Stop the attacks against people’s rights activists in Meghalaya!

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty condemns the attempted murder of Agnes Kharshiing and her two companions last Thursday, 8 November 2018 in East Jaintia Hills district, Meghalaya state, northeast of India.

Kharshiing, president of the Civil Society Women’s Organization, is a prominent women’s and land rights activist in Meghalaya. She was attacked for her consistent struggle against coal mining in Meghalaya.

Kharshiing, her aide Amita Sangma, and driver Emiki Kurbah were documenting illegal coal trucks when a group of around 40 people from an alleged coal mafia blocked their car at Tuber Shohshrieh village and assaulted them. They were on their way back to Shillong, city capital of Meghalaya, from Ladrymbai town when the incident happened. Kharshiing and Sangma were both in critical condition after the hit and are now recovering.

Kharshiing was once jailed in 2013 for more than a week for opposing the forced eviction of communities in Shillong, and has continued her activism. More recently, she has been involved in the resistance against coal smuggling in the Jaintia Hills region – proving her unwavering commitment in the struggle to protect the environment and in promoting food sovereignty.

PCFS believes that this attack was done to silence Kharshiing. A day prior to the incident, she exposed the illegal transportation of coal in the area through a complaint, which resulted in the confiscation of at least five vehicles in Mawlai Mawiong. The National Green Tribunal banned the operation of “rat hole” coal mines in Meghalaya since 2014, which have posed serious health and environmental dangers due to its poisoning of water systems including streams and rivers.

PCFS expresses its grave concern over the consecutive attacks of people’s rights activists in Meghalaya. Kharshiing’s attack follows the murder in March this year of anti-corruption youth activist of Poipynhun Majaw, president of Jaintia Youth Federation, whose killers are still on the loose. It was the first recorded extra-judicial killing in the state.

While we welcome the arrest of two suspects involved in Kharshiing’s assault, PCFS calls the government of Meghalaya to act upon these cases of political attacks targeting people’s rights defenders and ensure that their perpetrators are held accountable. We also urge to further its efforts against illegal and destructive activities, particularly the ban of coal mines, in Meghalaya.

Lastly, we hope for the speedy recovery of Kharshiing and Sangma. ###

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