TURA: A group of organisations from Garo Hills have given a two-week ultimatum to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council to put in place a mechanism to check influx of outsiders and preparation of a separate electoral roll for council elections.
Leaders representing the seven organizations — Garo Students’ Union central executive committee’s interim body, Garoland State Movement Committee, All A’chik Youth Federation, A’chik Youth Council, Post Graduate Students’ Union, All India Garo Union and Tura Government College Students’ Union — met with the Chief Executive Member (CEM) of GHADC, Dipul Marak, this week to put forward their demands.
Terming their demands as the “protection of the Indigenous Garo People” these organisations have said that the traditional tribal culture and way of life is under threat of being wiped out because of the rising influx into the region.
“We are giving the district council authorities 15 days’ time to put in place ‘effective’ measures that will put a stop to this ongoing influx from outside. We are compelled to give the ultimatum because no steps were taken even after submission of a memorandum in November last year,” stated GSMC co-chairman Balkarin Marak.
The core issues brought before the council by these organisations are the codification of the Garo customary law, entry and exit points in Garo Hills, preparation of a separate electoral roll for GHADC elections and an effective implementation of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act.
The codification laws have been passed from one committee to another without any final declaration despite years of review.
The codification has been sought by many Garos to check the issue of non-Garos taking the tribal surname by way of wedlock and claiming to be members of the Garo community.
The demand for entry and exit points in Garo Hills is to check illegal influx which the protesting organisations claim is on the rise particularly in areas of non-tribal population such as the plains belt region.
GHADC is the only one among the three in the state, others being the Khasi Hills (KHADC) and Jaintia Hills (JHADC), where non-tribal voters can participate in the district council elections.
The claim of the tribal groups is that the GHADC was created solely to protect the tribal people and their lands and non-tribals cannot have the right to be part of it.
Besides the participation by the non-tribal electorate in the council polls, the expansion of other communities into tribal areas has been attributed to purchase of land and the protesting organisations want a fool-proof system to be in place to ensure tribal lands can no longer be sold to non-tribal buyers.
It is worth mentioning that in many areas in the plains belt region of Phulbari, Rajabala, Bhaitbari, Chibinang and Hallidayganj, prime tribal land was sold to non-tribals by unscrupulous Nokmas (village headman) in their greed for money. The manner in which the land patta was cleared into the ownership of a non-tribal by the GHADC has also put the spotlight on the oldest autonomous institution which prides itself on protection of the indigenous tribe.