Bandh is back, again. Meghalaya is facing the second bandh over the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on ‘rat-hole’ coal mining in the state. The first was called by the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) around a month ago, saying the bandh has affected the livelihood of the indigenous people. This time, the bandh was called by the ‘Meghalaya State Coordination Committee of Coal Owners, Miners and Dealers’ Forum’ to protest the state government’s ‘failure’ in abiding by the NGT directive in assessing the already extracted coal and forming guidelines to transport the mineral. Both the bandhs were apparently called for different reasons, but actually they are the same voice – against ban on coal mining. Both want the ban on mining be lifted and the trade allowed to carry on as it was, no matter what would be the impact on the environment.

With a new forum calling the bandh on August 6, people are a little confused about how to respond to it. There is hardly anyone who responds to a bandh call in its true sense i.e. by supporting the so-called cause of the bandh. Most of the people, especially in capital city like Shillong, either take advantage of the bandh or keep indoors apprehending trouble. Some do not come out because they think there would be no business for them that day. Thus one section makes assumption about others and responds to bandh calls accordingly.

HNLC has a track record of calling bandhs frequently, next to NGOs like the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) and others. People normally go by the name of the organization while deciding their response to the bandh. This time, however, they would have to make a decision on the ‘cause’ – protest against NGT ban. The miners’ forum is too new to make an impact in the minds of the people but still holds ground since it has stakeholders from across the state. Most importantly, some of the stakeholders are Who’s Who of the state. The ‘success’ of the bandh also depends on the stand of the above-mentioned NGOs on the matter. They, however, are yet to make their stand clear on the bandh although the KSU and many other NGOs had earlier voiced concern over the loss of livelihood of the indigenous people due to the NGT ban. It is high time people asked themselves whether they personally support the ‘cause’ of any bandh before deciding to remain indoors and also whether they really want any bandh, for whatever reasons, at all.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 6, 2014)

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