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Shillong Made National Headlines, But At The Cost Of Journalistic Ethics

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While every coin has two sides, the coin we are talking about here is like a halogen sticker- two sides but many dimensions. Similar is the case with the May 31 Motphran violence in Shillong. What began as an altercation between groups of people which was already resolved between the persons involved (as per the police version) took an ugly turn on the same day when a mob attacked the concerned locality and clashed with the security personnel thereby deteriorating the peace and stability of the city.

Shillong, a tiny place with almost zero representation in National media suddenly came to be portrayed as a communal tinderbox! And while National media received their front page news along with increased TRPs, did anybody care about who was at the receiving end? It was Shillong!

Five days on, and the city is plunged in a pall of gloom – badly handicapped, trying to recover from a fear psychosis while distorted news on social media, certain national media and groups with vested interest continue to take undue advantage of the situation.

It may be mentioned that according to sources, the mob creating unrest in and around Shillong do not mostly comprise of local people from Shillong. Then again, a question arises, what is driving them to come to the city and create chaos? Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma in his recent speech a few days back pertaining to this incident had said that the incident was ‘funded’. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told reporters that “certain people” were funding the unrest in the city and added that evidence of alcohol and money being supplied to protesters had been found. Is it true or just an attempt by the ruling coalition to divert peoples’ minds from its ineffectiveness?

While the truth remains that in every state and country around the world, a certain degree of hostility between a group of people in majority and minority exists and that it is only rational to set aside these differences and live cohesively with one another, it is also a fact that it is certainly very easy for human-beings, emotional as they are, to get provoked and threatened when it comes to them being outnumbered by any other minority group. And this very weakness is often seen to be used by certain vested interest groups to attain their ends – riding on the weakness of innocent people and making them scapegoats to pursue their greater ends.

Another bone of contention that needs to be highlighted here is the issue of ‘illegal settlement’ of the Sikhs in the ‘Punjabi Line’ area of Motphran. While the area might have been designated by the then Hima of Mylliem (chieftain) to them for their settlement for ease of carrying out their duties, but the creation of commercial establishments by them in the area has led to congestion. Also, it must be brought to light that the place has become unsafe for pedestrians plying through that area, especially during the evening and night time due to instances of stray illegal activities. Hence the demand to rehabilitate them to another designated area has grown louder after the Motphran violence.

Within less than two months of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance Government’s (MDA) rise to power, a petty incident of such a stature that could have been effectively tackled, blowing out of proportion and attracting the unwanted attention of media buffs has begun to raise doubts in the minds of people pertaining to the effectiveness of the coalition government or otherwise. This also gives rise to the political angle.

Questions like these are echoing around the state: Why were the culprits not booked after the altercation? Why was there no FIR registered? Was the compromise enough to solve the issue? Who comprised the mobs that created chaos in the area? From where did they arrive? Is this a politically orchestrated move? Who is/are set to gain from this?

The larger repercussions of the violence are being borne by each and every resident of Shillong for the past six days, irrespective of whether they belong to the majority or minority group. Livelihoods are being badly affected, local cabbies are at a loss due to curfews, tourist vehicles are afraid of plying on highways lest they get attacked by mobs, people from rural areas of Meghalaya who come to Shillong to sell their produce are at a loss, school children and their parents are at a fix whether to send them off to school or not, prices of vegetables have skyrocketed, tourism has been badly hit and situation might worsen if this continues.

With the security in place and peace and order gradually returning, what is needed at this juncture is a cohesive solution to this problem or problems for that matter. As per latest developments, a high-level committee has been set up to take measures on the rehabilitation of the Sikhs from the concerned area. But what is more important is to also invite members from their side and to apprise them of the situation and the reasons why the step will be taken. The presence of all stakeholders is crucial in this regard.

A matter that could have been effectively resolved at source has been given the name of a ‘Communal clash’, compared to the clashes that took place in Shillong in the past and made a front-page news in many national media houses who, otherwise choose to ignore the state of Meghalaya and whose weather reports end with Assam as the last state in the map of the Indian sub-continent.

Also, certain journalists who while calling a ‘spade-a-spade’ have surrendered the peace and harmony of the city and while social media revolutionaries continue to fight the irrational battle of bitterness and hate despite the internet ban in and around Shillong, it is high time to realize that this will only aggravate the situation for each and every individual who calls Shillong their home. Shillong is about its people irrespective of their background. Violence sees no community before inflicting pain. Let’s make peace in Shillong, please!

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