem (ST, January 12, 2019). There are indeed enough provisions in the Indian Penal Code like Section 302 (Punishment for murder), 304 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) that ensure stringent punishment for mob violence.

Apart from plugging legal loopholes, if there are any, what we really need is quick justice delivery to improve the curative measures to effectively treat mob – kangaroo syndrome. However, it is rightly said that prevention is better than cure. The saying is even more categorical in the United States ~ “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. So, first of all we need to create an effective preventive mechanism to nip a mob offence in the bud.  The first step must be to counter the spread of rumours. Most of the recent cases of mob violence had their origin in hate speeches and rumours on social media which snowballed to street murders. Rumours must effectively be dealt with to unplug the panic channel that can instigate the mob to lynch.

Rema Rajeshwari, Superintendent of Police in Jogulamba Gadwal district of Telangana has reportedly made a team of 500 police officers to counter fake news. They go to villages to spread awareness about social issues. They have joined WhatsApp groups in villages and nip any rumour in the bud. His efforts have earned him great success. Not a single rumour-related lynching and mob violence has reportedly been staged in his jurisdiction. Given that mob violence has become a new normal, his model needs to be followed in every district of our country.

West Bengal police have also done a good job in timely and effectively tackling rumours. Last year, a fake news that the state government had sanctioned a five-day Eid holiday was doing the rounds on social media to incite communal tension. But West Bengal police had promptly taken the help of Twitter to dispel it in time. Such administrative vigil both digital and direct to weed out any kind of hatred generating rumour is the need of the hour. There should be an effort to build strong public opinion against mob violence as it throws down the gauntlet to the law of the land.

Yours etc.,

Sujit De,

Via email

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