At least 7 police personnel including women were injured when the protest by NGOs against holding of the public hearing for proposed expansion of limestone mining project by Star Cement Ltd turned violent in EastJaintia Hills district.
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, DSP have sustained injuries during the protest and stone pelting incident,” East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner, E Kharmalki said.
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.
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 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 the 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.
Meanwhile, Brishyrnot waheh shnong (headman) Standly Massar has expressed concern over the incident that led to the cancellation of the public hearing for the third time.
“It is really an unfortunate incident and we don’t know the intention of the NGOs to protest against the public hearing. The NGOs should have taken our views and opinions into consideration before taking such a step,” he said.
Massar also claimed that there have been so many developments in the village compared to previous years in terms of road connectivity, water supply and others with the coming of the cement company.
He also urged the state government to find out ways and means to resolve this issue in the interest of the people of the area.
One of the supporters of the expansion project, Angelina Massar, a resident of Brishyrnot said that the coming of the cement factory will benefit the local populace in so many ways.
“Regarding the allegation that the mining project will be detrimental to the environment, I am confident that there are laws that are binding to all cement companies for taking up land reclamation to prevent environmental degradation,” she said.