Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Bandh from July 15 to 21 against holding civic polls

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Garo Hills NGOs call for 7-day strike

From Our Correspondent

 TURA: The Joint Action Committee, a conglomerate of student and social groups from the Garo Hills, has announced a seven-day shutdown of the three districts to prevent holding of municipal elections to four municipal boards amid fears it could dilute the powers of the 6th Schedule and undermine the traditional bodies including the Nokma-ship and the present land tenure system in which tribals wield the power.

The call for a stir by the JAC also mentions there will be no let up in the shutdown with the closure extending even to Saturday and Sunday.

Coincidentally, July 16 falls on a Saturday and is the commemorative ceremony of the Garo Labour Corps to remember the several hundred Garo men who went to France to work for the allied forces during World War I. A special observance is held every year in memory of the volunteers at a specially built cenotaph in Babupara.

On Tuesday morning, the Joint Action Committee of student and social organizations (JAC) held a public rally in as many as five places in Garo Hills to bolster public support against the polls. However, the turnout for the meet was not encouraging at almost all the venues.

In Tura Chandmari field there were approximately 500 people who attended the rally. According to the GSU, a heavy downpour during the morning hours has been attributed as the cause for the low turnout.

Official sources also inform that at Resubelpara town there were approximately 400 people who attended the rally while in Williamnagar there were about 600 participants. In Baghmara roughly 300 people joined the protest, many of whom were students. At Ampati, home constituency of Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma, number of participants in the rally was approximately a hundred people.

With the government refusing to extend the olive branch to the agitating groups for a dialogue the road appears to be clear for another spell of turmoil in the Garo Hills region even as the common man remains at the receiving end..

During the public meeting, leaders of the JAC including those of the GSU strongly objected to the State Government’s decision to go ahead with the polls despite faced stiff opposition to the exercise in its previous attempt, last year.

GSU president Tengsak G Momin was most vocal going to the extent of using un-parliamentary language terming those candidates who went to court seeking for polls as nothing short of “dogs”.

“The government wants to obtain the Asian Development Bank funds amounting to over a Rs 100 crores for development of Shillong city under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. But why hold the polls in Garo Hills?” questioned GSU president.

He accused the government of developing cold feet in not holding polls at Shillong over fears of taking on the KSU while in Jaintia Hills they were apprehensive of the JSU’s plans to cut off the only major highway that connects the rest of the north-eastern states with mainland India.

The FKJGP Garo Hills Zone president Pritam R Marak accused the government of having a hidden agenda in its call for polls. He said over time the municipal zone would extend to other places and one day lead to extract of uranium from the Balpakram national park range. Others who spoke on the occasion included All India Garo Union (AIGU) regional unit president Enison Marak and GSU adviser Mansang A Sangma.

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