Monday, March 4, 2024

Riposte to PM Passah’s article

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Editor,
This letter is addressed to PM Passah in relation to some of the claims that he had made in his article ‘The Meghalaya State Anthem’. I have dealt with a few of his observations in my article ‘Constructing/Reconstructing Jaintia History’ but I would like clarification on some more points. It is possible that Passh is already formulating a response to my rebuttal, which he can, if he chooses to and can also think of discussing the issues being raised in this letter as well. According to him, it was U Shyllong between 11th and 12th centuries who led the Jaintias in populating the Khasi Hills. However, this contradicts the archeological evidence that Khasi people were already present in Khasi Hills at least a thousand years earlier. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal extracted from sites around Nongkrem and Sohra has established that 2000 years ago (500 years before the supposed migration from Kamarupa), these areas already had a thriving iron smelting industry associated with the Khasis. This was reported by Pawel Prokop and Ireneusz Suliga in their paper ‘Two thousand years of iron smelting in the Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, North East India’. So, based on the 1500-year-old theory, when the Janitia came to the hills, the Khasis were already well established in the Khasi Hills. He also discussed the great exodus led by Sajar Nangli in the 16th century that populated the Khasi Hills. In this regard, I would like to inform that Betty Laloo’s PhD thesis gives a detailed account of the life of Sajar Nangli, the reason for his exodus, and the routes he took. It’s available online, and I would suggest readers read it and find out if PM Passah’s claims stand scrutiny. A map has also been provided to give a visual perspective with the names of the places Sajar Nangli passed through and where he actually ended up, I will let the readers discover for themselves. Finally, there is the linguistic evidence that War and Lyngngam are older than Pnar from which Khasi (Sohra dialect) emerged. The first two languages existed more than 2000 years ago and Pnar emerged only around 1400 years ago. But based on PM Passah’s claim, the Jaintias or the Pnar should not be on the list because when the divergence was taking place, they were in Kamarupa and not in present-day Meghalaya, where the earliest groups who are genetically related to the Pnar, the War, and Lyngngam are still found. So, this scheme is all wrong, which also contradicts the genetic evidence that all the groups belong to the ethnic stock. Maybe PM Passah will come up with his own new scheme or has unearthed some genetic evidence that Pnars are actually not part of the Khasi group. Hopefully, Passah or his apologists would answer the queries raised in the article ‘Constructing/Reconstructing Jaintia History’ and to this letter.
Yours etc.,
Bhogtoram Mawroh
Via email

The Shillong Times’ outcry against ecological exploitation
Editor,
The illegal quarrying near the Wahniangleng reservoir raises many questions. It exposes the glaring incompetence and lack of vision of the state’s environmental watchdogs. Where were the Forest Department and the Pollution Control Board, Soil and Water Conservation Department et al, all these years? The crux of the matter lies in how such extensive quarrying activities could be carried on unnoticed for over a decade and a half, making this a serious case of dereliction of duty. The concerned citizens now deeply lament that the tributaries that feed the Wahniangleng reservoir are already drying up. Given the Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme’s dependence on this reservoir, the likely threat of a severe water crisis in the city is undeniable.
Let me quote words of caution from Friday’s special article by Patricia Mukhim, “What’s tragic is that people have such short memories and have already forgotten how homes and humans were carried away in the flash floods in May and June 2022 in West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills and Garo Hills. Much of this devastation is triggered by unregulated stone quarrying, which first involves deforestation and then gouging out the earth to pull out the rocks and boulders as if there is no tomorrow. And most of those boulders are transported to Bangladesh via Dawki.” (ST, February 9, 2024). This way we are making our state pale and weaker. What does the future hold for coming generations when the heat of climate change is increasing by the day?
Well, it is so easy to point fingers at the quarry owners. I dare say they practically do not know the horrific impacts of rampant quarrying on the environment and ecosystem. Ignorance is bliss for them. However, the fact is whether the competent authorities have ever launched any environmental awareness campaigns and why we need to conserve the soil and forest. I don’t think so. Even coal is still being mined in a crude manner in the state despite the NGT ban and so much hue and cry and action from no less than the High Court. What is certain now is that our progeny will have to face the catastrophic consequences of our acts of greed.
Yes, we have so easily forgotten the devastating floods that struck Kerala in 2018 and 2019. Environmental experts point to rampant deforestation, “irresponsible mining, and quarrying” as major contributors to these unprecedented disasters. The calamity resulted in the tragic loss of 470 lives and property damage is estimated at Rs 40,000 crores. What more? About one and a half million people had to take refuge in relief camps across the state. I think these frightful facts and figures should be neatly put up on the walls of the offices of the State Disaster Management Authority, Forest Department and Pollution Control Board. Let them know what might happen if they remain complacent.
What if ‘The Shillong Times’ had not brought to light this massive stone quarrying case of Laitkroh? I am sure we’d probably still be in the dark, possibly for another decade or until some major disaster struck. Kudos to investigative journalism for a better tomorrow.
Incidentally, let’s put all our efforts into supplying our surplus oranges, pineapples, ginger, turmeric, squash etc., to Bangladesh, or even, Australia, but not stone, sand, coal and timber. What’s the point of this mindless chase for wealth if our children are going to be crushed by a series of climatic catastrophes?
Yours etc.,
Salil Gewali,
Shillong

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