Bengali Community in Meghalaya seeks minority rights

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Photo: PTI

The Bengali community in Meghalaya submitted a memorandum to state Chief Minister Conrad Sangma seeking minority rights in the state following the alleged discrimination faced by the community in the state.

In the memorandum, the community has sought “urgent and proactive steps to secure fundamental, constitutional and legal rights” to all citizens residing in the State.

The memorandum has been signed by 80 prominent members of the community. This came after the Khasi Students Union recently hoisted a flag in the state capital and branded all Bengalis residing in the state as “Bangladeshis”.

“We are deeply hurt by the provocative narrative of certain elements describing all Bengalis as Bangladeshis. This is an insult to our long and historical relations with our hill brethren and our pride as citizens of India,” the memorandum said.

It further said that it is an “open threat” to the very existence of the community in the State. The memorandum also mentioned the 1979 communal riots targeted against the community in which “50 precious lives were lost uprooting hundreds of families”.

The memorandum stated that it is a negation of the “solemn commitment of the hill leaders made to the Government of India” during reorganisation of the North Eastern states in 1971 to “protect and safeguard the non-tribal minority residing in Meghalaya”.

The memorandum said the Bengali community has supported the hill State movement and served in the State legislature, administration, judiciary, health care, media, trade and commerce for years.

“We request you to craft a clear-cut policy commensurate with the letter and spirit of the Constitution in respect of the rights and privileges of all ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities residing in Meghalaya,” the memorandum stated.

In line with the state of Assam, the memorandum also urged the State Government to constitute an official body for the protection of the rights of the linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities.

It also urged the State Government to “lay down a specific reserved quota for the ethno-linguistic minorities” residing in Meghalaya in government jobs, State Civil Service and State Police Service.

The memorandum pointed out that the first Chief Minister of the State, WA Sangma, had committed in the Assembly in March 1973 to allot 15 per cent State jobs to non-tribals.

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