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By Ibankyntiew Mawrie | Dec 27, 2018:

From the fall of the ‘Mighty Congress’ to the rise of a new Government; from landmark decisions to controversial bills; from granting freedom to a cop-turned militant to thumping a final nail on the GNLA’s coffin; from violent protests to weeks without internet; from brutal attacks to tragic accidents, Meghalaya has seen it all.

A lot has happened in the past one year — the ‘abode of Clouds’ — Meghalaya witnessed not only changes but was also reminded of the grim days when the Pine City was subjected to curfews, internet shutdown, flag marches and law and order failure.

Before we go dwell into the incidents which rocked the state (both in a good and bad way), it’s worth mentioning about some developments which doesn’t seem to fit in any of the mentioned categories.

THESE INCIDENTS MADE HEADLINES IN 2018

  • After being ruled by the Congress for 8 years, the electorates of Meghalaya bestowed the key of governance to a new coalition government led by the National People’s Party (NPP) with Conrad K Sangma as the Chief Minister.
  • The countless political dramas are just too hard to ignore like the resignation of Congress veterans like DD Lapang, MM Danggo, AL Hek and others to join parties which are at the helms of affairs; a divided ruling house over a common candidate for the upcoming Lok Sabha Polls besides a number of other interesting developments.
  • After spending years in prison, ex-Chairman of the GNLA, Champion Sangma was granted bail and is now heading a social organisation —
    A’chik Holistic Awakening Movement (AHAM),
  • The controversial Khasi Lineage Amendment Bill 2018 passed by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) was one of the most discussed topics, an issue which divided the Khasi community into two sides. It was also during this time that social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp were widely used to spew hatred and toxicity.
  • Like the Khasi Lineage Bill was not enough, the KHADC CEM HS Shylla made a controversial comment on “Third Gender”. He stated that the council “will not recognise third gender in the KHAD (Khasi Social Custom of Lineage) (First and Second Amendment) Bills”.
  • The student groups and the state government displayed “Unity” in their protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, proposed by the Centre to make migrants of six communities eligible for citizenship of India and also in their fight against the fallout of NRC in Assam.
  • A controversial judgment by Judge of Meghalaya High Court, Justice SR Sen this month where he observed that India should have declared itself a Hindu nation at the time of partisan has sparked controversy across the nation.

Here is a List of some of the Good things that happened in Meghalaya in 2018: –

THE GOOD

  • The signing of the host city contract for hosting the 39th National Games in Meghalaya in 2022 has been dubbed as a ‘historic day’ for the sports fraternity in the state.
  • In a first, 67 all women polling stations manned by women polling officials and women polling agents were operated successfully during the Feb 27 Assembly election in the state.
  • Meghalaya Government paved way for the recognition of the transgender population in the State following the amendment of Meghalaya Registration of Birth and Death Rules, 1999 by the Cabinet.
  • Meghalaya featured in the list of Top 5 states with highest female employment rate in India.
  • Meghalaya’s most feared militant outfit — Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) was supposedly wiped out following the death of its Commander-in Chief, Sohan D Shira, who was shot dead on Feb 24 by Meghalaya police commandoes in an encounter at Achakpek near Dobu in East Garo Hills.
  • The naming of a new geological time scale after Meghalaya. The Meghalayan Age refers to a period which began 4,200 years ago and experienced an abrupt mega-drought and cooling around the globe.
  • Four Khasi women made it to first all-women SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team inducted by Delhi Police for anti-terrorist operations along with 32 others from other states.
  • After being associated with the banned militant outfit — Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) since its inception, the outfit’s general secretary, Cherishsterfield Thangkhiew surrendered before the Deputy Chief Minister Mr Prestone Tynsong in October.
  • Meghalaya ranked first amongst the northeast states at the State Energy Efficiency Index, though the state is still categorized as an ‘Aspirant’ based on its efforts and achievements towards energy efficiency implementation.
  • Meghalaya High Court got its first Khasi judge. Senior Advocate, Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew was appointed as the new Judge of Meghalaya HC in November.
  • Meghalaya received much appraisals and recognition besides bagging many medals and awards in the field of music, sports, art and culture besides other sectors.
  • Betshwajohn Lyngdoh from Meghalaya’s remote village Kaitkohram was conferred with the Bapu Gaidhani Award for his act of bravery, where he saved his 3-year-old brother Airbus Lyngdoh Peinlang from being burnt alive.
  • In a show of political unity, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly in September unanimously passed a long-sought after resolution to urge the Government of India to include Khasi and Garo languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • The State cabinet in September approved the State Education Policy 2018, a decision taken after months of consultations and discussions with stakeholders.

