Won’t go to Assam: Tarabari residents
TURA, April 4: Tensions in the border areas between Meghalaya and Assam have been running high ever since the memorandum of understanding (MoU) over land settlement in six of the 12 disputed areas between the two states was signed by the chief ministers of both states.
While the MoU may have begun a settlement of the long-pending dispute since the formation of Meghalaya in 1972, for residents of the Tarabari sector, which includes the Malangkona areas, it has done nothing to douse the anger and apparent betrayal they feel with what has transpired. It has rather aggravated it.
A meeting was held in the village of Malangkona Siminaguri, one of the areas that was never in dispute, though still listed in the MoU, which was attended by hundreds of people, most of whom suddenly found themselves in Assam despite living their entire life in Meghalaya. The meeting saw the presence of AITC MLA Marthon Sangma (Mendipathar), MDCs Cherak W Momin (Kharkutta), Pardinand D Shira (Damas), Rinaldo K Sangma (Rongrong) and Alphonsush Marak (Williamnagar).
Incidentally, two of the AITC leaders, Marthon and Cherak were originally from the district of West Khasi Hills (WKH) and have extensive local knowledge.
Speaking at the start of the meeting, Anosh G Momin, a resident of the village, said they were unable to accept the MoU and they were being moved into Assam against their desire to be in Meghalaya.
“We have been part of Meghalaya since the time the state was created in 1972 and now despite us overwhelmingly voting to be a part of the state, we have been forced into Assam through the MoU. They had clearly stated that our thoughts would be considered but from what has transpired, we have been betrayed by our CM,” said Anosh.
He asserted that they were not willing to accept the MoU and wanted the CM, the local MLA and MDC along with the cabinet ministers to pay a visit to the village to find out ground realities.
“The situation for us has to change and we will in no way accept being a part of Assam, no matter the consequences,” he added.
“I represent the Office of Sordar of Hima Nonglang. We are grateful to the CM for trying to resolve the border dispute and appreciate his attempt because none of the previous CMs dared to take this up. We are however disappointed with the decision to give away some of the villages to Assam, of which the ethnicity status of most of these villages is 100% indigenous population (Garo or Khasi),” said the Sordar who was part of the meeting.
“I want to express my grievances over the decision taken by the CM — the reason why these villages are left out is due to the fact that the regional committee did not include members of the KHADC and Sordars of the Hima who possess land documents. We urge the CM to review this MoU and include members from KHADC and Sordars in the regional committee because they know the grassroots level. The CM himself has no knowledge of the borders and relies heavily on ground reports,” the leader added.
The gathering emanated similar feelings on what happened and pointed out that the CM’s promise of taking into account local consent, willingness, the population as well as desire of the people were not even considered despite the promises made by the CM during his interactions with them.
“What was promised to us and what we have been forced into are two different things altogether. Even when the Assam side was surveying the land they wanted as part of their territory, there was no move from our state to make similar attempts. Whatever was given was accepted and those tall promises to us were just that – a total lie,” added another resident.
“The CM, when we met him, stated that the boundary demarcation was done following the 2011 Census. As a part of the then ruling government, we don’t remember any such dispute resolution survey taking place. When did this even happen,” asked MDC and former MLA of Kharkutta, Cherak.
Cherak, who hails from the same place, added that they were hurt by what happened.
“There were reactions and we got calls from the people on how bad they felt. We assure you that we (AITC) will support you without question on the issue,” asserted Cherak.
The residents also questioned the absence of the two MLAs of the area, Gigur Myrthong (also the MDC) and Kimfa Marbaniang for their absence during the entire process of survey and distribution of land.
“We have many in our villages who fought for the Hill State movement and even went to jail to bring about the dream of Meghalaya. They fought to be a part of the state and now they are being alienated despite being a part of the state movement,” added another resident who spoke during the meeting.
Marthon Sangma, during his interaction with the people felt the local MLA was needed to discuss the matter with the locals as it was his area which has been so easily gifted away.
“He (Kimfa) should know the boundaries of his constituency but from what we hear, it seems he does not even know what lands belong to the state in his own place. He should have been here to discuss things with the people and work out ways to reverse or change the MOU to at least take local sentiments into account,” said the Mendipathar MLA.
A huge group of women, who were a part of the meeting, expressed their anger at the apparent betrayal and blaming the CM as well as the MLA and MDC for it.
“This is all his (CM’s) doing. We blame him for what we are facing. We are being made the villains for our legitimate demands by the media in Assam where as we are the ones who are being tortured on a daily basis. The CM has to come down and work out ways to change what happened. We will not accept being a part of Assam,” said the women when speaking after the meeting.
Another felt that the prime lands of the Tarabari sector were given to Assam with Meghalaya getting nothing.
“They have been provided with plush offices and homes while what we have been left with are the stinky toilets. Our livelihoods are being stolen and we want the MoU to change in our favour. The CM must act on our demand. We want to be a part of Meghalaya not Assam,” added the group, while displaying their voter ID cards issued by the state Election department.
During the meeting, residents shouted slogans demanding a change in the MoU while holding placards displaying their reluctance to accept the MoU as it presently stood.
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