The Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a banned Christian tribal terror group, has threatened ‘mass bloodshed’ if Hindu-Bengalis in Ichamati and Majai areas in East Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya do not leave within one month.
This threat comes on the back of violence that has left 3 people dead in the North Eastern state. On Friday, an anti-CAA and pro-ILP (Inner Line Permit) rally organized by the KSU (Khasi Students Union) clashed with non-tribals in Ichamati village, near the Bangladesh border, in which Khasi tribal Lurshai Hynniewta (35) was killed. 8 non-tribals have been arrested for this murder.
As a retaliatory response, a spate of stabbings of non-tribal people rocked the capital Shillong the next day. Vegetable vendor, Rupchand Dewan originally from Barpeta in Assam, succumbed to his injuries, while 9 others were left injured – Ajay Kuri, Rikesh Das, Satya Mudak, Deepak Kumar, Pradeep Kuri, Aman Kumar Shah, Jadur Choudhury, Akash Ali and Shubham Nath.
On Sunday, a migrant identified as Uphas Uddin was killed when he was attacked by three assailants in his house in Pyrkan village in East Khasi Hills district. As per a PTI report, Uphas Uddin was involved in cattle smuggling into Bangladesh and his killing might be due to personal enmity as he had married a Khasi woman.
KSU which is spearheading the agitation against CAA and implementation of ILP in the state has threatened to intensify their agitation. “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. Your sacrifice for the Khasi jaitbynriew (community) wont go in vain,” KSU general secretary Do Thabah posted as a tribute to Lurshai Hynniewta on his social media handle.
Anti-CAA protests for what?
Why KSU is protesting against CAA is a mystery because 97% of Meghalaya is exempt from the Act as the area falls under Schedule VI of the Constitution. The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution; it registers 10 areas in the Northeast as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura – where tribals are empowered with civil and judicial powers and other Bharatiya citizens do not have any land or trading rights in those regions.
It appears local tribal groups have found a means in the anti-CAA protests to press their longstanding demand of introducing the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime in the whole of Meghalaya. Violence had broken out in Shillong back in December as well under guise of anti-CAA protests.
Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the Government of Bharat to allow inward travel of a Bharatiya citizen into a protected state/area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Bharatiya citizens from outside those states to obtain a permit for entering into the protected state/region. Currently, there are 4 North-Eastern states – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland (except city of Dimapur), Mizoram and Manipur (introduced recently in December 2019) where the ILP regime is applicable.
So along with the Sixth Schedule, the ILP-regime is another measure to protect the interests of the indigenous tribal communities of the Northeast. The CAA exempts both regions under Sixth Schedule and ILP. The Act says –
“Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inter Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
The areas under the ‘Inter Line’ fall under the ILP regime. Critics of ILP say it isolates the states and regions where it is enforced, and discourages investment and tourism.
So to reiterate – 5 NE states are fully exempt from CAA (Nagaland, Arunachal, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur) and 2 (Assam, Tripura) have scheduled tribal areas which are exempt.
Yet, why is almost the entire region is up in arms over CAA? The answer has to do with neglect by successive Congress governments, which has led to zero development and lack of employment opportunities driving xenophobia against outsiders. And it also has to do with another aspect never-ever mentioned in national discourse : Christian extremism fuelled hatred for Hindus.
Meghalaya today is a Christian tribal State. As per this analysis of Census 2011 data by the Centre of Policy Studies (CPS) –
“The process of conversion of the Scheduled Tribes of Meghalaya began in the early decades of the twentieth century and picked up pace after Independence.
More than 86 percent of the total population of the State is from the Scheduled Tribes (STs) and among the STs more than 84 percent are now Christian, thus total Christian population in the state is 74 percent. The Khasi and the Garo are the two major ST communities of Meghalaya. Percentage of Christians among Khasi is 83 percent, and Garo is 96 percent.
The richly diverse religious practices of the people—like Songsarek of the Garo or Niamtre of the Khasi—which had survived for uncounted centuries under the benignly protective umbrella of Hinduism, are now about to disappear.”
