Shillong: Meghalaya women's rights activist, Agnes Kharshiing, and her two companions were brutally assaulted in a coal belt area in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district on Thursday.
Medical officials at the North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health Medical Sciences said that Kharshiing is in a critical condition with cut injuries on her skull bone.
Her companion Amita Sangma also suffered severe injuries besides their driver E Kurbah, who is also para legal volunteer. Both are admitted in NEIGRIHMS
"A group of 30-40 people, including women who are mostly dealing with coal trade, attacked us at Lum Sohshrew area around the coal depots after Kharshiing went and lodged a complaint at the Lad Rymbai police station on the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the district," Kurbah said.
The NGT had ordered an interim ban on "rat-hole" coal mining in Meghalaya from April 17, 2014, after the All Dimasa Students' Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee filed an application before the tribunal alleging that the water of the Kopili river was turning acidic due to coal mining in the Jaintia Hills.
"We were waylaid by a three to four vehicles and they later dragged us out of the vehicle. They snatched away our mobile phones. They kicked and punched us and Kharshiing was hit by a log from behind. It was a scary incident. I managed to escape from the scene after pleading with the attackers to leave me alone. I informed police personnel at Lad Jowai," Kurbah said.
R Chandranathan, who took over as Meghalaya police chief on Thursday, told IANS that he has directed the local police to register a case and bring the perpetrators to book.
"A police officer of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police will investigate the incident," Chandranathan said.
The attack on Kharshiing, who is also the chairperson of Civil Society Women's Organisation, an influential women's group, was the second attack on social activist in East Jaintia Hills district.
On March 19 this year, RTI activist, Poipynhun Majaw, who was the president of the Jaintia Youth Federation was attacked and found murdered in Khliehriat, the district headquarters of East Jaintia Hills.
Meanwhile, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma strongly condemned the incident of attack on Agnes Kharshiing and her team.
"We have issued necessary directions to the police and district administration to investigate the matter and arrest those behind the attack. Civil Society plays an important role in a democratic system as they are instrumental in highlighting the concerns of the people." Sangma said in a statement.
"Violence in any form will not be tolerated and the government will take all necessary steps to ensure that those behind the attack are brought to justice," the statement said.