Dear friends and fellow citizens,
My name is Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh and I am running for the office of MLA from the 17 North-Shillong Constituency in the 2023 general elections. I am standing as independent candidate but on KAM Meghalaya, a newly launched political platform which aims to facilitate a collective and participatory space for citizens towards a more equitable, inclusive and just Meghalaya. KAM Meghalaya emerges from a number of peoples’ movements and campaigns for justice and equality in the state, surrounding issues like workers’ rights, land rights and environmental and gender justice.
Where am I from?
I belong to an old family which resided in Mawkhar Shillong, adjacent to the erstwhile Їing Seng Jingtip (now YMCA). My maternal grandparents (Bah Elen Nongkynrih and Kong Imai Pyrtuh) lived and worked in Mawkhar where my late mother Kong Colin was born and brought up until she married my father Bah Jwar Kharmawlong from Mairang. Both my parents were Government servants and rented a house in Wahingdoh, Block III, where I was born before they shifted the residence to Lower Mawprem, Shillong. I am married to Bethel Lyndem who is also born and brought up in Riatsamthiah and is presently teaching History in the ICSE school in Shillong.
I gained my elementary education from the Synod High School, Mission Compound and continued the secondary level of education in Mawkhar Christian High School, Shillong, where I learned, laughed and played together with schoolmates from Mission, Wahthapbru, Mawkhar, Umsohsun, Wahingdoh,Riatsamthiah, Jaїaw Pyllun, Mawlai, Nongkrem and Bhoi area.
After my matriculation in 1988, I joined the St Anthony’s College, Shillong, and my horizon was further expanded, as I interacted with college mates beyond my own tribe. I made friends and learned together with fellow students from Upper Mawprem, Jailroad, Laban, Keating Road, Jowai, Manipur and Assam. This was also when I joined the Khasi Students’ Union for two and a half years, demanding from the government more public schools, universities and institutes for professional fields like medicine and engineering. But during those times and in my engagement with students’ politics I also started realising that questions of justice and rights cannot be narrowly compartmentalised. Thus, Justice and rights can be objectively addressed by looking from the margins.
My religious education
However, the years that I spent studying theology in Bishops College in Kolkata, make for the most formative period of my life, during which I learned an approach to theology and pastorship embedded in the call for social justice. Theology showed me the value of solidarity and empathy towards the marginalized. It has taught me to speak the language of faith and stand against corruption, communalism and greed, and to always strive for equity, equality and the common good.
When I served as the Pastor in the Mawkhar Presbyterian Church from 2002 to 2021, I had the opportunity and the privilege to get to know people from diverse groups and backgrounds. I learnt so much about their everyday challenges and situations. Many struggled to get two square meals a day, a roof over their heads and affordable healthcare. Together, we tried to think and work towards solutions. I wanted to be a pastor who not only prays for his congregation but one who steps out of the Church compound and walks alongside the struggling people in their daily battles. Together with the people I am trekking the road from empathy to emancipation. I wanted to pray for them and I also wanted my prayers to be honest and real.
Joining the movements for social and economic justice
Since my childhood, I was conscious of the socio-economic inequalities that existed in our localities and witnessed first-hand how people in high position routinely get away with exploitation of the less fortunate. Therefore, all my life I have been driven by the desire to serve the community and help build a just and fair world around us
Translating my convictions into further action, I, along with a few like-minded friends, formed Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) in 2012-13 and as a group, we have made several political interventions over the years, including the strengthening of the Right to Information Act, the passage of the Lokayukta and Social Audit Laws, the campaigns against uranium mining and big dams and unionisation of various workers like security guards, health workers and street vendors. There are success stories as well when I stood together with the qualified/merited grade IV candidates 2011, around 330 hundred of them, who had to embark on hunger strike continuously for nearly five years to secure themselves appointments to their respective jobs in various Government departments within the East Khasi Hills District. The recent one being the Street vendors and Hawkers’ case, whereby the Government had complied to implement the Central Law on street vending which is the longstanding and genuine demand of the Street vendors and Hawkers of Meghalaya. These movements grounded me in the domain of democratic politics even more, resulting in my current motivation to address the problems gripping our society through a legislative platform.
So why I am standing for elections?
I share with my friends in KAM Meghalaya, the idea that electoral politics is not the only way to secure a better future for us all. However, it is the most important and crucial arena through which we could pave the way for inclusive growth, socio-economic and gender justice, communal harmony and a sustainable environment. It is also the fitting pathway to challenge and eradicate criminality and corruption in politics and governance. To redeem from the failures in administration and the general collapse of social moorings, ethics and civility.
Meghalaya is 50 years old and plenty has been achieved, but we cannot deny that the State is descending into immorality and dishonesty in all spheres. Fear of the powerful has immobilized us and the fear of losing power have made people so corrupt and venal. But the situation is not beyond recovery and we must not allow that to be so. We need to have peoples’ representatives who are committed to uphold transparency and accountability to us. We deserve legislators whose passion is to bring about meaningful change via policy and legislation. We do not want those who only want to expand their business transactions, who dishonour our democracy by reducing our ballot to buyable commodities. We can no longer afford politicians who are busy engaging in the drama of party-hopping, with no commitment to the constituents but to the fight for power.
Recently, KAM Meghalaya had also published and widely distributed the 15 points program and its ideological beliefs which is also available here.
What is my vision for democracy and development?
I clearly understand the needs and expectations of the constituents. We need easy access to clean drinking water, regular and inexpensive electricity supply, an ecologically sustainable waste management system, and security and safety of women, children and people of all backgrounds in our streets. The youths need job opportunities and viable support to be able to sustain themselves and live a decent life. Further, affordable health care and quality education are crucial for the overall growth of the people of constituency and the state. These and other issues shall be on top of my priority list.
These goals are achievable but we also need a decentralized, well-funded and accountable civic governance. We already have our Dorbar Shnongs and the well-established Community based Welfare Society across the constituency. I pledge that I shall be working in tandem with these democratically elected civic bodies and to facilitate developmental works etc within my capacity as an elected MLA. I also pledge that schemes and projects meant for the people of constituency should be planned and implemented democratically by the people and in a fair and transparent manner with accountability.
This will be a different kind of election campaign and we in KAM believe that those who buy votes are also the ones who are available to be bought. We abhor the use of money and muscle powers. We will run this campaign through public donations and the spirit of volunteerism where we will proactively and regularly provide accounts of our expenditure. Mine would be a creative campaign that is rooted in respectful conversations and is always ready to listen to the concerns and learn from your aspirations as citizens.
So please tell me what do you think? What are your ideas about the constituency? What should I be doing? How can we make our campaign smarter and more creative? You can express your ideas here.
Let us talk and work together. You can call, text message or WhatsApp to 6033005175 or write email to [email protected]. I am also ready to meet in person.
Therefore, I write to you and call upon every citizen, young and old, parents, workers, professionals, homemakers to partake in this journey of reviving democracy to better our lives and our children’s lives. I promise to fight for a fair, clean and just future benefitting all and excluding no one.
I appeal upon voters and citizens of the 17 North Shillong Constituency, to join hands with KAM Meghalaya in the battle for democratic renewals. I assure you that your support and votes shall not be wasted.