As a child he suffered from poverty and visual impairment. Having lost his father at the age of five, and cured of his blindness by his grandfather, he began his life as a cow-herd in a remote village. But when Hoping Stone Lyngdoh passed away in Shillong on Saturday, people recall him not just as Meghalaya’s longest-serving MLA, but also one of the few stalwarts who had fought for creation of the hill state way back in the 1960s. Till last week, he was fighting for a separate state for the Khasi and Jaintia tribes.
Eleven times MLA, one term as Lok Sabha member, seven times Member of District Council (MDC), this founder and president of Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) since 1968, passed away in Shillong at the age of 86. While the state has declared a three-day mourning, his funeral will take place on Tuesday in his native village Mawkyllei near Pariong in West Khasi Hills district, about 75 kms from the state capital.
“He may have been an MLA for 46 years, as also an MDC and once a Member of Parliament. But he did not even have a house, except for the family house back in ancestral village,” a relative was quoted in Shillong on Sunday. A bachelor, he did not believe in acquiring property or accumulating wealth and gave away every rupee he earned as an MLA to the poor and needy.
“He was the last of that generation of politicians who did not believe in personal gain and always stuck to ethics. He was a symbol of honesty, probably the last one at least in Meghalaya politics,” said Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim.
“One of the architects of modern Meghalaya, Lyngdoh was a great leader and orator loved across party lines. In his passing away Meghalaya has lost one of her tallest leaders,” said state assembly Speaker A T Mondal. “He was a man who really meant service is before self. He sacrificed every comfort of life fighting, first for creation of Meghalaya state, and then for the common man,” said Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee president and former chief minister Darwing Diengdoh Lapang.
Born on March 15, 1929, he lost his eyesight due to a some illness when he was just six, but was cured of a few years later by his grandfather who was an Ayurvedic practitioner and folk medicine expert. Since then there there was no looking back for Hoping Stone. At 10, he had to work in the fields, at 11 had to look after the family’s cattle and goats, during which he also picked up the art of working on bamboo and cane.
But he did not give up hope, and also attended school. While a student in the Middle School, he even taught in the village morning primary school, earning Rs 15 a month. In 1949 his grandfather packed him off to Shillong, where he got his hostel fees waived in the Government High School by virtue of being a brilliant student who also took entire responsibility of running the mess.
In spare time he would make smoking pipes which he sold at Rs 5 a piece, and on completion of Intermediate (Science), he set up a senior basic school at village Lawbyrtun, where he gathered a number of drop-outs and put them through vocational courses like agriculture, fishery, bee-keeping, piggery and marketing.
He also served as a deputy chief minister and a cabinet minister holding the home portfolio in the 1990s, but kept fighting for one cause of the other throughout his life. One of the front-ranking leader against uranium mining, he also led a movement for creation of a separate state for the Khasi and Jaintia tribes. His campaign against uranium mining also took him to different global conferences including the World Uranium hearing in Austria in 1992 and the Second Global Radio-Active Victims’ Conference in Berlin.
Lyngdoh’s mortal remains will be taken to his constituency Nongstoin on Monday and later to his native village Mawkyllei, where the funeral will be held the next day. “We have not only lost a towering personality who believed in selflessness, but will also have no one to point at as an example of a man of principles,” said Khasi Students’ Union general secretary Auguster Jyrwa.