The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) on Wednesday put up posters in Shillong targeting the Bengali community in Meghalaya.
Some of the posters read, “All Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangladeshis” and “Khasiland for Khasis; Foreigners Go Away.”
The posters were later removed by police. “It is hereby informed that banners that were displayed today in public places, have been removed. We request all concerned to kindly co-operate with us in promoting peace and harmony in the State,” Meghalaya Police tweeted.
Isawanda Laloo, Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills district, told The Indian Express, “Yes the posters were put up and they have been removed.”
Some of the posters mentioned the killing of Lurshai Hynniewta. A Khasi man, Hynniewta was killed in a violent clash at Ichamati between a Khasi group and non-tribals, mostly Bengalis, in February.
The violence broke out when a team of KSU members went to Ichamati, located close to the Bangladesh border, to campaign against the Citizenship Amendment Act and on their demand for an Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state.
The ILP is a colonial-era system that regulates an Indian citizen’s visit or stay in the northeastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur.
Following Hynniewta’s killing, several non-tribals were stabbed to death in different parts of the state.
According to media reports, non-tribal residents in Ichamati have claimed that they have faced harassment since February. However, KSU general secretary Donald Thabah told The Indian Express that such allegations have portrayed the “entire Khasi community in a bad light”.
“Today’s poster demonstration and protest were a reaction against the baseless and falsified statements and allegations by the illegal immigrants from Ichamati and their sympathisers from outside the state,” Thabah said.
Sushmita Dev, president of the All India Mahila Congress and former MP from Assam’s Bengali-majority Barak Valley region, tweeted on the posters in Shillong. “Do we need more evidence of persecution of Bengalis in their own country. Pls note the words ALL in the banner.”
On being asked about the posters, Thabah replied, “Bengalis from West Bengal have not come to Meghalaya. The ancestors of most Bengalis here are refugees who came in from what is now Bangladesh during the war of 1971. They have expanded and encroached upon our land.”
Thabah said that apart from putting up posters in Shillong, KSU members sloganeered against “illegal Bangladeshis” in Ri Bhoi and Sohra.
The demonstration in Meghalaya came on the heels of trouble in the inter-state boundary between Assam and Mizoram, where Mizoram civil society groups have claimed that “illegal Bangladeshis” create problems for Mizoram residents there. Thabah said the KSU has expressed its “solidarity with the Mizo community against illegal Bangladeshis”.
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