Anti-Hindu hate, discrimination against non-Christian tribals, denigration of ‘idol-worship’, communal calls by Church before elections – all these have been noted from North East states like Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal.
Since its inception as separate state in 1972, Meghalaya has a chequered past when it comes to ethnic conflicts and every time it’s the non tribal population which comprises mostly of Bengali, Nepali and Marwari and Hindi-speaking people who were at the receiving end.
The first major incident of religious intolerance occurred in 1979 when some Khasi youth desecrated a Maa Kali murti. Khasi vigilantes, egged on by the evangelical Church and with state-granted immunity, started targeting the Dkhars (pejorative name for non-tribals) i.e. Bengali Hindus.
Youth organisations like the Khasi Students’ Union that are notoriously anti-Dhkar often give calls for ousting Bangladeshi infiltrators, a dog-whistle signal to launch attacks on Hindus belonging to different communities. Muslims are rarely targeted. Because of this, over the last few decades a large number of Hindus have been forced to leave Meghalaya.
So the current protests for ILP in Meghalaya must be seen in this historical anti-Hindu context.
Who is behind Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)?
While issuing their threat of mass bloodshed, HLNC has also spoken of a ‘Hindutva connection’ in the killing of the Khasi man Lurshai Hynniewta.
“Hostility showed by the Bengali Hindus was as irrational as it was incomprehensible. It was quite visible that the attacks were similar to the ones that happened in the country’s capital by Hindutva forces. The Hindus deliberately ignite an artificial fire which they named the Hindutva revolt against the non-Hindutva revolution that is going on in Indian states,” the outfit said.
Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was formed in 1993. It claims to represent the Khasi-Jaintia tribal people, and its aim is to free Meghalaya from the alleged domination of the Garos and the outsiders (the “Dkhars”) from the Bharatiya mainland.
The original HNLC leadership consisted of:
- Julius K. Dorphang, Chairman
- Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, General Secretary
- M. Diengdoh, Publicity Secretary
- Bobby Marwein, Commander-in-Chief
The group was banned in 2000 but this was later lifted. It was again banned in Nov, 2019. In a notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the HNLC along with all its factions, wings and frontal organisations has been openly declaring as its objective the secession of the state’s areas, which are largely inhabited by Khasi and Jaintia tribals, from the Indian Union. The group continues to intimidate and bully civilians to extort funds, maintains links with other insurgent groups of the Northeast to carry out acts of extortion and intimidation, and maintains camps in Bangladesh to give sanctuary and training to its cadre.
Julius K. Dorphang surrendered in 2007. He went on to become an Independent MLA supporting the Congress, and in 2017 Dorphang was arrested for raping a minor as part of a sex racket allegedly being run from a guest house owned by a Congress leader’s son.
According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the HNLC is closely linked with two other terror groups – the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Issak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and Tripura based National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), both of which are known extremist Christian terror groups. HNLC also promotes the circulation of fake currency in the State, at the behest of Pakistan’s notorious spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Not the first ultimatum for Hindus to leave the North East
In Jan 2017, three terrorist outfits in Assam and Tripura, the People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) delivered a similar ultimatum to Hindi and Bengali speaking Hindus to quit Karbi-Longri (Karbi Anglong), Kamatapur and Tripura or face the “gravest of the grave” situations.
Incidentally, we are seeing similar unrest over ILP in Nagaland as well, a state which already has the ILP regime (barring city of Dimapur) and which is 90% Christian!
CAA is just an excuse; what we are witnessing in North East and other parts of Bharat where violent anti-CAA rioting has broken out is a collaboration between disparate ‘Breaking India’ forces driven by anti-Hindu hate above anything. The elite backers of this BreakingIndia gang will continue to spin their pet theories to confuse us, while papering over the real issues.
The Bharatiya state and its citizens must stand strong – CAA and NRC are just pretexts, this is a battle for the very existence of our civilizational state and indigenous faiths.
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