| (Above) Opposition legislators surround Speaker Abu Taher Mondal in the the Assembly on Friday while school students who were invited to witness the proceedings look on. Pictures by UB Photos
Shillong, Oct. 4: The inner-line permit (ILP) heat, which has singed Meghalaya for more than a month now, perforated the temple of parliamentary democracy today.
The cool temperature outside belied hopes of an unruffled start to the autumn session of the Meghalaya Assembly as unprecedented pandemonium was witnessed when Opposition members stormed the Well of the House.
The chaos originated from Speaker Abu Taher Mondal’s ruling in disallowing an adjournment motion on the implementation of the ILP and the subsequent breakdown of law and order.
It was moved by 10 Opposition members including leader of the Opposition, Donkupar Roy.
After question hour, Mondal, citing rules, opined that the motion could not be permitted as a resolution and a question on ILP had already been accepted by him and would be taken up in the House next week.
The resolution on the ILP was tabled by HSPDP legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit while a question on the permit regime will be brought by NPP legislator James P.K. Sangma.
UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh reacted to the ruling by saying that the text of the adjournment motion referred to an urgent matter of public importance as the one-month-old agitation has led to the deterioration of law and order.
“All members of this House are deeply disturbed by the current situation where life has been derailed. It is true that there is a resolution to discuss the feasibility of the ILP, but the context of the adjournment motion is different. The motion has been brought not in anticipation, but to discuss the prevailing situation where there is already a breakdown in law and order,” Lyngdoh submitted while appealing to Mondal to reverse his ruling.
Garo National Council legislator Clifford R. Marak said the motion should be accepted as the law and order situation, especially in Khasi-Jaintia Hills, has turned from “bad to worse”.
Roy chipped in by saying that the motion intends to discuss an issue of public importance, and not to force the government to bow down to the pressure groups or the Opposition. “We are drifting away from peace, and I do not know where we are heading,” he added.
|Veteran Congress legislators and former chief ministers D.D. Lapang and Salseng C. Marak in the Assembly on Friday. Picture by UB Photos
NPP legislator James P.K. Sangma said the deterioration of the law and order scenario was serious, which warranted a discussion through the adjournment motion.
However, Mondal stuck to his earlier ruling, which made Clifford Marak walk into the Well of the House. He was subsequently joined by other Opposition members.
“If we do not discuss here, then where?” “Do not force us to go to the streets” — were some of the phrases overheard as the legislators tried to impress upon Mondal the need to allow the motion.
Guarded by marshals, Mondal tried to pacify the agitated members by saying, “I am not partisan. I am going by the rules. Please go back to your seats.”
As the noise swamped the House, with some of the members even thumping Mondal’s desk, Congress legislator Ronnie V. Lyngdoh stood up and reacted to the Opposition’s outburst, “We have been held to ransom (by pro-ILP activists) outside, and now inside too.”
The Opposition members became further agitated and the noise just got louder. At this juncture, Mondal adjourned the House for around 15 minutes.
Today’s proceedings were also witnessed by a group of Class X students from a city school.
When proceedings resumed, HSPDP legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit requested Mondal to allow the motion, and said he was ready to give up on the resolution that he had brought.
“All eyes are on us. The House should not be divided if we are really concerned about the tribal people,” Basaiawmoit said.
Mondal again sought to cool tempers. “I am not shying away from the burning issues. I have instantly accepted the question and resolution on the ILP. Ample opportunity will be given to discuss on the issue at length,” the Speaker said.
However, the Opposition members were unrelenting as they wanted the motion to be accepted. They again stormed into the Well and surrounded Mondal, who was once again guarded by marshals.
Slogans like “We want a discussion on the ILP” rent the air as the Speaker proceeded with the remainder of the day’s business.
Ministers, who had to present reports and lay amendments to bills, had to raise their voices as the Opposition members continued with their sloganeering.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma, before reading out the obituary references, expressed dismay over the day’s events.
“It would be in the fitness of things for all the Opposition members to maintain the honour and dignity of this House. I have not seen such kind of demonstration in this House, and I urge upon you to exercise all your powers to ensure that it is not disrupted,” Sangma appealed to the Speaker.
Gradually, the Opposition members returned to their seats but only to stage a walkout while the obituary references were on. The House could, however, transact all the business listed for the day.
James Sangma, as he stormed out of the House, was heard chanting: “Democracy, rest in peace!”