Members of the Meghalaya Bengali community has sought “urgent and proactive steps to secure fundamental, constitutional and legal rights” to all citizens residing in the State.
The members of the community on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to chief minister Conrad Sangma in Shillong in this regard.
The memorandum was signed by over 80 members of the community after banners were recently hoisted in the State capital by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) branding all Bengali people residing in Meghalaya as Bangladeshis.
“We are deeply hurt by the provocative narrative of certain elements describing all Bengalis as Bangladeshis. This is an insult to our long and historical relations with our hill brethren and our pride as citizens of India,” the memorandum said.
The members said such a description is an “open threat” to the very existence of the community in the State.
They mentioned the 1979 communal riots targeted against the community in which “50 precious lives were lost uprooting hundreds of families”.
The memorandum said it is a negation of the “solemn commitment of the hill leaders made to the Government of India” during reorganisation of the North Eastern states in 1971 to “protect and safeguard the non-tribal minority residing in Meghalaya”.
It said the Bengali community has supported the hill State movement and served in the State legislature, administration, judiciary, health care, media, trade and commerce for years.
“We request you to craft a clear-cut policy commensurate with the letter and spirit of the Constitution in respect of the rights and privileges of all ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities residing in Meghalaya,” the memorandum said.
Citing the example of Assam, the memorandum also urged the State Government to constitute an official body for the protection of the rights of the linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities.
It also urged the Meghalaya government to “lay down a specific reserved quota for the ethno-linguistic minorities” residing in Meghalaya in government jobs, State Civil Service and State Police Service.