Are we really free now?

May 6th, 2020 by Jashodhara Purkayastha

During my marriage, when we were leaving for Kolkata (Now Calcutta) disturbance started in Shillong as the Khasi(Tribal) people of Shillong started agitation towards non-tribal people of Shillong. I’m writing this incidence because it’s my own experience of being born and brought up in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, a North-East of India. The gruesome violence in October 1979. The movement was to target, the non-tribal calling them as Foreigners. We were the first people targeted by Khasi students union. After my marriage, when my parents and siblings returned to Shillong, they found that all the window glasses, panes were broken and every day some disturbances were going on every now and then. One night, they attacked our house and tried to burn our house. Knowing this, my parents put off all the lights and kept quiet inside the house. Suddenly our next-door neighbour screamed at them and they ran away. That night, our house, our five cows at home were saved. My parents along with our good neighbour went to our area head of the village. The head of the village protected our family that night.
The next day, my parents called one of my cousins and with the help of CRPF, they were rescued from our own house. All my family members went to my maternal uncle’s house. After a few days, with the help of CRPF my parents went to our house and found a chit stating to leave the place as soon as possible. All over Shillong, curfew was imposed. Khasis killed at least one young member from the non Khasi families. My parents were in trouble. We had our cattle at home. Within a few days my father hand over our house to our neighbour with minimal price. All cows were given free to our milkmen.
This was the second shock for my father. Once he lost everything during partition in the forties and then house in 1979. “What did I get in my life? One-sided we got our freedom from British but is this the freedom we wanted? We lost everything in our own country. Then where is exactly our country? Where is our land? Where is our home? Where will we live safely and peacefully?” My father cried loudly and asked these questions to all. Nobody could give any answers.

Many people from Mawprem, Jaiaw, Mawlai, Reyasamthai, and Lamavilla were killed. These localities were violently cleansed off by the goons. We lost our own house where we spent our school-college days. All our childhood memories had wiped out with no time. With friction of time we lost everything. Our full-furnished house. Our land, our cows, and everything sometimes all scenes come in front of us like gloomy pictures.  Why did this happen against Indians in India?  I think most of those incidents happened due to cultural division and appeasement politics.

After  1967/68 ,when Assam was divided into seven states and article 371 had been promulgated, all these problems started. How can we be foreigners? Is it due to infiltration of foreign culture?      During my college days, one of the famous convents priest helped me in my project. Then one day, the same priest( non tribal ) came to our house and requested us to convert into Christianity. Most of tribal in Shillong are Christians now. If our family would have converted during my college days , our property would have been saved and my father would have died peacefully.

Khasi students union was formed in 1978 by some kind of goons of Shillong . Recently in October 2020, Khasi student union started disturbing Shillong and again putting the slogan towards Bengalis “Bangladeshis Go back”. They even put a poster ‘All Meghalaya Bengalis are Bangladeshis “.The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) had put up posters racially profiling Bengalis living in Meghalaya. If all Bengalis are Bangladeshis, then Khasis were from Burmese origin. They were also converted Christians.

My father came to Shillong in 1942. Are we then Bangladeshis? Is this our fault that we speak our own language?  Can any leader answer to this question, where are we belong to ? Aren’t some previous politicians in fault? Couldn’t those politicians give their place of birth to become Pakistan( East or West)  ? No Indians will understand the agony of those people who lost their home and property in an independent India.

This article is  from my book”How are Those Days” will publish soon.

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