Shillong unrest: Govt faces uphill task

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“Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.”

– Zig Ziglar

After a week-long unrest, whatever unsavoury had happened on that crowed Punjabi Lane (Them Iew Mawlong) since the last day of May, Shillong is slowly and steadily limping back to normal. A mere ‘altercation’ (the cause of which is still unclear) that took place on May 31 between two communities has escalated into a law and order problem affecting the whole city. The unfortunate incident, which rippled across Punjab and the national capital as several top politicians were seen airdashing to Shillong, had taken an ugly turn and finally the whole Shillong city came under curfew after a gap of 15 years. Meghalaya capital, famous as a peaceful tourist destination, suffered a crushing blow in seconds due to the rumours spread via the social network about the incident which occurred near Motphran on May 31. This led to a serious breakdown of law and order and the city since that fateful day plunged into lawlessness. Stone pelting, clashes with the police, tear gas, arsons, torching of show rooms, shops and vehicles in vulnerable localities of the city became the order of the day. People had to flee their homes. Internet connection had to be suspended. Over 100 police personnel were injured, some seriously, during the clashes with protesters as police exercised maximum restraint. The army had to conduct flag march and arrests of miscreants followed.

There is no denying that the genesis of the violence was a rumour –death of small boy. Social media – WhatsApp, Facebook etc — is to be blamed for what followed the May 31 ‘altercation’. Unverified information (news) hogged the limelight in social media and  besides making calls to save ‘the Jaitbynriew’, photographs of ‘victims of police excesses’, live video clips of police ‘highhandedness’  started dominating Facebook and WhatsApp and other social platforms. But things were blown out of proportions through the social media. Seeing no other option to contain it before the same takes a turn into a full-fledged communal riot, the government had to clamp a ban on mobile internet service. Under such a volatile situation, the daily wage earners and the farming community, who needs to sell their produces, are among the affected lot. The worst hits is tourism industry with both domestic and international tourists cancelling and cutting short their visit to the much-touted Scotland of the East. Coming days will tell us the ramification of this unrest as far as tourism industry is concerned.

The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government under Conrad K Sangma, which deserves a pat for exercising an utmost restraint (using force) while dealing with the protesters, now faces an uphill task – relocating the entire population of Punjabi Lane to a new area as demanded by protestors, various student bodies, pressure groups and a few politicians. The residents, who consist of employees of the District Council and Municipality, insist the locality is their own home. Though the government has set up a high-level committee under deputy chief minister, Prestone Tynsong to recommend feasible solutions to end the impasse, but there is no specific time frame given to the panel. The panel needs to involve all stakeholders in its endeavor. Politicians instead of playing the blame game should join hands with the government in finding a lasting solution.

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