Shillong, Oct. 27: Pressure groups today declared that they were not responsible for the various cases of arson, which have been taking place during the agitation to demand the implementation of the inner-line permit in Meghalaya.
The groups also expressed their willingness to accept any invitation for talks with the government on the condition that the dialogue should only be on the ILP.
For nearly two months now, the state has been paralysed with shutdowns, and night road blockades apart from picket of offices where incidents of arson were also reported.
Yesterday, one Vikash Nandwal, 34, succumbed to burn injuries at a hospital in New Delhi.
Nandwal was allegedly set on fire after goons poured petrol on him on October 9 inside his shop at Motphran. He had received around 50 per cent burn injuries.
His mortal remains were cremated at Hissar in Haryana today while hundreds of people had gathered last evening at Khyndailad here to hold a candlelight vigil to pay homage to the departed soul.
“We will not take the responsibility for any of the arson cases as we did not direct anyone to commit such acts. We only called for road blockades and picket of offices,” Joe Marwein, the president of Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People, said.
Marwein also said the pressure groups expressed their condolence to Nandwal’s bereaved family.
“We express our deepest condolence to Nandwal’s family as his life was cut short because of certain vested interests who wanted to foment trouble during the ongoing agitation of the pressure groups. While we condemn the incident, which led to Nandwal’s death, we also warn vested interests not to indulge in acts, which would tarnish the image of the groups agitating for the ILP,” he added.
While delivering his homily at Mawlai parish this morning, Shillong archdiocese Archbishop Dominic Jala exhorted the faithful to pray for Nandwal’s soul. “Let us also pray for peace so that the common man will not be affected,” he added.
Governor K.K. Paul also expressed his profound grief at Nandwal’s demise. Paul also spoke to the victim’s father, J. S. Nandwal, and conveyed his deepest condolences to him and his family.
Hynniewtrep National Youth Front general secretary Sadon K. Blah said the groups cannot be held accountable for the cases of arson.
“The law and order has failed, and we have nothing to do with these cases. As a government which is hell-bent in showing its might, it should know how to maintain the law and order,” Blah added.
On whether the groups were ready for talks with the government, Marwein said, “If the government invites us for talks, we will accept, but the talks should only be on the implementation of the ILP.”
KSU president Daniel Khyriem said the government was to be blamed for the stalemate, as it did not accept the demand for implementing the permit regime.
“We appeal to the people to bear with us and if the government still remains adamant, we will be forced to intensify our agitation,” Khyriem said.
However, with several school and college examinations coming in the way, Khyriem said the groups would be resorting to protests, which would not hamper the examination process.
The groups also expressed reservation against the proposed Meghalaya Regulation of Landlords and Verification of Tenants bill, and said they would not be able to deal with the issue of influx and illegal immigration.
According to the petition filed before the special court, the state government has proposed to impose a fine of over Rs 31 crore on the pressure groups.
The proposed amount will be realised from the groups for causing damage to property and injury to persons.
The special court is being headed by First Class Judicial Magistrate R. Rymbai, and was set up by the government to try cases involving the agitating groups.
More than 50 people have been arrested, including members of pressure groups, and cases have been registered against them.
The state government has appointed four advocates to try cases under the Meghalaya Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1947 and the Meghalaya Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous Districts) Act, 1953 having jurisdiction across the state.
These advocates include R. Swer and Jyoti R. Marak as special public prosecutors, and Rajiv Nath and P.C. Das as special assistant public prosecutors.