A public hearing in East Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya turns violent as at least 7 police personnel including women were injured when the protest by NGOs against the holding of the public hearing for the proposed expansion of limestone mining project by Star Cement Ltd turned violent in East Jaintia Hills district.
It may be mentioned here the NGOs have expressed strong opposition against the expansion of the mining project and also against the decision to hold the public hearing at the DC’s office as it is very far away from the proposed mining area at Brishyrnot.
Following this disruption, the public hearing held at the old deputy commissioner’s office at Khliehriat, the district headquarter, had to be immediately called off.
“Seven police personnel including women constables have sustained injuries during the protest and stone-pelting incident,” East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner, E Kharmalki said.
The protest also took an ugly turn when NGOs along with people from the area forcefully entered the premises and damaged the pandal erected outside the DC’s office even as stones were pelted at the police personnel.
Kharmalki, who was the presiding officer, said the public hearing in fact started off peacefully at 11 am but had to adjourn the meeting after over 1,000 people including NGO activists started barging into the venue.
“After there was continued disruption when we wanted to again start the public hearing at around 1.30 pm, we decided to call off the meeting since the situation is not suitable to proceed ahead,” he said.
The DC however said that police have exercised full restrain from using any force although they were compelled to resort to tear gases and stun grenades to control the situation.
Asked, Kharmalki said that he would immediately submit a report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
“A report (regarding the incident) will be sent to the MoEF for the necessary decision,” he informed, adding that the next date for the public hearing will depend on the decision of the ministry.
Whether the district administration will file a case in connection with the violent incident, the DC however said that they are still assessing the situation.
“We are still assessing the situation to find out who has violated the protocols, who has damaged the pandal then accordingly will decide (on what action should be taken),” he said.
The NGOs protesting against the public hearing include KSU, JSU, EJNC, HANM, HYC, FKJGP, STIEH and others.
Apart from expressing disappointment on the decision to hold the public hearing far away from Brishyrnot, the NGOs have also maintained that allowing Star Cement Ltd to expand its mining project will to a great extent affect the environment.
They said such mining activities will not only pollute rivers but will also affect the Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary which is located adjacent to the proposed mining area.