Spelity Lyngdoh Langrin, who rejected lucrative offer of Rs. 45 crore to sell off her uranium-rich land at Domiasiat village in Meghalaya to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), passed away on October 28, Wednesday. She was 95.
“She passed away at 1130 p.m on Wednesday night after a long illness, but she died peacefully at her residence in Domiasiat village,” Spelity’s daughter, Smerela Lyngdoh Langrin said.
The nonagenarian who has resisted mining uranium for almost three decades has been suffering from various age-related diseases, but has not been able to meet her medical attention due to non-existence of health centre in the village.
On Wednesday, Norman Donald Syiem, the Secretary of Domiasiat village and Spelity’s son-in-law, rushed to Primary Health Centre at Wahkaji village and requested a doctor to examine Spelity at her residence in Domiasiat village.
“The doctor came and examined her. He administered an IV drip after seeing her ill-health and couldn’t move her entire right of the body,” Syiem, who is also the Secretary of Domiasiat village, said.
“However, the doctor told us that he won’t be able to specify the disease that my mother-in-law was suffering from without undergoing a thorough diagnosis,” Syiem said.
Wahkaji is around 34 kilometres from Domiasiat and the villagers are yet to see an all-weather road.
Spelity, the matriarch of Domiasiat became a household name when she rejected a lucrative offer from the UCIL to sell her land after the Atomic Minerals Directorate had undertaken exploratory drilling for uranium deposits in 1993.
“It was in 2002 when UCIL officials came to meet my mother-in-law and offered her Rs, 45 crore to sell off her land for mining of the uranium. However, my mother-in-law rejected outrightly rejected the lucrative after witnessing the frequent deaths of children and strange illness of villagers following the exploratory mining,” Syiem recounts.
“Money cannot buy me freedom,” Spelity had said to eventually motivate locals against the “environmental ills” of uranium mining.
Meghalaya is the third uranium-rich state in the country after Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. It has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.
In 2016, the Meghalaya government revoked its agreement with the UCIL to lease a land measuring 422 hectares in South West Khasi Hills thus also forced the State-owned mining company to temporarily close down its establishments in Meghalaya since the government-owned mining company did not receive mining lease and statutory permission from the state government.
The Atomic Mineral Directorate stopped its exploratory drilling in South West Khasi Hills district after its officials were attacked and machines used for taking sub surface samples were also set on fire.
The Khasi Students’ Union, which had opposing the Kylleng-Pyndengsohïong-Mawthabah uranium mining project had mourned Spelity;s death.
“The matriarch who withstood the onslaught of UCIL and its agents to forcibly mine uranium in Meghalaya has departed from us. May her soul rest in peace,” the union tweeted.
Independent journalist and commentator based in Shillong