A lady making ends meet by selling betel leaf at Iewduh market Credit: EastMojo image

Shillong: The global pandemic has left people worried across the world, and curfews and lockdowns have become a norm. But even before COVID-19 had hit India, citizens of Meghalaya had been facing a similar situation at the beginning of the year, due to the protests around the issue of Inner Line Permit.

With sit-in demonstrations being organised in parts of the city, normal life has once again been affected. Traders and shopowners, mainly at Iewduh market, believe extended protests and sit-in will only add to their misery this year.

Iewduh market is one of the oldest markets of Shillong and consists of traders from all parts of the state.

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EastMojo interacted with a few of the shopkeepers at iewduh to hear their side of the story.

A ration seller, Pyrkhatlang Khongwir, narrated how the relaxations came as a relief to him since he was working out of a rented shop.

“During the lockdown, I had to just sit at home while my rent was piling up, so I was tensed and there was a time when I had to send my staffs home since I couldn’t pay them their salary. My only source of income was from iewduh. But after relaxations, we could come back to the shops and start afresh. Even though it has hit us very bad, something is better than nothing,” said Khongwir.

When asked if the agitations in the state concern him, he said, “Whatever happens in the state…any agitation happens, it is always the market and by market I mean Iewduh which will be affected. When the ILP issue was first raised, Iewduh was shut. Again, due to the CAA issue, the market was affected badly. I remember, in March some people were running around and asking us to down the shutters while we were attending customers, so it affects us badly in many ways and does concern us,” said Khongwir.

As a trader and a resident of the state, Khongwir further appealed to the government and to the NGOs to come up with a peaceful solution. “We can’t afford to have things that create fear amongst the people, especially in the market. Whatever happens in the state, it is always Iewduh that gets affected. I come from an average sector, what about those the labourers who will be badly affected?” asked Khongwir.

Retailers mainly purchase the commodities from Iewduh since the wholesale rate are feasible

A Nongbri, a lady who sells clothes, said that if there is a peaceful meeting, then the market won’t get affected. “But if there is a strike or a bandh, it does affect the business in the market,” she added, appealing to the pressure groups to hold rallies and peace talks in a manner that it does not affect them.

Another woman, H Marbaniang, concurred with Nongbri. With Christmas around the corner, there is a small ray of hope that they can recover some of the loss, she said. Marbaniang expressed that she hopes that the pressure groups carry out their protest after Christmas so that they can make an income through the winter sales.

Daisy Sohtun, a shop owner at Iewduh, said the pandemic caused a huge loss in their business. “For the demand for ILP, if they can carry out a peaceful way, it would really help us. And I understand that the pressure groups are working for our benefit, but our only appeal is to make it a peaceful manner,” said Sohtun.

Sunn, a meat seller, said, “If they start their agitation, it will be us poor people who will suffer since this is our only source of income. They have to think about us also. Those who have enough, there is no loss for them but us, it is a major challenge.”

Khongwir said the recent sit-in demonstration in the state left the people worried, especially the non-tribals. “Once the genuine non-tribals get affected, even the locals get affected. We need them, and they also need us to survive. We need goods from them, and we need to sell to the people,” said Khongwir.

He further expressed that he was not against any NGO or the government; and that he was making the appeal as a shop owner and as a concerned citizen. “Whatever you do, just ensure that you have a peaceful outlook so that the economy does not get affected,” said Khongwir.

Mass protet that took place at Motphran on Dec, 13,2019

The ILP has been a long ongoing issue that the pressure groups and citizens have been demanding. In December 2019, the state witnessed a mass protest that led to a clash between the police and the protesters. Following that several public meetings were held by the NGOs concerning ILP and the protest against Citizenship Amendment Act.

On February 28, 2020, Ichamati clash occurred which led to the death of KSU member Lurshai Hynniewta. Following that, a stabbing spree had occurred at Iewduh market wherein Rupchand Dewan succumbed to his injuries, and several others were injured. The demand for ILP has once again surfaced in the state, and the government so far has not been successful.

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