Four years after surviving a near-fatal assault by people involved in illegal coal mining, two Meghalaya-based activists have been threatened again.
Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma have lodged an FIR with a police station in Shillong after receiving threat calls from a person on October 17. The duo has been under police protection since the 2018 attack on them near an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia Hills district.
The caller, who identified himself as Nick Nongkhlaw, had threatened the duo for reporting a case of two illegal coal-laden trucks found releasing acidic water.
According to the FIR, Nongkhlaw had called both Ms. Kharshiing and Ms. Sangma and that he intimidated the latter by asking her to have the trucks released.
“He said that he is a friend of my son. By taking my son’s name, he basically wanted to threaten me and weaken me,” Ms. Sangma, a 46-year-old widow and mother of seven, stated.
The person also asked her to facilitate the release of the two coal trucks, claiming that their owner was his friend, she said.
“I am afraid that my children might be targeted as they are not protected like me. If something happens to my children, the National People’s Party-led government in Meghalaya will be held solely responsible,” she observed.
Ms. Kharshiing, who heads NGO Civil Society Women Organisation, noted that they shared the caller’s phone number with the police. “If they want, they can easily nab him,” she pointed out, adding that the “coal mafia” involved the youth and groomed them.
The 61-year-old activist remarked that it was frustrating that the government had been turning a blind eye to rat-hole coal mining despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal since April 2014.
“All the coal extracted before the NGT ban is exhausted but about 50 coke plants are operating in the East Jaintia Hills district. They obviously are being fed with freshly-mined coal,” she disclosed.
Coal-rich Meghalaya has had several mine tragedies. At least 17 labourers, mostly from Assam, were killed in a submerged coal mine in December 2018. At least five miners died in the last such incident in May last.