Ignorance of the law is a dangerous thing. This is quite evident from the assault of labourers working at St. Xavier’s Girls Hostel at Umdoid in South West Khasi Hills where one of them was killed while another six were injured. Even before they had arrived at the worksite, the labourers had voiced their apprehensions about working in the area and in keeping with the laid down protocols, the principal of the school, Fr. Paul Coelho, had completed all the formalities such as obtaining labour licenses for the workers besides seeking the approval of several officials in the state and also the Chief Minister and the Home Minister to bring in these labourers. Interestingly, the the school authorities had also met the leaders of NGOs such as the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and the Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC) to explain the need for bringing in the workers from outside the state.
In spite of all these steps, a group of masked goons attacked the labourers on Wednesday night, barging into their place of stay and assaulting them with rods, daos and other weapons. The severity of the assault was such that one of the labourers succumbed to his injuries. While there can be speculation and doubts as to the reason for this assault, there can be none that what was perpetrated on these labourers was outright illegal. While Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui have assured that the guilty will be brought to book, this will be a small source of solace for the family of Raju Mondal who lost his life in this brutal attack. Perhaps the need of the hour is to spread awareness about the processes of governance and perhaps it is ironical that this was the very objective of the outreach programme that came to a close in Shillong on Friday. This outreach programme, which is an initiative of Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, aims at bringing governance closer to the people by raising awareness about the processes thereof at the grassroots. There is a dire need for such a programme in Meghalaya where superstitions and ignorance often lead to unwanted problems in society, especially in the rural areas of the state. In many such places, the concept of ‘might is right’ still prevails and what is even more appalling is that in many instances, the people who are at the helm of affairs are the same people who knowingly mislead those they are supposed to guide and educate, all for their own selfish gains. A well informed society, as envisaged by the outreach programme, will shut the doors on attempts to mislead the people for individual gain. It will also ensure that citizens are aware of the legal consequences of their actions and will dissuade them from taking ill-informed measures against perceived threats, which is probably the case with the unfortunate labourers who had to go through this ordeal in spite of abiding by all required formalities in their attempt to provide for their families back home.