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Shillong couple sits on six-hour-long strike to protest attacks on non-tribals

The immediate trigger that led Sushit Kanti (68) and Kalpana Choudhury (58) to sit on a silent protest was an episode of violence last week, where “unidentified miscreants” assaulted about eight non-tribal people.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: January 24, 2022 10:43:11 pm
The last four decades have seen numerous incidents of violence in Meghalaya targeted at non-tribals, including Bengalis, Nepalis, as well as Biharis. (Express Photo)

In a rare move, a couple from Shillong sat on a six-hour-long strike on Sunday to protest “decades of violence and atrocities” against Meghalaya’s non-tribal population.

The immediate trigger that led Sushit Kanti (68) and Kalpana Choudhury (58) to sit on a silent protest in the heart of Shillong was an episode of violence on January 20, where “unidentified miscreants” assaulted a group of non-tribal people close to a police station in the town’s Lumdiengjri locality.

The couple, who had taken permission from the East Khasi Hills district administration to protest, held up banners that said “Assault on innocent non-tribals is nothing less than barbarism”, “Enough is enough, stop communal violence”, “Stop hitting one community against the other”, and so on.

The immediate trigger that led Sushit Kanti (68) and Kalpana Choudhury (58) to sit on a silent protest in the heart of Shillong was an episode of violence on January 20. (Express Photo)

“This kind of violence against non-tribals goes back to the 1970s…the perpetrators are never brought to book. My wife and I thought enough was enough, and decided to register our protest,” said Sushit, a businessman, who was born and bought up in Shillong. “My father came to Shillong in the 1930s from Sylhet, our family has lived here since. This is the only home we know. Yet, the Bengali community has often been subject to violence and humiliation.”

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Sharing a 443-km border with Bangladesh, Meghalaya has seen decades of migration from areas that are now in Bangladesh, as well as from various Indian states via Assam. There is a deep-seated sense of fear in the tribal majority state, comprising Khasis, Jaintias and Garos, that “outsiders” would overwhelm the indigenous communities. The last four decades have seen numerous incidents of violence in Meghalaya targeted at non-tribals, including Bengalis, Nepalis, as well as Biharis.

Sushit said that he wanted to “bridge the gap between tribal and non-tribals” through the protest. He added: “We have the same blood, we are all Indians…then why this enmity?”

The couple, who had taken permission from the East Khasi Hills district administration, held up banners that said “Assault on innocent non-tribals is nothing less than barbarism”. (Express Photo)

Kalpana said that it was heartening to see that many tribal activists also supported the protest and showed up to show solidarity. “They told us that the step we have taken is bold,” said Kalpana, who was also born in Shillong.

Agnes Kharshiing, prominent social activist, who attended the protest said that they were “opposed to atrocities and violence in a civil society”.

“In our state, we follow the philosophy of ‘Tip briew tip Blei’, which means we have to respect each one. We demand immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the Lumdiengjri incident, as well as other atrocities, and strongly condemn it,” she said.

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