| Protesters demand lifting of the ban on rat-hole mining at Polo Grounds in Shillong. File picture |
Shillong, Aug. 10: The proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) has announced a two-day shutdown across the Khasi-Jaintia hills to protest against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) ban on coal mining and the “forced signing” of the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement at “gunpoint”.
The shutdown will begin from 6pm on August 13 and will end at 6pm on August 15, HNLC “publicity secretary” Sainkupar Nongtraw said in a statement.
“The shutdown on August 13 and 14 will be against the NGT ban (on coal mining) and the shutdown on August 15 will be a sign of protest against the policy of the government of India in forcing the signing of the Instrument of Accession and Annexed Agreement on August 17, 1948, at gunpoint,” Nongtraw said.
Justifying the shutdown call, he said the “poor people” should try to understand that the total shutdown is “inevitable” as lakhs of “poor people” from Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi and even Garo hills have been “badly affected” by the ban on coal mining.
“What kind of Independence shall the people observe when their livelihood is at stake?” he asked.
“The shutdown is not meant to take away the livelihood of our people, but it is a voice of protest against the NGT and the government of India that is hell bent to throw our poor people into the dungeon of hunger,” Nongtraw said. Medical attendants, ambulance services, media personnel, religious ceremonies are exempted from the purview of the shutdown.
On the NGT ban on coal mining, Nongtraw said it was a “conspiracy” planned years ago.
“The HNLC, after a thorough introspection, has doubts that the present crisis was created by businessmen-turned-Congress leaders in order to regulate mining activities and to monopolise coal trade. If the mining policy is implemented, then only a few tycoons will take over the coal business as it would be difficult for small-time investors to invest huge sums of money,” he alleged.
Nongtraw said the HNLC had not taken up the issue of NGT for protecting the interests of wealthy businessmen, but to stand up for the poor who have been affected by this blanket ban.
“People who claim that none has been affected by the ban should conduct surveys and find out for themselves as who are being deprived of food, education and unemployment,” he added.
Nongtraw also said the government was not at all concerned about protecting the environment all the while because it earned huge revenue amounting to thousands of crores of rupees.
“The government should have made it compulsory to plant trees in coal belts and should have imposed huge fines on people who were responsible for river pollution. The government was a partner in crime of this whole environmental degradation,” the HNLC leader said.
Stating that the poor are made to suffer at the hands of the NGT and the government agencies, Nongtraw said the people would become poorer and die of hunger.
“If the NGT continues this delay tactics then the HNLC would not hesitate to take up action against members of the NGT,” he said.
Pitching for sovereignty, Nongtraw said through sovereignty “we can solve our own problems instead of waiting for the government of India to solve our problems for us”.
“In our own land, we can set up farms, factories, businesses. We can establish our own government and become an independent nation. Once we become separated from the jurisdiction of the government of India, we can then enter into trade and commerce for ourselves with other independent nations. This is the only solution.”