Emotional Loss and Legal Setback: Fire Devastates Shillong Bar Association

A massive fire blazed through the 111-year old Assam type structure housing Shillong Bar Association on Saturday night.
Emotional Loss and Legal Setback: Fire Devastates Shillong Bar Association
Emotional Loss and Legal Setback: Fire Devastates Shillong Bar Association

Lawyers in the Shillong city stood by helplessly as towering flames destroyed their workplace and burned away some priceless memories of taking their first steps into the workforce.

"It is not a physical loss but an emotional loss as all the lawyers started from here," a lawyer going by the name Gautam said after a massive fire blazed through the 111-year old Assam type structure housing Shillong Bar Association on Saturday night.

He asserted that many important files have been lost, which will have a major impact on the legal process.

Another lawyer, Mary Sawkmie, was idly strolling in front of the office when she was asked what she was thinking. She responded, "I have been working here since 2009 and I am very sad. It is a great loss as this place means a lot to us and has a lot of memories," and nearly broke down in tears.

32-year practicing attorney P Dey said, "I cannot express my feelings. We have been coming here every day since the day we joined the bar association. "We keep our gowns in the cupboard along with the litigants' flies, and now everything is gone and we will have to start again."

Attorney Phillip Khrawbok Shati added, "This is a big loss and this is a place where not only one lawyer sits but it is a working and meeting point of hundreds of lawyers."

He continued, "Many files have been lost, and we will not be able to function effectively. Going forward, we could only seek help from the court to resend some of the files; however, there are some files which can no longer be retrieved and that is what is unfortunate."

While some people paced nervously around the office, others stood beside the smoke-filled rooms of the Bar Association, staring at the place while they considered their next course of action.

It may be mentioned that that there was no report of loss of life but the extent of damages is said to immense, considering that the rooms were being used to store thousands of legal documents.

Earlier, Bhola Yadav, the watchman narrated the incident and said he had taken a break for dinner and had gone to his house located near the office when he noticed the fire at around 10.30 pm.

He said when he reached the office, he saw sparks coming out of the electrical wire but unable to enter the room as the fire had already spread.

Later, he alerted the fire tenders who immediately rushed to the spot and was able to douse off the flames. However, the fire had turned the structure hollow from inside with most of the paper and wooden furniture reduced to ashes.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, Deputy Chief Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar and other officials arrived at the spot and took stock of the situation.

Speaking to the media, CM Sangma said, “The cause of the fire was likely due to electrical conditions. He expressed relief that there was no loss of life however was concerned about the documents and infrastructure that caught fire. He said that the government is monitoring the situation and is ensuring that the damage is minimized.”

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