Hostels & guest houses: Urban neighbourhood challenges

Editor,

Urban development has brought multiple changes to how land is used, and the mushrooming of hostels and guesthouses is one of the few changes that have emerged. With the increase in the number of colleges around the city, various new economic opportunities have surfaced. Individuals with resources such as land and buildings have tapped into the hostel or guest house economy to fulfil the demand of students and tourists. Wealthy land-owners who grew up in Shillong have now set their sights on distancing themselves away from the city and moved to gated mansions with high-fenced walls surrounded by peace and tranquillity. However, their interests now lie only in commercialising their previous homes or land resources within Shillong. In the process, they tend to forget that their assets (buildings) have neighbours and residents that surround them. The privilege of also moving away from the city is not economically viable for everyone with skyrocketing land prices.
Hostels have mushroomed in various localities, most of which do not generally have a ‘warden’ or do not issue guidelines. The wardens’ role is also questionable as they are often of the same age group as the hostellers and are often exploited and underpaid. The experience of living next to a hostel in Jylli Shop, Nongthymmai, has been eye-opening in the worst way. Considering that the hostel is associated with a college, it is undoubtedly even more alarming to witness the environment they are exposed to. What goes on till the wee hours is only experienced by the neighbours. The selfish nature of the students and the institution is a poor reflection of what society and education have become. Is imparting knowledge now limited to the campus and restricted to formal education?
Teaching humans to coexist and be respectful of their surroundings (neighbours) in this age of social conflict and violence is necessary. Daily reports on police seizing drugs in Meghalaya make the student demographic vulnerable, especially among unsupervised and troubled youths. Furthermore, I am sure that various residents in Shillong within urban neighbourhoods have faced similar experiences living next to hostels and guesthouses. These instances remind me of my college years in Delhi, having witnessed local residents being infuriated with the student community partying in certain localities, most of which have been ghettoised. These new commercial developments (hostels and guesthouses) have reduced the quality of life in urban neighbourhoods. Now that the government is keen on promoting “Tourism”, the weekends in Shillong have seen few guest houses occupied by drunken youths. With Shillong now gearing itself up for a wide range of festivals to promote mass tourism that profits the pockets of a few, we can expect more chaotic weekends within urban neighbourhoods.
The change in attitudes of the land owners in Shillong reflects the effects of the neo-tribal capitalist outlook that has integrated itself into our socio-economic world, where our interests are driven by profit. The profits are then used to support consumerist and lavish lifestyles. We might preach ‘community’, ‘sustainability’, ‘equality’ and ‘development’ in our tourist advertisements, political campaigns and education pamphlets. However, in practice, within urban neighbourhoods growing sense of individualism and selfishness has crept in. All these changes are a testament to the fact that Shillong is truly an unplanned city. It has become a space where its value lies only in terms of commercialisation. We must remember that the present commercial hubs are still homes to various residents who cannot afford to leave. Commercial gentrification of urban spaces has reduced the quality of life—steps to maintain the quality of life need to be rethinked.
Furthermore, urban planners/dorbar shnong need to review measures to regulate proper land use to protect and balance economic interests as well as the quality of life of residents. Although guidelines for guesthouses exist, ensuring they are implemented and practised is another challenge. In addition, a comprehensive hostel policy defining what hostels should entail is the need of the hour to place accountability on owners with the increase in crimes and substance abuse.

Yours etc.,

Alexander L Passah,

Via email

The all-Indians are Hindu metaphor

Editor,

The recent statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on his visit here has created quite a flutter. This might pass for a “moderate” comment among BJP supporters, hence let me break it down a little, to shed some light on that alarming statement.
Stating ” all Indians are Hindus” may come across as inclusivity to Hindus but to people from other religions, tribal backgrounds like ours, and castes that are treated horrifyingly, it is a deceleration of assimilation, an instrument of colonisation by the brahmin hegemony. It’s saying, “you may think of yourself as independent in your way of life but only we make the rules.” In a sense, it’s equating, being Indian with being Hindu. When the RSS says all Indians are Hindus we need to understand that for them there is no difference between the two, hence that is the main reason that they can’t think of Muslims, Christians and any other religious followers as Indian. One of the traps laid by the Hindutva brigade involves this false equivalence between the Hindu and the Indian identity.
The reason they consider all Indians as Hindus is that they think we all come from the same stock (like cattle) and we are biological descendants of the same ancestors. Our great and unbroken chains of kings and rulers were interrupted by invaders from outside ( Muslims), and colonisers ( British) and they converted a lot of ” Hindus” to Islam/Christianity. This is the stated reasoning behind movements like Ghar Wapsi-” return home” ( to your religion), because the RSS thinks everyone should accept that they are of the same stock, and if we don’t respect or heed it, we should be heading to Pakistan.
The Hindu identity is just one of the many identities that exist within India and nothing more.

Yours etc.,

Robert R Khongwir,

Via email

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