ILP jibber-jabber

Editor,

Senior politicians continue to spar over the ILP in a seeming stalemate. The daily front-page pronouncements from politicians on this contentious issue is only one-upmanship. So we must support Vincent Pala’s position on a modified ILP that does not come in the way of tourism and employment. This is a more pragmatic stand. A blind blockade to supposedly forestall immigrant influx will damage and disrupt the local economy. Tourism has been a boon to the state in the last decade, especially for small vendors and local communities, and such gains must not be lost.

Pala’s “modified ILP”, even though he has not disavowed ILP, reminds us that a nuanced discussion is needed. He rightly said that the mere presence of gates does not stop illegal coal trucks, so a more effective system is needed. Most tourists will arrive in a tourist taxi through the national highway. As they pass the gate a glance inside may show a family and they can be waved through without stopping or asking for credentials. Or a downloadable pre-registration sticker can be placed on the windshield. In this way, only a few will need full verification. This will avoid hassle to genuine tourists and prevent long lines.

The entire country is now open to domestic tourists. Why should they come to Meghalaya if they have to suffer hassle and suspicion at a check gate? Word gets around fast and once Meghalaya is branded as a difficult destination, it will be difficult for tourism to recover. Those who are talking about ‘high-end’ tourism, should remember that first of all, there are very few high-end facilities in the state and that elite tourism benefits only big name hotels and tour operators and not small local business.

I know from personal experience and from friends who have visited other states with ILP in the Northeast that it is not leak-proof. ILP will be circumvented easily by those who are determined to do so and it will only deter genuine visitors. The state will be saddled with one more inefficient scheme.

Another big earner for the local economy is education. If we call Shillong as the education hub of the Northeast, then we must have a more enabling system for students from outside the state. Many local schools and colleges have large numbers of students from outside the state. Apart from tuition fees, they support hostels, guest houses and rented apartments. The out-of-state students are generally from middle to upper-middle class families and they patronize transport, shops and restaurants.  Yet while colleges are opening all over the country, and students have returned to hostels, our state government is dilly-dallying, in spite of UGC providing Covid precaution guidelines.

We need a dose of realism. Meghalaya is a lightweight state and the Centre will look at ILP only from a political angle. They are not bothered about our concerns with illegal influx. Furthermore, there is no hard data to show immigrant threat. ILP and Covid have hit the state with a double whammy. Unless we manage these issues in a more nuanced and practical manner, our state will continue to fall behind. We need leaders like Mr Pala to provide realistic and sensible solutions.

Yours etc.,

Glenn C. Kharkongor,

Via email

Why we riot

Editor,

‘The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,’ tweeted Narendra Modi in response to rioters storming the US Capitol in Washington, DC. On Thursday morning, while condemning the chaotic scenes in the American capital, it appeared Modi was issuing an addendum of sorts to his address in a coded message to India: “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.” What began as a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump’s futile attempt to cling to power devolved into scenes of fear and agony that left a prime ritual of American democracy in tatters. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told all his supporters at a rally in Washington. He added, “Let the weak ones get out… This is a time for strength.” Meanwhile, the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.” Chaos ensued and the entire capital went into lockdown as rioters raided the Capitol building. Shots were fired, protesters were hit and authorities eventually regained control as night fell. Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements started using tear gas in a coordinated effort to get people moving towards the door, then combed the halls for stragglers, pushing the mob farther out onto the plaza and lawn, in clouds of tear gas, flash-bangs and percussion grenades.

This resulted in the  immediate condemnation from a host of countries including Britain, Spain, Germany, Australia and of course, India. This leads to the question why do people have this riot mentality imbued in their sub-conscious mind. The 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, argued that society has a drive towards chaos and destruction.  There are three “classical” theoretical explanations of the crowd that endure in the popular imagination. The first, “mad mob theory”, suggests that individuals lose their sense of self, reason and rationality in a crowd and hence do things they otherwise might not as an individual. The second is that collective violence is the product of a convergence of “bad” – or criminal – individuals enacting their violent personal predispositions together in the same space. The third is a combination of the first two. To quote from a book on the 2011 English riots “Mad Mobs and Englishmen,” ‘evil and unscrupulous people – often outsiders or enemies – take advantage of the gullibility of the crowd in order to use them as a tool for destruction.’

While these explanations are often well rehearsed in the media, however, they do not account for what actually happens during a “riot”. This lack of explanatory power has meant that contemporary social psychology has long rejected these classical explanations as inadequate and even potentially dangerous – not least because they fail to take account of the factors that actually drive such confrontations. In fact, when people riot, their collective behaviour is never mindless. It may often be criminal, but it is structured and coherent with meaning and conscious intent. To address the causes of such violence, we need to understand this. The answer to this is related to how people construct group boundaries as we are more influenced by fellow in-group members than out-group members and the extent to which actions are in line with prevailing group norms. Thus, it is the society and its people which can influence groups to either settle disputes through peaceful or destructive measures. And how do we ensure that we pivot towards peace? We must first start with changing our own negative outlook only then can we become the change we want to be.

 Yours etc.,

Nathan Nengnong,

Shillong-4

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