A delegation comprising three residents of Bholaganj, East Khasi Hills met with Governor Satya Pal Malik today and submitted a memorandum of grievances that they claimed were being inflicted on the Hindu population living in the area around Bholaganj and Ichamati.
Since the February 28 Ichamati incident, where a meeting against the Citizenship Amendment Act organised by a conglomeration of pressure group came under attack, resulting in the death of a Khasi Students Union (KSU) member, the Hindu non-tribal population in Bholaganj-Ichamati has come under severe persecution, the trio who met the Governor – Prantush Sarkar, Mridul Das and Binayak Roy – said in their memorandum.
The delegation claimed that “tremendous efforts” have been made by the state government and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), with help from the police and in “connivance” with pressure groups to stop the Hindu population from earning their livelihoods as their business establishments have been forced to close, ostensibly because of a lack of trading licences or no-objection certificates (NOCs).
However, if the non-tribals do not have trading or labour licences it is because the KHADC has made it difficult for them to acquire the necessary permissions as part of the council’s plan to “uproot and de-establish the Hindu non-tribal population of the state,” the trio said, especially the 7,000 families in Ichamati and Bholaganj. As a side note, the memo also claimed that the KHADC is not only against Hinduism but also against the indigenous faiths of Meghalaya and has “systematically” removed non-Christian traditional headmen.
The memo went on to state that the administration of the state has been “hijacked by goons” belonging to several pressure groups and the government has given these groups a free hand to conduct their “illegal activities” against the non-tribal population.
These NGOs have been inspecting the business establishments’ paperwork and checking ID documents of the public, the memo’s signatories claimed.
Other grievances include the non-issuance of voter cards and birth certificates to the non-tribals, which has the effect of depriving their children from going to school and adults from getting work under the rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGA) and preventing non-tribals from import/export trade.
The memo also appears to say that the non-tribal population is forced to undertake Benami activities by running their businesses in the names of tribals to escape restrictions imposed on them.
Several arrests have been made by police for the Ichamati violence and the “illegal and unnecessary” arrest of male members has resulted in the women and children they left behind feeling helpless, the delegation stated, and in positions of financial insecurity.