In a statement, PCFS said Kharshiing, president of the Civil Society Women’s Organization (CSWO), is a prominent
women’s and land rights activist in Meghalaya. She was attacked for her consistent struggle against coal mining in the northeastern State of Meghalaya.
It also stated that Kharshiing, her aide Amita Sangma, and driver Emiki Kurbah were documenting illegal coal trucks when a group of around 40 people from an alleged coal mafia blocked their car at Tuber Shohshrieh village and assaulted them.
They were on their way back to Shillong, the State capital of Meghalaya, from Ladrymbai town when the incident happened.
Kharshiing and Sangma were both in critical condition after the attack and are now recovering.
PCFS also stated that Kharshiing was once jailed in 2013 for more than a week for opposing the forced eviction of communities in Shillong, and has continued her activism. More recently, she has been involved in the resistance against coal smuggling in the Jaintia Hills region – proving her unwavering commitment in the struggle to protect the environment and in promoting food sovereignty.
PCFS believes that this attack was carried out to silence Kharshiing. A day prior to the incident, she exposed the illegal transportation of coal in the area through a complaint, which resulted in the confiscation of at least five vehicles in Mawlai Mawiong.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned the operation of “rat hole” coal mines in Meghalaya since 2014, which have posed serious health and environmental dangers due to its poisoning of water systems including streams and rivers.
PCFS expressed its grave concern over the consecutive attacks on people’s rights activists in Meghalaya.
“Kharshiing’s attack follows the murder in March this year of anti-corruption youth activist of Poipynhun Majaw, president of Jaintia Youth Federation, whose killers are still on the loose. It was the first recorded extra-judicial killing in the State,” stated PCFS.
PCFS while welcoming the arrest of two suspects involved in Kharshiing’s assault, it has called “the Government of Meghalaya to act upon these cases of political attacks targeting people’s rights defenders and ensure that their perpetrators are held accountable”.
The PCFS also wanted the “efforts against illegal and destructive activities, particularly the ban of coal mines, in Meghalaya”.
“Lastly, we hope for the speedy recovery of Kharshiing and Sangma,” PCFS further stated.