Protests over citizenship law, unsparing pandemic, muted tourism accentuate Meghalaya 2020

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by D Banjop Shillong, Dec 31 (PTI) Meghalaya saw violent anti- Citizenship Amendment Act protests in 2020 amid the unforgiving coronavirus pandemic, which also took the steam out of the state's thriving tourism sector.

The agitation against the contentious legislation turned the picturesque state into a virtual battlefield earlier in the year, as a youth activist was lynched with machetes and sticks allegedly by scores of pro-CAA camp members.

Less than 24 hours later, a vegetable vendor was stabbed to death in broad daylight and several others were injured in an attack purportedly orchestrated by anti-CAA activists.

The continuing violence prompted the state government to impose curfew in Shillong and snap internet and SMS services in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region, catching thousands of tourists off guard in late February.

The demand for Inner Line Permit also gained steam in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) becoming a law, as indigenous tribals of the state opposed the new legislation for fear of being marginalised and turned into a minority in their own land.

The state assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution for implementation of the Inner Line Permit last year, but there has been no headway on it since.

The ILP is a travel document required by outsiders, including people from other states of the country, to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur.

Several organisations, including the Khasi Students Union, and Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People, demonstrated during the year demanding its implementation to protect the identity and rights of indigenous people.

COVID-19 reared its ugly head in mid-April in Meghalaya, and till date, the virus has claimed 139 lives and infected nearly 13,500 people. Over 13,000 patients have, however, recovered from the disease so far.

A total of 25,000 frontline health workers from the state have been identified for the first phase of mass vaccination likely in early 2021.

The state's tourism economy, comprising hotel operators, homestay owners and cab services, came to a grinding halt since March, when the nationwide lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The only silver lining amid the gloom came with the launch of direct flight services from Meghalaya to the national capital on December 21, coinciding with the state reopening for tourists after nine long months.

State Transport Minister S Dhar took the inaugural flight from Delhi to Shillong. PTI JOP RBT SK SK