SHILLONG, Sept 16 - Social activist Agnes Kharshiing has received the Hrant Dink award in Istanbul, Turkey, for her pioneering work defending the poor, women and children and the environment.
Kharshiing received the award at a programme held at Lutfi Kirdar Congress and Exhibition Hall. She received this year’s award along with Nebahat Akkoc of Turkey, who has been fighting for women’s rights. The annual award is instituted by the Hrant Dink Foundation in honour of Turkish-Armenian journalist and columnist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2007 for defending human and minority rights.
In her speech, Kharshiing she spoke about illegal coal mining in Meghalaya taking place under orders from “people in power”.
“No one can dare to speak out. Those in authorities don’t dare to stop. Villagers don’t dare speak out nor can report, as police would not act. If honest police act on illegal activities, they are transferred to the remote areas,” she said about the illegal coal mining.
Kharshiing and fellow activist Amita Sangma were seriously injured in an attack last year allegedly by the coal mafia in the Jaintia Hills. Kharshiing, through her NGO, Civil Society Women’s Organisation, was attacked after she raised the issue of illegal coal mining in the area.
The social activist further stated that in most countries “thoughtless policies” were controlled by those who drive the funds. In the bargain, the poor are not at all considered, nor do their thoughts or opinions matter.
“Political leaders are chosen and elected by the people. But definitely there are public who are under threat and cannot vote for a candidate of their choice. That then gives power to criminals and they move with influential people,” Kharshiing said.
She also raised the issue of rape cases, especially of minors in Meghalaya. Kharshiing said the perpetrators are mostly their own relatives or people known to them.
Citing Meghalaya Police data, she said that this year till July, the number of rape cases of minor children was 139. “These are reported cases… even if cases are charge-sheeted in courts, it takes years for the trial,” she said.
Urging the “public to start speaking out”, Kharshiing said assistance should be provided to the vulnerable and they should be helped when human rights are violated.