Meghalaya-based rights activist Agnes Kharshiing, who survived an assault by the coal mafia almost a year ago, received the 11th International Hrant Dink Award along with Turkish activist against male violence Nebahat Akkoç.
The two activists were presented the award that commemorates the memory of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed in 2007, in Istanbul on Sunday.
Since 2009, the Hrant Dink Award is presented every year to individuals, organisations or groups that work for a world free from discrimination, racism and violence, and who take personal risks for achieving those ideals, break the stereotypes and use the language of peace and by doing so give inspiration and hope to others.
The award committee said Ms. Kharshiing, 59, was chosen for “defending the rights of the poor, women, children and disadvantaged groups where she lives as well as for environmental rights”. Ms. Akkoç, based in Turkey’s Anatolia, was awarded for “working to raise awareness about women’s rights and to struggle against male violence”.
Often referred to as the “woman who chases trucks ferrying illegally-mined coal”, Ms. Kharshiing and her associate Amita Sangma were on November 8, 2018, assaulted by a mob during one of their many “surveillance” trips to Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills, a district rich in coal and limestone. About 40 people — mostly men involved in the banned rat-hole coal mining and illegal coal trade — ambushed their vehicle, dragged them out and hit them with blunt weapons. They were left to die in a wooded patch.
While Ms. Sangma managed to crawl out and call for help, Ms. Kharshiing lay unconscious when the police arrived. The two were shifted to a super-specialty hospital on the outskirts of Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.
Ms. Kharshiing was in coma for more than a week and was discharged from hospital after three months. She has been under medication and police protection since.
“People should raise their voices, help the vulnerable and support them when their human rights are violated,” Ms. Kharshiing said while receiving her award. “It is only this way that humanity can overcome hate. There are so many things that we can do together to bring peace to the world and fill the hearts of children with love, not fear.”