By K L Tariang
The lengthy uproar over the proposed second amendment in the Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Bill 2018 appears to have simmered down now . The proposal did raise public sentiments as it touched a sensitive matter up to the point that it became contentious too. The KHADC promptly recalled the Bill after the uproar without leaving it on the government table long enough for scrutiny. This could be because of the many expressive negative opinions on it in the print media which the Council could finally not simply overlook though these many opinions also overruled the claim that the opposition was made only by the “few” with personal reasons behind such opposition. This decision to recall the Bill would also confirm the conclusion all along that the Bill with the proposal must have been hastily passed without much of in-depth assessment , consultations and deliberations by those whom we have chosen to prudently make laws on our behalf. Conversely , the uproar over the Bill also pointed out to the preference for issues that we choose to be more emotionally involved with when it concerns the future of the “ Jaitbynriew” (community) while probably underestimating other issues which otherwise could be of concern too.
There were certainly many explicit opinions against the proposal which were brought out in scripts and published in the Shillong Times, the most read English Newspaper in the state and with a national and international reach and such opinions were comprehensible enough to generate influence far and wide. Strangely it seems that were no point by point written disproof of such opinions from the proponents of the proposal which for sure the newspaper would have published if these were brought forward. Since open debates or panel discussions do not give scope for much ground to be covered on the subject , such written disproof would otherwise give more clarity as to the reason for the vehement support for the proposal, and, could likely persuade even its opponents to lean towards it. However, raising sentiments to gain support on intricate people’s issues merely through rhetorical expressions without sufficient substantiation could be deceiving or manipulative instead and with possible negative effects since what is proclaimed may not always have strong foothold in reality or provide legitimacy when necessary. In fact , self proclaimed saviours of the people would aim to influence the mass with narrow discernment through such rhetorical statements and such leaders will stand firm for everything that they think others will fall for, regardless of the possible negative consequence.
What was brought up in the proposal did become highly emotional because from both angle of the arguments the concern is whether what is proposed would be the main means to the end to ensure survival of the Jaitbynriew. However, in the midst of the row over this issue it led one to ponder as to whether there could be other significant issues other than the one under debate which are also of much concern for the future of the Jaitbynriew. In this connection a small news item “High Court queries on oily substance in drinking water, “ appeared in the Shillong Times recently amid the dominant reports about the controversy over the Bill. What was reported in the news item did not evoke any response from the public thereafter as this was probably considered as insignificant. However the likely presence of oil in our drinking water is a matter of concern as it poses a serious threat to the health of the people whether infant, young or old alike with detrimental consequence therefore to the “Jaitbynriew”. Likewise if more than often there are shortcomings long enough in vital public services such as those in education ,health .power, water supply, road connectivity ,etc then the Jaitbynriew would be deprived of quality education and a better quality of life as well which would therefore make it weak to face challenges and likely to be overwhelmed later. On the other side, the indiscriminate activities which destroy our natural resources or the other unique gifts of nature our region possesses for immediate gains of the few, have adversely affected the environment and the well established or intended livelihoods of many of our very own local people around and such activities are therefore a threat to their survival. Other critical issues which can have serious repercussions on the future of the jaitbynriew cannot be overlooked either.
Close on the heels of the KHADC Bill controversy came the strong emotional demand by pressure groups for bringing in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state because of the fear of huge infiltration of other communities or race of people from outside, into our region, if left unchecked and where their acumen and manipulative ability could threaten the economic and social status of the jaitbynriew as well as its identity and ultimately its survival. Again along with the dominant news reports about the NRC issue a news item “NGT ban a blessing for state post NRC Draft “ brought out in the Shillong Times recently might be worthy of a second look .The report was based on a statement of a former leader of a pressure group who stated that because of the NGT ban on coal mining , illegal migrants can no longer take shelter in the remote coal fields of Jaintia Hills in the guise of being labourers as otherwise thousands of illegal Assam residents not listed in the final NRC draft would have come to East Jaintia Hills for shelter and income.
The statement of the former pressure group leader assumes significance since coal mining does bring in large influx of labourers or other workers from outside to the coal mining areas in the state and this could have an adverse impact on the jaitbynriew as feared. Whether the Inner Line Permit with the entry and exit points would be effective enough to check and monitor such massive entry of outside labour force as required by the coal mining activity is anybody’s guess. As reported, the government is however not averse to an NRC like exercise in the state as stated by one of its senior Ministers while other political parties also want such an exercise. While it could be a long wait for the NRC like exercise if brought at all and proved effective it is open to speculation if for now the government, the other political parties and especially the pressure groups against influx would take advantage of the NGT ban on coal mining and ensure that it continues as one of the preventions against influx besides its other beneficial intentions while overlooking the quick financial gain that comes out of coal mining .
At the end of it all, the proposal of the KHADC in the Lineage Bill 2018 may remain contentious if its conception is based mostly from generalised assessment without in depth research , substantial evidences and well weighed arguments and where its long term impact may not be verifiable or quantifiable enough. Conversely there are the other critical issues as mentioned which are starkly evident and which occur more perhaps because of inadequacy, indifference, biased assessment or selfish motives though such critical issues can lead to adverse consequence on the people. It does not require in depth research or analysis to ascertain the root causes which made these other issues critical though their positive or negative qualitative and quantitative effect on the people will be definitely apparent with time depending on whether or how these issues are addressed .Its time perhaps to be more circumspect and emotional on such issues as well for the sake of the jaitbynriew.