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Meghalaya plunges into New Year

It’s a new world/It’s a new start

It’s alive with the beating of young hearts

It’s a new day... – Bryan Adams

Participants in the swimming pool. Picture by UB Photos

Shillong, Jan. 1: At the stroke of midnight, people in Meghalaya, whether at home or in clubs, pubs and on the streets, welcomed the New Year with warmth and revelry.

Dismounting from 2013 and stepping into 2014 was not effortless though. The state faced testing times through the preceding year, but people greeted the New Year with renewed hope, like Bryan Adams sang in Here I Am.

Apart from the customary exchange of greetings, a group of young and old enthusiasts welcomed the New Year by plunging themselves into an icy-cold swimming pool.

For the past 17 years now, Forever Young Sports Club has been organising the midnight dip at the Crinoline pool here. This time was no better as 60 ice blocks, each weighing 50kg, were put inside the swimming pool before the bold and the brave took the plunge.

“Plunging into the pool is to welcome the New Year with a prayer to God to give us strength to face the challenges in life,” Michael N. Syiem, the man behind the annual event, said. Participants were not allowed to consume any intoxicants as the organisers felt that drinking would contradict the event’s objective.

“Greeting the New Year does not essentially mean drinking and frolicking. This celebration of ours is to strengthen ourselves,” Syiem said.

Arrested GNLA rebels. File picture

As the people were revelling, police were busy seizing liquor from different parts of the state capital. This was done to ensure unalloyed celebrations.

East Khasi Hills superintendent of police M. Kharkrang said at Polo Bazaar 27,060ml and 120 bottles of alcohol were found abandoned in three godowns.

From the Laitumkhrah MUDA parking lot, 10 litres of illicit liquor were found abandoned while at AC Lane, Khyndailad, 10 bottles of alcohol were seized, leading to the arrest of Dawa Polma Lama.

At Them Mawbah, the police arrested Metok Dolker and seized 3,855ml of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL).

Moreover, Lumdiengjri police conducted a raid at Motphran here, and in Mawmih village, seizing around 11,000ml of IMFL. They destroyed approximately 100 litres of countrymade liquor. From Umkaliar, the police seized 18,975ml of unclaimed illicit liquor.

As the euphoria and merrymaking subside over the next few days, residents of this hill city will be back to normal business.

For the Mukul Sangma-led government, pending issues will hold sway in the coming weeks. The first of the issues to resolve is the inner-line permit (ILP) stalemate, lascerating the state for the past four months.

Sangma had last month announced the government’s decision to invite the pro-ILP groups for talks on January 15. However, the groups are yet to decide whether they would participate in the discussion. The chief minister had made it clear that the groups should come to the negotiating table with an “open mind”.

Militancy in the Garo hills region will be the other issue which will dominate the government’s agenda. The mushrooming of militant outfits with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) playing the most dreaded role will require an effective response from the law enforcing agencies. These, and other unresolved issues will certainly hog the limelight, though some good news are also expected to emanate from other ambits of society, such as sports and music.

While the government’s tasks remain cut out, political parties will be busy in preparing for the polls to the three autonomous district councils, which are likely to be held in mid-February.

However, the larger question that looms on everyone’s mind is whether the New Year would redeem the abode of the clouds from the challenges it faced in 2013. Perhaps, like Adams sings, “After all this time/ Our time has come.”

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