Meghalaya activists who survived attack from coal mafia receive alleged threat calls
The duo – Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma – lodged an FIR with the police, stating that they had received the threat calls on October 17
Published: 19th October 2021 03:25 PM | Last Updated: 19th October 2021 07:15 PM | A+A A-
GUWAHATI: Two Meghalaya activists, who survived a brutal attack from the coal mafia in 2018, received alleged threat calls for alerting the police about two illegal coal-laden trucks which were found releasing acidic water.
The duo – Agnes Kharshiing and Amita Sangma – lodged an FIR with the police, stating that they had received the threat calls on October 17. Agnes could hardly talk as the network was bad and the call got disconnected. But Amita’s conversation lasted a few minutes.
“The person also called Amita Sangma…He told her that he wanted her to release the trucks of his friend. He started the conversation by saying that he knows her son,” the FIR reads.
Both viewed the statement as intimidation. They have been under police protection since the 2018 attack on them near an illegal coal mine site in East Jaintia Hills.
Amita (46), a widow and mother of seven, told The New Indian Express that the caller had wanted to meet her and talk to her.
“He said he is a friend of my son. By taking my son’s name, he basically wanted to threaten me and weaken me,” the activist said.
She said the person had also asked her to release the two coal trucks, stating their owner was his friend.
“We cannot lead a jail-like existence. If something happens to my children, the National People’s Party-led government will be held solely responsible. I am afraid that my children might be targeted as they are not protected like me,” Amita said.
Agnes (61) said the first thing the caller had told Amita was that he knew her son.
“It is an indirect threat. We have shared the person’s phone number with the police. If they want, they can easily nab him,” Agnes, who is the chief of an NGO, Civil Society Women Organisation, said.
“It is a huge racket. They (coal mafia) involve the youth and groom them,” she claimed.
The activist lamented that rat-hole coal mining was rampant in the state despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal in 2014.
“Some 50 coke plants are operating in East Jaintia Hills. Where do they get the coal from? The coal extracted ahead of the NGT ban has all got exhausted. Coal being transported now is all freshly extracted,” Agnes said.
“Scientific coal mining is not feasible in Meghalaya. You have to go 500 feet down to find coal. The day is not far off when Meghalaya will witness volcanic eruptions,” she cautioned.
The coal-rich state has witnessed a series of mine tragedies. In 2018, at least 17 labourers, mostly from Assam, were killed at a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills. High daily wages, which could be up to Rs 2,000, draw many labourers to the Meghalaya mines.