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Violence in the hills: on Shillong unrest

The spark for the week-long incidents of violence in downtown Shillong was a lie spread through WhatsApp, the ubiquitous(सर्वव्यापक/सब जगह का) messaging platform that has increasingly(तेजी से/बढ़ता हुआ) become an unfiltered medium for hate and rumour(अफवाह) -mongering. A scuffle between members of the Mazhabi Sikh community, long-timesettlers(बसने/उपनिवेशिक) in the Punjabi Lane area of the city, and a Khasi youth and his associates over a local matter was amicably(मित्रभाव से) settled between representatives of the communities. But a fabricated (मनगढ़ंत) story that the youth hadsuccumbed(पीड़ित/मर जाना) to injuries sustained in the scuffle led to large numbers of Khasi protesters laying siege(घेराबंदी/अवरोध) to Punjabi Lane, demanding that the Sikh residents move from the area. That the “settlers” have been in Shillong for more than a century and a half, having been originally brought there by the British colonials to work as manual scavengers and have since integrated(संघटित/संपूर्ण) themselves within Shillong, has not insulated them from being described as outsiders. The administration did well to protect the dwellers(में रहने वाले लोगों) of Punjabi Lane from physical harm, but mob(भीड़ ) violence(हिंसा ) persisted(जारी रही) until curfew was imposed and the Army put on stand-by. Spokespersons(प्रवक्ताओं) of the Khasi Students’ Union, whose members were part of the agitation(आंदोलन /खलबली), continue to insist that the Punjabi Lane residents be moved from Shillong’s commercial heart to its outskirts(सरहद/पड़ोस). Picturesque Shillong is no longer just an idyllic hill station; it is a bustling city that has grown in an unplanned manner and requires(की आवश्यकता है/चाहना) reforms such as zoning regulation. But the agitators’ demand to shift the Sikh residents is unreasonable and must be resisted. In fact, the Meghalaya High Court had stayed an order by the District Commissioner to evict the residents from Punjabi Lane (also known as Sweepers’ Colony) in 1986.

Tribal angst over economic issues leading to the scapegoating(बलात्कार )of non-tribal long-time residents reflects the continued failure to forge a more inclusive politics in Meghalaya. Today, there are enough provisions(प्रावधानों) of affirmative action for the tribal(आदिवासी) people — 80% reservation for the Khasi, Jaintia, Garo and other tribes in jobs and professional studies. Yet, discontent(असंतोष/नाराज़गी) persists(बनी रहती है/क़ायम रहना) over the lack of adequate jobs in the State, especially in urban areas. A Labour Bureau report on employment in 2015-16 found Meghalaya to have among the highest urban unemployment rates (13.4%). Discontent over lack of opportunities(अवसरों/सुविधा) in the past had led to incidents such as the violent targeting of the Bengali community in 1979 and Nepalis in 1987, many of whom then fled the State. To prevent a repeat of those incidents, the government must stand by and protect the Sikh residents, and not give in to the nativist(नाटिववादी /स्वदेशी भाव) arguments(बहस/तर्क) of the protestors. And as calm is restored, Meghalaya’s politicians and civil society leaders must forge a more inclusive vision of the State’s demographics(जनसांख्यिकी).



Important Vocabulary

1.Ubiquitous(सर्वव्यापक/सब जगह का)
Synonyms: everywhere, omnipresent, pervasive, universal, all-over
Antonyms: rare, scarce

2.Succumbed(पीड़ित/मर जाना)
Synonyms: bow, break down, buckle, capitulate, cave in
Antonyms: continue, defend, fight, ascend, be born

3.Requires(की आवश्यकता है/चाहना)
Synonyms: lack, crave, desire, miss, wish
Antonyms: dislike, hate, not want, have

4.Agitation(आंदोलन /खलबली)
Synonyms: disturbance, turbulence, turmoil, unrest, upheaval
Antonyms: calm, harmony, order, peace, tranquility

Synonyms: unified, combined, interspersed, mingled, mixed

6.Persists(बनी रहती है/क़ायम रहना)
Synonyms: continue, endure, go on, linger, persevere
Antonyms:cease, discontinue, give up, go, halt




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