Moving on to the Bad/Sad things that happened in the state this year

THE BAD

  • Meghalaya was placed at the bottom in the “ease of doing business” rankings among states and Union Territories in a ranking prepared by World Bank.
  • Meghalaya topped the list of tobacco use by youth at 96.4 per cent as well as the use of heroin at 27.3 per cent in the country as revealed by Dr W. Kharshiing, managing director, Woodland Institute of Nursing, at its first national conference in the month of July.
  • Three people lost their life following a clash over land ownership between the Manar clan and village Dorbar of Amlanai village in West Jaintia Hills in the month of July.
  • Teachers across the state had to hit the streets time and again to demand the release of their salaries and arrears.
  • A blow to the Freedom of the Press in the state:
    • A senior journalist, Biplab Dey was attacked by a group of 20-25 miscreants after he tried to stop some trucks that were illegally carrying timber from Meghalaya to Assam in January.
    • Editor of The Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim became of target of a crime after two unidentified persons hurled a petrol bomb at her residence in April.
  • Social media became the new platform to spread rumours, defame an individual, spew hatred and incite violence. Rumour mongering was indeed one of the toughest crimes faced by law enforcers. Hate comments on various social media platforms were evident during the Shillong Violence, the passage of the Khasi Lineage Bill, attack on RTI activist Agnes Kharshiing and her aide, Amita Sangma.

THE SAD

  • Noted entrepreneur and philanthropist from Meghalaya, Honsen Lyngdoh breathed his last on Jan 23 morning in Super Care Hospital at the age of 82 years after a prolonged illness.
  • Meghalaya cultural star — Leslie Harding Pde popularly known as ‘Bah Best Bha’ passed away at a hospital in January following a brief illness.
  • Senior Congress leader and former Meghalaya Governor M M Jacob passed away in July at a private hospital in Pala near Kottayam due to age-related ailments.
  • A Congress legislator passed away in October at a Delhi hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest. Clement Marak, who represented Selsella in Meghalaya, is survived by his wife and two children.
  • Rev. Sr Liliana K Marak, the first Garo nun, also fondly referred to as ‘Lily of the Garo Hills’ passed away on June 30 at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong. She was 93 years old.
  • Renowned missionary, Father Joseph Cilia SDB passed away on December 10 at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong.

Save the Worst for Last : –

THE UGLY

  • The Shillong violence — a law an order breakdown which was a grim reminder of the late 80s and early 90s when the city was burning, surely did project Shillong in bad light. Normal life was affected, internet was banned, Meghalaya’s biggest market place — Iewduh was hit badly and tourism dropped drastically.
  • NCP candidate from Williamnagar, Jonathone N Sangma was killed in IED blast orchestrated by the GNLA at Denanggre in East Garo Hills on February 19. He was on his way back from a village to carry out an election campaign when his vehicle carrying 5 other occupants was blown up.
  • RTI activist, Agnes Kharshiing and her aide, Amita Sangma were attacked in November 8 by around 35-40 people at Tuber Sohshrieh in East Jaintia Hills. They had gone to the district to investigate into illegal coal mining and transportation. Both survived the horrific incident and suffered serious injuries.
  • Meghalaya Coal Mine Tragedy: More than 13 miners are still trapped inside a rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills. While their survival chances is slim, the rescue parties are still on the job to bring them out. This incident exposed an open secret — the truth (illegal mining) which the government has constantly been refusing to accept.
  • The Meghalaya government had to order a shutdown of mobile Internet and messaging services in the entire Garo hills after the government received reports of impending violence just a day after members of Garo Students’ Union, Federation of Khasi-Jaiñtia and Garo People, A’chik Youth Welfare Organisation and Association for Democracy and Empowerment stormed the office of Garo Hills Autonomous District Council member Sofiur Rehman at Tura in West Garo Hills to demand his removal from the post of forest advisory committee chairman.
  • Violence erupted at Nartiang in October as an argument over the appointment of priests at the Nartiang Durga temple went awry. The argument resulted in the villagers of Nartiang clashing with the police where over 40 persons, including police personnel and ASP P Syiem, were injured in the clash.

(The writer can be reached at iban@thenortheasttoday.com or mawrie.iban@gmail.com)

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