Shella MDC Teiñwell Dkhar today claimed that one of the reasons for the vocal and incendiary claims made by the non-Khasi people of the Ichamati area recently is because many run their businesses through Benami and fear that the authorities will crack down on such illegal arrangements.
Dkhar is of the opinion that the murder of Lurshai Hynniewta in February, allegedly by non-Khasis during a meeting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which led to subsequent unrest in the state and several arrests of suspects in the murder, has also created great insecurity in the minds of illegal immigrants in the area who fear that they will lose their livelihoods.
Three non-tribal residents of Bholaganj met with Governor Satya Pal Malik recently and made serious accusations of persecution faced by the Hindu population of the state. These claims have been heard beyond the borders of Meghalaya and have been taken up by organisations in West Bengal, with battle lines being drawn on social media, if not yet in the real world.
The former leader of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, however, said that there are some genuine non-Khasi residents in the Ichamati area whose ancestors moved to the area decades ago, well before Bangladesh independence and are therefore not illegal migrants from the neighbouring country.
These old-timers were warmly welcomed by the indigenous people and their descendants continue to live in peace and harmony with the Khasis.
“Except for these few non-Khasi families, there are no others who have land documents in Ichamati, especially under Elaka Mawlong, as no non-Khasi can even procure land here and most of them conduct business through Benami, which is illegal,” Dkhar told Highland Post.
More and more illegals began marrying Khasi women and this, in turn, led to an explosion in Benami, he claimed, which further encouraged more illegal migration.
The murder of Hynniewta saw indigenes less willing to employ non-Khasis and local institutions have “also started to strictly verify documents of non-Khasis to find out if they are Indians or not and those who don’t have valid proof are losing their businesses in the area and are now going made and ready to bite anyone” and spread rumours, Dkhar said.
“They came [pre-planned and] armed with weapons and killed a Khasi youth who just attended a meeting and now, in turn, are saying that it is the traditional institutions, local youth, NGOs, the District Council and police who are harassing them,” he added. “We will end this Benami problem here. It is the root cause of all this tension and problems and I demand the state government not to remain a mere spectator to these serious incidents but to punish the culprits who have spread communal rumours everywhere and even used religion for their selfish motives.”
Dkhar also criticized former Governor Tathagata Roy, who yesterday likened the Khasi Students Union (KSU) with the banned Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).
“Are the KSU armed like the [militant] outfit? All they are doing is openly fighting for the rights of the indigenous Khasi people,” he stated.