NGOs – Railway protest Gain Momentum

SHILLONG, JUNE 17: Three pressure groups on Friday decided to stage a sit-in-demonstration on June 21, to pressurize the ruling Congress led state government to immediately stop the construction of the railway line in Ri Bhoi District.

The decision was taken at a meeting held between the Federation of Khasi-Jaintia & Garo People (FKJGP), Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) and Ri Bhoi Youth Federation (RBYF) here on Friday.

Addressing reporters after the meeting, FKJGP president W Rani said that the sit-in-demonstration to be held at parking lot adjacent to the Additional Secretariat building will mark the start of the protest against the railway project in the state.

“We have decided to mount pressure on the state government to ensure the railway project in Ri Bhoi is immediately put on hold,” he said.

It may be mentioned here, the construction works of the Tetelia-Byrnihat railway line in Ronghona village under Byrnihat police outpost has been stopped after the protest by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) last month.

Also demanding the government to invite them for talks, he said they have also sought appointment with the government after it failed to respond to the separate memorandums submitted by the respective groups earlier.

“We want to put our stand clear before the government that no railway should be allowed until the time that the effective mechanisms to check influx are put in place,” Rani said.

The three NGOs also condemned the Chief Minister Mukul Sangma for proposing railway line up to Sohra (Cherrapunjee) in the name of promoting high-end tourism with a special focus to give best train ride for “romantic couples”.

Terming the proposal as provoking, Rani said, “Instead of coming up with steps to bring back normalcy in the state, the chief minister is trying to provoke those against the railway line.”

Echoing similar views, HYNF general secretary Sadon K Blah said, “The chief minister should also know that influx is not a romance for the indigenous people of the state.”

He further lambasted the Congress government for failing to implement the comprehensive mechanisms, which was a culmination of several dialogues with the 13 NGOs in the past four years, after 2013 ILP agitations.

While there is no signs of implementing the entry/exit points, Blah said the laws like the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, passed by the Assembly is also yet to be implemented.

According to him, the government is even sleeping by not coming up with the Rules for constituting the district task force mandated by the Act.

Adding to this, Rani said that it is impossible for the NGOs to trust the government without seeing these proposed mechanisms are implemented in letter and spirit.

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