Meghalaya's 49-yr long journey: What we've achieved and lost so far
By Aparmita Das
It was a long yet exciting journey for a young state of Meghalaya as it turns 49 years old on January 21, 2021.
Meghalaya has experienced many ups and downs, crossed many milestones while at the same time, made numerous mistakes, some of which had cost the state dearly.
We can only hope that as we go forward, the state will learn from its past mistakes and strive to move ahead with better governance, finer infrastructure, quality education and better health services.
In this article, I have listed down a series of events that are both memorable and devastating.
1. First Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly
The First Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly was held on the 25th March 1972 at 14.00 hours with the Acting Speaker (Jor Manik Syiem) in the Chair at the old Council Hall of the composite Assam State, Shillong.
2. Crash of the Pawan Hans helicopter of the Meghalaya Transport Corporation
Meghalaya minister Cyprian R. Sangma and two legislators H N Marak (United Democratic Party) and Ardhendu Chaudhuri (Nationalist Congress Party) were among 10 persons killed in a chopper crash on September 23, 2004.
3. Pope John Paul II's visit to Shillong
History was scripted in Meghalaya on February 4, 1986, when Pope John Paul II set foot in the picturesque Golflinks, Shillong, as part of his visit to India.
4. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam's last days
Shillong will forever be remembered as a city where the People's President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam breathed his last on July 27, 2015. The former president was delivering a lecture on Livable Planet Earth at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong when he complained of chest pain and then collapsed.
5. The beginning of a new era: The Shillong Chamber Choir
Founded in 2001 by Neil Nongkynrih, the Shillong Chamber Choir (SCC) has gained recognition not only in India but abroad as well. The SCC won the reality TV show India’s Got Talent in 2010. Neil was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India in 2015 and was appointed as a board member of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) community in 2017.
6. Shillong Archbishop Dominic Jala dies in road accident in California
Shillong Archbishop Dominic Jala along with Father Mathew Vellankal, an Indian priest working in the United States, died in a road accident in California on October 11 when the two were travelling to Clearlake in California along with Father Joseph Parekkatt, another Indian priest.
7. Conquering Mount Everest
In the year 2012 and 2013, the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya saw two persons — Gary Jarman Lamare and Wansuk Myrthong becoming the first man and woman respectively to conquer the Mount Everest.
8. Insurgency in Meghalaya
Over the last few decades, Meghalaya which was once ravaged by militancy has witnessed a drop in insurgent activities. The mass surrenders and crack-down by police on the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Garo National Liberation Council (GNLA) and Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) formed in the early 1990s have opened a new chapter in the history of Meghalaya.
9. 'Serial killer' Fullmoon Dhar case
The arrest and death of 'serial killer' Fullmoon Dhar was another incident that rocked the state. Dhar faced charges of being involved in five rape cases in Jaintia Hills, apart from the twin murder case at Mawpdang and several other cases of extortion, rape and murder. He was arrested on September 15, 2008, along with two others in connection with the murder of two women. He was shot dead by the police in an alleged staged encounter.
10. The Ugly Affairs: Ethnic Clashes
In the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, Meghalaya witnessed the ugliest and most violent ethnic clashes. The targets were Bengalis in 1979, Nepalis in 1987, and Biharis in 1992. And in 2018, Shillong saw clashes between Khasis and the Sikhs, whose ancestors had settled in the area over 100 years ago.
11. Abode of unfinished business: Hotel Crowborough
This is one such major projects in Meghalaya that have turned into a white elephant. The work on the Hotel Crowborough began on 10 March 1987 and 33 years later, the project is still incomplete.
12. Infrastructural development
The North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Indian Institute of Management-Shillong (IIM-Shillong), National Institute of Technology (NIT) Meghalaya are some of the educational institutes that have come up in the state, raising the bar to another level.
13. Sports on the rise
In 2016, the state got a chance to co-host the South Asian Games alongside Assam. This triggered a sea of change in the sports sector; of course, not downplaying or overlooking the challenges and difficulties faced by our sportspersons. Following this, Meghalaya got the nod to host the National Games 2022 and with this, construction of stadiums and sports centre is on the roll. Let's hope they last long and boost the state's status!
14. Welcome to the Meghalayan age
In 2018, Scientists defined a new geological time scale called the 'Meghalayan Age' — a period which began 4,200 years ago and experienced an abrupt mega-drought and cooling around the globe.
With all the good, the bad and the ugly, it has surely been a rollercoaster ride for our State Meghalaya to have accomplished 49 years of Statehood. It has witnessed several downfalls but at the same time, it has undergone growth in various aspects, beginning from infrastructure to culture. It has produced stalwarts who have brought national and international glory to the state and have been an inspiration to not just Meghalayans but also the people of other states of Northeast India. It is high time that we shift our focus from insignificant issues to the important matters like education and environment so that 49 years from now, all the loopholes in our system are filled and Meghalaya is considered to be a "peaceful" and "prosperous" state.