The present stand-off between the State Government on one side and the Rangbah Shnong on the other does not bode well for the state. The Governor Mr Shanmuganatham has correctly sent the Village Administration Bill authored by the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council to the Union Home Ministry which is better placed to look at the Bill not from a tunnel vision of a small state but from the larger national perspective, taking into account the parameters of good grassroots governance which includes the interests of every citizen of Meghalaya and not just a section of tribals. It is evident that the State Government is ready to bow down to the demands of the body of traditional heads because of the fear of what the upcoming protest rally slated for October 30th would trigger. It is unprecedented that a group of people who are actually supposed to be looking after the law and order in their respective localities would themselves become the protestors without having first engaged in talks with the Government. There is no knowing what the aftermath of the incident would be. It could even lead to collapse of law and order because subversive elements would be on the look-out to see how the cookie crumbles for the present State Government. An elected government has the mandate of the people and should therefore not cower before any insolent might. But governments today are inclined to play politics with every issue including those that are related to providing basic governance to all.
The other way to look at this whole issue is that those who are excluded from the purview of the VAB could demand that they too have a right to basic civic governance and if the tribal headmen wish to exclude them then they also have a right to demand a separate Bill that is no less powerful than the VAB. Is this what we want to see happening in Meghalaya? As a Khasi I wish to ask the Rangbah Shnong what is it that they are so afraid of losing if they agree to a uniform Bill passed by the legislature? Who are the Rangbah Shnong protecting? Are they not protecting their turfs and their powers? Are they so concerned about the people under their jurisdiction? If so, have the Rangbah Shnong had consultative meetings with all their constituents in the Shnong? I have not heard my Rangbah Shnong consulting anyone from our locality. Where is the democracy here? If governance is about participation then I think that the Rangbah Shnong have taken their constituents for granted and expect us to endorse all the actions they are taking on our behalf? Is this correct? What happens if someone has a different viewpoint? Let’s not forget that citizens are today no longer dumb driven cattle.
They want to be consulted on all issues and wish to have their views taken on record. Does the VAB have such a mechanism in place? I ask out of genuine concern because if I can point out the flaws of the elected government then I should also have the right to point out the flaws of the Dorbar Shnong which many a times has not covered itself in glory. It is time that people raise their voices and speak up on this issue. Is tradition the holy cow of Khasi-Jaintia society? If tradition is sacrosanct then why not go back to the days of yore on every issue and social practice? Why single out only the Dorbar Shnong and wish for it to be wedded to tradition?