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Barak Valley residents allege racial profiling in Ratacherra, Meghalaya border: “Charging Rs 500 for Covid tests”

More than 300 labourers from Barak Valley were stopped and had to return home from Meghalaya border as the Meghalaya State Government has imposed several travel restrictions for citizens entering the state. On Sunday morning there was a huge ruckus near Assam-Meghalaya border at Ratacherra regarding the newly imposed SOP and restrictions. While labourers from Barak Valley were trying to reach Meghalaya through Kheliehriat for work, they were stopped by the Meghalaya State Police and were asked to pay Rupees 500 individually for RT-PCR testing. It is alleged that the state police is not accepting COVID test reports or Full Vaccination Certificates from Assam. When the labourers protested against such imposition they stopped at the border and said they can’t enter the state otherwise.

As the situation was getting heated, Maulana Enamulla, the General Secretary of International Human Rights Commission for South Assam, went to talk to the Meghalaya Administration on behalf of the labourers. Speaking to the media he said, “Today morning I got several calls from the labourers stuck at Meghalaya border at Ratacherra. When I rushed to the spot, I saw more than two thousand labourers stopped near the border, mostly from Barak Valley. Their vehicle was stopped by the Police and asked to pay Rupees 500 as per their new COVID guidelines. Most of the labourers didn’t have that amount in their pocket and had to return but others protested against such imposition. I have talked with the DC and SP Cachar regarding the situation and also called the IGP of Meghalaya Police seeking help, they’ve instructed us to submit memorandums regarding this and only then something can be done.”

Regarding the maintenance of COVID protocols, he said, “All the labourers you see here are double vaccinated and have their full vaccination certificates with them, all of them are wearing face masks.”

He warned the Meghalaya Government that, “If these restrictions are not withdrawn, we will launch protests throughout Assam and not allow any vehicles from Meghalaya to enter into Assam. These restrictions are a violation of the human rights of these labourers who hardly earn the amount they’re being fined for testing. Plus, there are no such restrictions imposed by the Assam Government for vehicles and citizens entering Assam from Meghalaya. It is a selective target and harassment on the Bengali labourers of this Valley.”

A labourer from Kalain who, like every other day, was trying to enter Meghalaya for work said, “We’ve been requesting them to let us go for the last five hours, but they are not even responding to our requests. They’re only stopping us Bengalis, Kahasi citizens are not being stopped or questioned. We produced our double vaccination certificates but the only way out seemed to be the 500 rupees note. We hardly earn that amount in one day’s labour. We request the district administration of Cachar to take some steps and request the Chief Minister of Assam to help us on that matter so that we can earn our bread.”

It is worth mentioning here that daily wage earners from Barak Valley go all the way to Meghalaya to earn some money as carpenters, construction workers, mechanics etc. In a video where Maulana Enamulla, the General Secretary of International Human Rights Commission for South Assam, was talking to the Meghalaya State Police, the personnel is seen without any facial mask.

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