SHILLONG, July 17: The president of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Lambokstar Marngar has termed the attempts to bring in railways to areas populated by the Khasi people as an invasion of the indigenous community.
“The fight of this freedom fighter 182 years ago has not faded away due to continued attempts to invade the indigenous community till this moment,” Marngar said while drawing comparisons between the present day situation and what was prevailing during the times of Khasi martyr, U Tirot Sing Syiem.
Speaking after paying obeisance to U Tirot Sing Syiem on the occasion of his 182nd death anniversary on Monday, Marngar said that the martyr’s last words, ‘Better a death as a commoner, than the life of a slave king’ assumes significance today when speakers vowed not to compromise the interest of the indigenous community with development like the railways.
Alleging that the Congress-led state government has made all attempts through the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to bring railway in the region, he however said, “The KSU and its members will continue to pledge ‘No’ to railway.”
“The government is trying to mislead the people by claiming that the coming of the railway will reduce the price on essential commodities but we are not interested in compromising the interests of our people,” he added.
Also accusing the government of trying to weaken the KSU, which is protesting on this issue for past two months, he however said, “The KSU will never bow down as we are not bunch of criminals but we are fighting for a cause.”
It may be mentioned here that the construction works of the railway line in Ronghona village under Byrnihat police outpost has been stopped completely following the violent protest by activists of the KSU on May 27.
Subsequent to this, the state has also witnessed several incidents of arson and petrol bomb attacks in the past two months leading to the arrest of several members of what can be broadly termed as the anti-railway group.
Referring to the government’s recent decision to invite the pressure groups for talks on the comprehensive mechanism on July 19, Marngar warned that they will be compelled to intensify their agitations if a ‘wrong’ decision is taken.
“We will attend the meeting and if the government makes any wrong decision on this, we will hit the streets and continue with our agitations in a more aggressive manner,” he said.
The KSU along with other pressure groups have been demanding that the government implements the effective mechanisms to check influx before introducing the railway line in Ri Bhoi district.
Stating that 26 activists of the KSU have been arrested during the ongoing protest, Marngar however said, “There are thousands of us out here who are willing to sacrifice for the cause of the indigenous community.”
“If it (protest) leads to bloodshed, the Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma and his government will have to take full responsibility,” Marngar warned.
Meanwhile, political parties including the United Democratic Party (UDP), Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) also observed the death anniversary of the great freedom fighter by paying floral tributes.
U Tirot Sing, a tribal Khasi chief of Nongkhlaw Kingdom, was the first tribal Khasi ruler to rebel against the British Empire in 1829.
On January 13, 1833, the British forces captured him and kept him in captivity at Dhaka where he died on July 17, 1835.