|Writing on the wall. Picture by Andrew W. Lyngdoh
Shillong, Sept. 19: “Aage kya hoga? (What will happen next?)”
This was, perhaps, one of the simplest questions the barber could ask this scribe on one of the most intricate issues confronting Meghalaya today.
He was referring to the ongoing conundrum in the state on the demand made by more than a dozen pressure groups to the Mukul Sangma government — to implement the inner-line permit (ILP) system to check influx and illegal immigration.
Since September 2, a series of agitation — shutdowns, picketing of offices, night road blockades — have been witnessed in the state. Perhaps more protests are in store if one goes by what the chief minister said last night after meeting his colleagues who form the Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) government.
Sangma ruled out the implementation of the permit regime in Meghalaya. This is evidently contradictory to what the groups have been harping on — “No ILP, No Rest” (see picture).
“We don’t want to fool the people, and that is why we are taking the initiative to put in place a mechanism that will ensure illegal influx is checked,” he had said, adding that the draft Tenancy Act would be ready for stakeholders to give their suggestions.
The chief minister had also set aside speculation that the government would sit with the groups again for another round of dialogue while they persist with their agitation.
“There will be no talks so long as they (pressure groups) continue to agitate,” he said.
The groups, on the other hand, have been saying that the government had forced them to protest as it was adamant on their demand.
The Opposition Meghalaya People’s Front (MPF) has reacted strongly to Sangma’s statements.
“We are astounded by the MUA decision, not only to reject the ILP demand, but also to not engage with civil society groups anymore. It epitomises the heady arrogance of a power-drunk establishment with potentially dangerous consequences,” MPF spokesperson and UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh said in a statement today.
The deadlock appears that it will persist for some more time, and it brings everyone back to the question raised by the barber who hails from outside the state: Aage kya hoga?
And perhaps the same question lingers everywhere. Like in Sohra, one of the most attractive tourist destinations Meghalaya can boast of.
Take for instance K. Marwein, a vendor in Sohra. According to him, the ongoing agitation has affected the flow of tourists.
“There should be a solution to the ongoing imbroglio so that it will not affect us who are dependent on tourists for a living,” Marwein, who has been in the business for over 20 years now, said.
Another vendor, Phira Warjri, also echoed Marwein’s views and said her business has gone down as a result of the standoff between the government and the pressure groups. “We are not opposed to the groups. But what we want is a solution to the imbroglio. There should be talks between them and the government so that people like us will not be affected,” she said.
Tonight, people in Meghalaya are bracing for the 12-hour shutdown beginning from 5 am tomorrow.
So what about the answer to the question — Aage kya hoga? — and the fate of vendors like Marwein and Warjri? Only time will tell.