Condemnations have poured in following the attack of migrant workers in Umoid Village, as Chief Minister Conrad Sangma warned of stern action against perpetrators of the crime.
The Catholic association in Shillong has called for a thorough investigation into the incident and to bring to justice the culprits who have committed the heinous crime and to thwart any attempt to bring about disharmony and peace in the area.
Catholic Association, Shillong general secretary Barnabas Nongbah informed that the St. Xavier’s College is scheduled to start in June, 2021. “Necessary permission/NOC has been obtained from the Directorate of Higher and Technical Education and the process in going for seeking affiliation of the college to the North Eastern Hills University,” he said.
Nangbah said that since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the construction was behind schedule and in order to keep to the deadline for opening of regular classes for the college, it was felt necessary to bring in additional skilled labourers.
“With all good intentions the management of the institute has sought the permission and cooperation from all and sundry. It is therefore, unfortunate that some unidentified miscreants have resorted to violence,” he said.
It may be noted that besides the college, the St. Xavier’s Higher Secondary School was established in 2019 and it was the first school which has adopted the jainsem as a uniform for the Girl students of the school and the students at St. Xavier’s are mostly from the poor agricultural families.
Friends of Jesuits, Shillong too has condemned the incident and said that the incident demonstrates the sad state of affairs in remote areas gripped by the narrative propagated by fear mongers who propagate brute force as raison d’être.
“At the time when we all know that the particular region is driven by poverty and utter lack of socially ameliorating initiatives from the government, we believe the best that could have been done was what the leaders of Society of Jesus did by negotiating with civil society, local authority and the public to ensure that legal procedures were followed to bring the skilled labourers to develop a world class institution in the area. However, it is sad to note that as members of the society we have never ask any question on the lack of interest by the local high-and-mighty class who have concentrated their energy and resources only in get-rich quick economic activities by destroying our environment through coal and limestone mining,” Convenor of the society, Moses Kharbithai said.
The Workers Power of Meghalaya (WPM), TUR and Meghalaya & Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association (MGSPHSVA) have also condemned the incident.
Seeking justice for the victims, the organisations said perpetrators of the crime should immediately be arrested and families of those affected be compensated.
“Migrant workers rights need to be protected. The state and its institutions, be it the labour department, the district councils down to the dorbar shnongs have to take more responsibility to protect every worker,” the organisations, said, adding, “Even contractors or employers of workers have to take the responsibility of ensuring workers avail their rights as per law.”
The Chief Minister said, “These incidents are being done by individuals who will be termed as criminals; in fact, death has taken place which makes them murderers; of course, there are laws to deal with such incidents, and we will be dealing with this in an appropriate manner. Those people responsible for this act will not be let go freely and we ensure that these kinds of incidents don’t happen.”
Meanwhile, following the attack the Jesuit Society has indefinitely put on hold all construction work and classes for students.
“The members of the Managing Committee have been informed about the unfortunate developments and are working with the Jesuit authorities to find a mutually acceptable solution. Until a satisfactory solution is found, the Education Council of the Jesuit Society for North East India has resolved that all work in Umoid will indefinitely be kept on hold, including the running of classes,” Principal and Director of the school Paul Coelho in a statement said.
He said that St. Xavier’s is committed to the advancement of the local communities and to advancing the educational aspirations and employment opportunities of the youth. “On occasions when the school authorities, despite their sincerest efforts, have inadvertently overlooked any requirement, they have readily apologized and tried to resolve the problem.”