Meghalaya social activist beaten up by suspected coal mafia

Leading social activist Agnes Kharshiing was on Thursday afternoon brutally assaulted by a group of unidentified assailants, suspected to be from the coal mafia, in Meghalaya’s coal-rich East Jaintia Hills district while she was apparently checking out reports of illegal mining.

Kharshiing, president of the Civil Society Women’s Organization (CSWO) and her friend A Sangma received critical head injuries in the attack which took place at Sohshrieh in Tuber village, about 80 km from here.

Meghalaya director general of police R Chandranathan, who only took charge today, told HT that he has ordered a case to be registered and investigation to be launched immediately. “I’ve instructed that even if it’s a mob, the culprits must be identified and arrested immediately,” he said. “No one will be spared.”

According to doctors at Jowai Civil Hospital in neighbouring West Jaintia Hills district, Kharshiing suffered cuts on her skull, scalp, and other body parts causing profuse bleeding. Though she was conscious, she was too weak to speak.

Later in the evening, Kharshiing was shifted to the super-specialty North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) in the state capital. She is presently being stabilised in the hospital ICU, NEIGRIHMS deputy director D Umdor told HT over phone.

East Jaintia Hills district police chief Silvester Nongtynger said upon receiving information about the assault at around 1.30-1.40 pm, two police teams were immediately dispatched to the area.

“Our team found both of them in a critical condition after being attacked by a mob and were immediately rushed to the nearby hospital for medical attention,” he told HT. He, however, added that he was unaware of the purpose of the activist’s visit to his district. “She (Kharshiing) did not inform me about her visit,” he said.

However, sources said that she was in the district to check reports of illegal coal mining. The anti-corruption and women and child rights activist has been raising her voice against illegal coal mining and transportation from the state over several years. She upped her ante after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a blanket ban on coal mining in Meghalaya since April 17, 2014.

According to sources privy to the incident, Kharshiing, who came from Shillong to East Jaintia Hills, had stopped at several places to take photos of stocked coal in certain locations.

On her way back, as she stopped at Sohshrieh on seeing coal trucks, a group of 30-40 people blocked her cab, pulled her and Sangma out and started beating them up, the source added.

The cab driver was taken away and told to leave the area immediately. He fled but upon reaching Jowai, informed the first police man he came across, a traffic constable who then sounded the alert.

Sources also point towards coal mafia being involved in the attack as Kharshiing had shared several pictures of trucks ferrying coal illegally and some dumping grounds as well. However, authorities are yet to confirm the identity of the attackers.

Chief minister Conrad K Sangma who is on an overseas trip, condemned the attack “We have issued necessary directions to the police and district administration to investigate the matter and arrest those behind the attack,” he said in an email statement.

First Published: Nov 09, 2018 00:12 IST

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