Stop this racism & xenophobia !

Editor,

The recent incident wherein two students from Kerala were assaulted in a tea shop at a locality in Shillong yet again highlights the persecution of the non- tribals that is rampant and has been present in the state for as long as I can remember. All this overlaps with racism and xenophobia. It is vile. It is disturbing. Yet people of this State have lived in denial of this shameful reality for decades now . Xenophobic-driven shameful mistreatment of non-tribals has existed since the 1970s and not just with outsiders but even with local residents and citizens of the State as well. The persecution of non-tribals in our State is turning out to be subtle like a snub and blatant like a riot. As a citizen of Meghalaya it is embarrassing to see and hear of such incidents where non-tribals and outsiders are persecuted, bad- mouthed and beaten up for no reason. Thousands of students come here  to study, work. Imagine having to be constantly on guard and ever aware of the dangers lurking in public and online spaces. It’s absurd. Also it’s not just the outsiders that face this but the non-tribal insiders as well! Imagine having to live with the generational trauma of persecution .

On one hand – the Government is opening up the Tourism industry, where thousands of locals are getting employment and increasing their purchasing capacity by running various small scale and medium scale tourism driven enterprises and businesses. On the other hand, a section of the society is inclined to vile, xenophobic activities that  are a hindrance to the overall economic development of the State. Such incidents will only deter tourists from outside the state to visit Meghalaya because of the fear psychosis.

We need to denounce violence and defeat it. This ‘ Shoh dkhar ‘ and ‘ Beh Dkhar ‘ attitude must end. There’s an emphasis on using our voices to say that racism is not alright and will not be tolerated. Nothing has ever changed by being silent. We can all use our gentle but firm voices, whether we are directly impacted or not. I have a voice, but it’s a voice I want to use effectively to promote awareness and to gently move towards a society of tolerance. If this letter causes any discomfort or makes anyone defensive, please know that I wrote it as honestly and as mindfully as I could.

Yours etc.,

Manisha M Pala

Shillong .

 Need for societal introspection

Editor,

Your esteemed daily publishes many valuable write ups, news reports and letters to the editor regarding the incident of a father Jeofresson Jana murdering his own children. This incident has shaken the civil society of Meghalaya in general and Shillong in particular. Many right-thinking people have expressed their shock and anguish in the last few days. Violence against women and children in Meghalaya is increasing. This is a serious concern for all Meghalayans as Uma Purakayastha has rightly pointed out and it is not only confined to any particular community.

The question that arises is, ‘Which society are we living in today, where a father ‘The Rakshak’ (protector), becomes ‘The Vakshak’ (killer /destroyer)? Human civilization has progressed but in some areas we have regressed. Family is the prime institution of civilised human society where father and mother are the protectors of their children. This bond develops with the feelings of security supported by trust, love and care.

After the intervention of the Chairperson, Meghalaya State Commission for Women, Ms Phidalia Toi, it is revealed that the killer father is an alcoholic. This is another matter of serious concern.  Research will reveal that many crimes committed here are done under the influence of alcohol or drug abuse. New wine stores are coming up here, as the Government is dependent on the revenue from this source. Alcohol is available in every nook and corner.  Easy availability of alcohol tempts people to consume it. Now the Govt is also contemplating revenue generation from Casinos. At the end of the day women and children will suffer.

While agreeing that addiction is an illness and rehabilitation centres are there for their treatment. But post rehab when they return home, they are bogged down by the same environment of poverty, broken family, unemployment, peer pressure etc. This pushes them back to their old habits.  Only a few problems are mentioned here. There are many more societal problems that need to be unearthed. The Social Welfare Department, Education Department, Health Department, Traditional and Religious Institutions, NGOs and right-thinking individuals across caste, creed and community must jointly work on these burning issues. The State and Central Women and Child Welfare Departments have special responsibility to address this societal crisis.

Merely shedding tears will not work. The root causes are to be identified and remedial measures suggested. Social sciences have been neglected so far due to excessive technological advancements. More focus must be given to social science as it deals with welfare of society. Human life evolves around its social, political, economic, cultural and religious aspects. We cannot forget this.

Hearty thanks to Patricia Mukhim, Glen Kharkongor, Uma Purkayastha, Ms P. Toi and others for their eye-opening write-ups on these issues, especially in a state where it is said that women are placed in a high position. There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Striya Jotro Pujyonte, totro romyante debota,” meaning “God is pleased in that place where women are respected.” Hope Meghalaya will come out of this nightmare if we all work collectively, because where women suffer, children suffer automatically and society suffers as a whole. As a teacher of Meghalaya, I suffer when I see my students, the children and youths are suffering along with their mothers.

Yours etc.,

Reeta Ghosh

Shillong -4

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