Opposition VPP MLAs stage walkout as Governor addresses Meghalaya Assembly in Hindi
Voice of the People Party MLAs maintained that English is the official language of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.
GUWAHATI/SHILLONG: The members of Voice of the People’s Party (VPP) in Meghalaya staged a walkout from the Assembly on the first day of the Budget Session on Monday protesting Governor Phagu Chauhan’s customary address in Hindi.
The VPP, which bagged four seats in the recent Assembly elections, alleged the Centre had sent the Hindi-speaking governor to Meghalaya as part of a “design” to impose Hindi on the people of the state. Seconds after Chauhan started reading out his written speech in Hindi, English copies of which were circulated to the members, VPP’s Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit interrupted. He argued that Rule 28 of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business of the House clearly says that the business of the Assembly shall be transacted in English.
“May I inform the governor that Meghalaya (carved out of Assam) is not a Hindi-speaking state. The people and leaders of the state decided to part ways with Assam because the Assam government had tried to impose Assamese as an official language. So, I feel we should not allow this to become a tradition in this august House,” Basaiawmoit, the VPP chief, said.
He alleged the Centre did not pay any heed to Meghalaya’s demand for the inclusion of Khasi and Garo languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, “thereby depriving us in various ways”. He appealed to Speaker Thomas A Sangma to make sure the governor addresses the House “in the language we understand or else, we have to shout slogans”.
When Chauhan resumed his address in Hindi, Basaiawmoit said it was against the sentiments of the people of the state. The Speaker requested the VPP legislator to sit down but he said, “We will not accept this. We will not allow the Government of India to impose the language (Hindi) on us. We condemn the governor for addressing us in a language we don’t understand.”
At this, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma intervened. He said this is not the behaviour expected of an elected member. Indicating that all members understand English, he said it would have been an issue if a member did not understand English.
“The speech in English has been circulated to everyone and therefore, there can be no reason why this issue should be made. Mr Speaker sir, I request that this kind of behaviour should not be admitted. This is not the way. It is sad that such disrespect is shown to the honourable governor in the House,” the CM said.
The Speaker then allowed Chauhan to continue his address in Hindi after stating that the governor has certain limitations and copies of the speech in English were circulated. The members of VPP then staged a walkout protesting “this kind of imposition from Delhi and Government of India sending a Hindi-speaking governor to the state whose language we don’t understand”.
"We don't want to be part of this proceeding and those who do not feel insulted may sit in the House. We do not want to be part of this," he said while walking out.
The Opposition MLAs maintained that English is the official language of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.
Minister and government spokesperson Paul Lyngdoh said while communicating, he would prefer a language that he could thoroughly understand.“I read the governor’s speech in English. Reading is far better because you can internalise all points of the speech better than listening to a language which you only half understand,” he said.
(with inputs from PTI)