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HNLC strike partial in city

Shillong, Dec. 23: Lack of transportation services and closure of most business establishments during the dawn-to-dusk strike called by the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) in the Khasi-Jaintia hills region today left people with little choice.

The 12-hour shutdown, which commenced at 6am, evoked a mixed response. But unlike in the past, the streets were half-filled with vehicles and a large number of people from various localities within the city confines were out on the streets. Earlier, whenever the banned outfit called a strike, the streets would be deserted and people would prefer to stay indoors.

However, the shutdown, on the day before Christmas Eve, passed off peacefully without any untoward incident being reported from any part of the region. Also, today being the last working day of the year, government offices registered less attendance while most business establishments at Iewduh (Bara Bazar) and at Khyndailad (Police Bazar) remained shut.

Government buses and a few cabs were seen on the roads but most people from rural areas could not make it to the capital city because they are mostly dependent on private transport. According to a senior official, government offices in Ri Bhoi district recorded 40 per cent attendance while those in West Jaintia Hills saw 53.3 per cent attendance.

In East Jaintia Hills, attendance at government offices was 40 per cent, in West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills it was 15 per cent and in South West Khasi Hills it was 30 per cent. The HNLC had drawn severe criticism from several quarters in this Christian-dominated state for calling the shutdown during the ongoing festive season.

The outfit claimed that the shutdown was called to demand for the release of “political prisoners” who were picked up during the inner-line permit (ILP) agitation, which has gripped the state for nearly four months.

The last time the outfit called a shutdown was during the maiden visit of President Pranab Mukherjee in October this year. Yesterday, chief minister Mukul Sangma urged citizens to replicate the example set by the people of the Garo hills region last year when they defied the shutdown called by the dreaded Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA). Sangma had also announced that the government would hold talks with pro-ILP groups on January 15 to discuss a suitable mechanism to check influx and illegal immigration.