In the recently concluded autumn session of the Meghalaya assembly, the state police were lambasted for acting violently against so-called peaceful protestors. The discussions got heated to the extent that the whole opposition criticised the state’s police for “show of power” on innocent civilians for nearly an hour.
However, data stands in stark contrast to the claims of the opposition of police insensitivity. A starred question to the Home Department (Police) has cast a spotlight on an alarming trend in the state: the blatant violation of CrPC Section 144.
According to the Home Department (Police) figures, the section, which prohibits the assembly of more than four people in an area, was violated 33 times in the past year. More concerning was the escalation of these gatherings, with three turning violent, warranting police intervention.
These findings starkly contrast with the opposition’s narrative, which went till the extent of saying that the police of Meghalaya reacts to the “slightest of provocation.”
In the recent past, Meghalaya has witnessed an unfortunate rise in law and order disruptions. These disruptions, often touted as “peaceful protests,” have had far-reaching consequences for the common man, who is often forced to pull down his shutters against his will in such circumstances.
In this case, it will not be improper to recall the protest organised by the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) last year in October. While the protest began as a peaceful demonstration, it soon spiralled out of control, culminating in acts of violence and significant property damage, resulting in an almost curfew-like situation in Shillong city.
Videos had emerged online showing how participants of the rally thrashed passers-by, including civilians who were waiting patiently in the huge traffic caused due to the rally.
Given these events, one wonders, are these merely instances of a populace expressing their grievances, or indicative of a more extensive breakdown of law and order in the state? The violation of Section 144 on 33 occasions suggests the latter, revealing an alarming pattern where certain groups seem to hold sway, effectively handcuffing the police force from performing their duty.
The opposition, while being the voice of the people and safeguarding their rights, must also acknowledge the broader implications of their narrative, which in this case, was playing to the gallery. Their stance, which seems to challenge every police action, can inadvertently embolden disruptive elements, thereby compromising the safety and well-being of the general populace.
The challenges facing Meghalaya’s law enforcement agencies are multifold. While they must exercise restraint and uphold the rights of individuals, they’re also duty-bound to ensure the state remains peaceful. It’s a delicate balance, one that requires understanding and collaboration from all stakeholders, including the opposition.
Moreover, the ramifications of these disruptions are not just limited to law and order. Meghalaya, which is already grappling with economic issues, faces an even steeper uphill battle as these frequent disruptions deter potential investors. Local businesses of all communities bear the brunt of this unrest every time.
It’s worth noting that while the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom to protest and assemble, these rights come with inherent responsibilities. Protests that disrupt public peace and compromise the safety of the citizens cannot be endorsed under the guise of democratic rights. It is in such scenarios that the police must act decisively to restore order, even if it means facing criticism.
Looking ahead, Meghalaya stands at a crucial juncture. While it’s imperative to address genuine grievances and uphold the democratic right to protest, it’s equally vital to ensure that the state’s law and order doesn’t deteriorate further. Constructive dialogue between the government, opposition, and other stakeholders is the need of the hour.
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In conclusion, the autumn session’s data revelations serve as a wakeup call. It underscores the pressing need for collective introspection, strategic action, and above all, unity, to ensure Meghalaya remains the ‘Abode of Clouds’ in more ways than one – serene, peaceful, and prosperous.
Perhaps it is also pertinent for the opposition to ask then, why is the police not acting?
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