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Will all roads lead to the Students’ Field at Jaiaw in Shillong on November 30? This question has been buzzing around the city since the pro-ILP groups announced the venue of their first ‘public meeting’ after three months. The proposed rally has caused a lot of speculations and apprehensions among the public and the administration. There is speculation about as to how the administration would react to the public appearance of the NGO leaders. They had remained ‘underground’ since launch of their agitation following breakdown of talks with the government. They used to hold meetings at undisclosed locations all these days marred with violence which cost at least two lives besides damaging public and private property worth crores so far. They were being ‘hunted’ by the police, for obvious reasons. As many as 60 activists were arrested or detained so far.

With past records of trouble during such meetings with anti-outsider theme, it would be foolish to expect this rally to be peaceful. Chances of inflammatory speech being delivered and communal remarks being made is very ripe, if the history is anything to go by. There is another question – if all the prominent leaders are going to make speeches at the rally? Whether any political party leader will address it? Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) has gone to the extent of calling for public support to the meeting. For KHNAM, which has no representation in the current assembly, it is a good platform to regain some lost ground.

This rally might decide the fate of Meghalaya in the coming days till the Lok Sabha election. Troubled times have loomed even over Christmas which is normally a cool affair in the state. The very decision of the NGOs to hold an open rally shows that they are more aggressive than ever and not going to bow down. It is still a big question whether the administration will allow the rally, if permission is sought for the same. And if the NGOs decide go ahead on the basis of apparent support to their demand by traditional chiefs, it will be a tough task for the administration to handle the situation without applying force. For government, which has so far failed on diplomatic front, applying force is the obvious method of controlling the situation. But it has to be ensured that it does not boomerang. Public life, be of non-tribal or tribal, should not be put at sake, at any cost. The government should not deviate from the focus in trying to “teach the NGOs a lesson”.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 28, 2013)

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