KSU demands safeguards as Meghalaya gets on railway map

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Shillong, Dec 1: The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) Sunday demanded safeguards for the indigenous people before any train enters Meghalaya’s Khasi-Jaintia Hills region.

Meghalaya is now on the country’s railway map with the flagging off of the first train from Mendipathar in North Garo Hills to Guwahati by Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday.

But the KSU has been opposing the introduction of railways in the state since the 1980s.

“We are not opposed to development or introduction of railways per se, but our political and economic rights should not be subjugated. Necessary safeguards against illegal immigration and putting the interest of the indigenous people at the forefront should be priorities,” KSU president Daniel Khyriem said.

“Development at times brings problems. So, we need to examine the pros and cons taking into account the interest of the people. There should be no bulldozing,” he added.

“We want a comprehensive law to put a check on illegal immigration into our state because our economic and political rights should remain intact. We do not want to see more Assembly constituencies being labelled as general seats,” Khyriem said.

To allay the fears, chief minister Mukul Sangma, who was present when Modi raised the green flag at Guwahati, said his government was putting in place “facilitation centres” along all entry and exit points, to and from the state, including the Mendipathar railway station, as a “comprehensive mechanism to check illegal immigration”.

“It (railways) is an opportunity for growth, and we look forward to further investment from the railways, particularly to the state’s proposal for a railway line from Jogighopa to Badarpur in Assam along the India-Bangladesh border of the state, connecting all land custom stations,” he said.

Demanding that the government should “walk the talk” when it comes to dealing with influx and illegal immigration, the KSU president said while mechanisms like the work permit system are already in place, more stringent systems should be set up.

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