Protest marks first consultation meet on Tenancy Bill

Students shout slogans, tear copies of Bill 

A group of students tear the copies of the draft Tenancy Bill after staging a protest during the first meeting of the ministerial committee in city on Wednesday. (ST)

SHILLONG: The first meeting of the ministerial committee to deliberate on the draft Meghalaya Regulation of Landlords and Verification of Tenants Bill held on Wednesday turned into an embarrassment for the six-member committee as a group of participating students even tore the copies of the Tenancy Act right at the venue and walked out.

The students tore copies of the Act and some even flung copies of the Act and lunch boxes towards the dais where the members of the ministerial team were seated.

The students then walked out shouting slogans like “No ILP No Rest” etc.,

The public consultancy meeting aimed at seeking views and suggestions from the student community on the Act first met with stiff resistance over the language of engagement. A vocal section of students wanted the entire deliberations to be held in Khasi language.

Though the Chairman of the Committee, Prestone Tynsong pleaded with the students that the deliberations should be in English the students were insistent that the deliberations be held in Khasi.

During the meeting, most of the students were upfront in expressing their resentment over the proposed Tenancy Act and asserted that the Bill has nothing to with the checking of influx into the state.

A student from the Law department of NEHU Robert Kharjarin was most vocal.He questioned why the Government was consulting the public on this particular Act when there was no consultation on the Education Policy or the Industrial policy.

Majority of students who spoke during the meeting were advocating for the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state. They raised doubts on the efficacy of the Tenancy Bill to tackle influx in Meghalaya.

Though varied reasons were given by the Committee members for not implementing ILP, the students were in no mood to accept the Tenancy Act.

“When ILP can be implemented in three states of North East why not Meghalaya?” a student asked, adding that the people of Meghalaya will never forgive this Government for its adamant stance.

Some students from St Edmunds College were also seeking clarifications if the Tenancy Act would be extended to the Cantonment areas and Punjabi lane where the headmen themselves are non-tribals.

“If UPA Government does not respect the aspirations of the people, we will answer them in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” the student from Law Department said.

A student from IGNOU also asserted that the population of indigenous people in the state and Government must take steps to address the issue.

The group of students were not at all happy with the replies of the Committee on the various questions posed by the students and finally staged a walk-out leaving the auditorium amidst shouting of slogans in support of ILP and tearing copies of Act.

After the walk- out, some students were still sitting inside the venue and participated in the discussions that followed thereafter.

Later, speaking to media persons, the Chairman of the Committee Prestone Tynsong claimed that the Committee is satisfied with the first meeting.

Reacting to a query about the strong resistance from students to the Act, the Minister said that the consultations only started today and there is a long way to go as Government will have meetings with other groups of people as well.

A member of the committee, Ronnie V Lyngdoh, MLA also said that the Government has provided a platform for individuals to express their views hence people should learn to engage and dissent without creating disorder adding that such behaviour is not expected from the student community.”

“If some people do not want to participate in the meeting, how can we force them,” Lyngdoh queried.