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Garo Hills NGOs call out manhunt

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TURA, July 29: Calling out the unprecedented manhunt for people who were present during a protest led by ACHIK and GSMC which saw violence that injured 18 security personnel as well as destruction of property and arson, a conglomerate of NGOs including the FKJGP, ADE, AYWO and TCGSU among others, have appealed to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma to ensure there were no further arrests of protesters that were present there on July 24 near the Mini Secretariat in Tura.
The NGOs asserted that the actions following the incident, which has tried to criminalise dissent and call those present assassins, were indicative of an authoritative government.
Talking about what happened prior to the meeting between the chief minister and the agitating NGOs, FKJGP’s president, Pritam Marak Arengh said that the meeting was supposed to have been held in the Circuit House in Tura but was later moved to the Mini Secretariat at the last moment.
“This has been missed by everyone as even we got an invitation to come to the meeting. Later on we came to know that the CM went to the venue where agitators were present. When the talks took some time, the agitators became very aggressive. Maybe there were one or two instigators as is evident from the videos and the gathering turned violent. There was some stone pelting and damage to vehicles which was very unfortunate,” said Pritam.
The NGOs questioned the rationale of the security administration to allow the CM to proceed to the venue where agitating protestors were waiting and where things could become violent at any moment.
“Was the police department unaware that there was a huge gathering and the crowds could get unruly?
Can the safety and security of the CM be compromised by the police if the CM is allowed to go to such a gathering of people who are agitated that the CM is not listening to their demands?
“After the incident, the DGP has gone on to state that this was an attempt to assassinate the CM. This statement can have lots of implications, not necessarily positive. The world is buying into the narrative that the people of GH have attempted to assassinate the CM of the state, one that is from their own community. This has tainted the image of the entire community,” he felt.
In the aftermath, the police and district administration have begun to arrest those that have gone to the venue, irrespective of the fact whether they were a part of the violence or not an booking them in cases of attempt to assassinate the CM of the state – a charge that is huge but used in an unprecedented manner. What has irked many is also the fact that the district administration has announced reward money for those who inform them on the whereabouts of those that attended the meeting.
“An unprecedented number of arrests are being made and the names of the arrestees have been made public where they have been labelled workers of the TMC or BJP. There may have been political elements but whenever there is an agitation for the community, everyone comes, irrespective of their political colours as they feel this will be their contribution towards the community and a better future,” added Dalseng B Ch Momin, president of ADE.
Angry at the two NGOs that led the agitation, Pritam said that they were the ones appealing to the people to come to the venue due to which a huge crowd gathered that day.
“They have been calling the people to come to the venue for days but when it came to the end, they quickly washed their hands off and said they were not aware of the people who came and were not part of their movement. They even called those that came as people as not their own. When such a statement was made, it became very easy for the police and administration to say it was politically motivated and thus began the unprecedented arrests,” he added.
Appealing to the CM, Conrad Sangma, Pritam stressed that this witch hunt could lead to further escalation of the situation.
“People have been extremely silent on the matter and this may just be the indicator of the calm before the storm. You should understand as CM that peace and tranquillity is paramount for the state,” he added.
Despite our silence on the matter, we are now compelled to speak out due to the circumstances.
More than 46 persons have been arrested so far and a manhunt is on for over 70 more as per latest reports.
“We appeal to the government that no further arrests should be made and I also request the police department to not oppose bail for those you have arrested. If there is compelling evidence of wrongdoing police should interrogate them. Keeping such a huge number of people behind bars and calling them a political nuisance is not very wise on the part of the police. We appeal to the CM to look into the matter. Things cannot be oversimplified like that
“Another request, a person of the stature of the DGP has given a statement that it was an attempt to assassinate the CM. The CM should clarify otherwise the entire Garo community will be labelled as assassins. People will not know that there were only a few people who caused the violence. The message you are sending out is that it is the Garo people who tried to assassinate their own CM, from their own community. This is a very dangerous path you are taking,” warned the NGOs.
He added that despite what happened one positive thing has come out – the discussion about the setting up of a second capital in the state of Meghalaya
“There is a narrative that a gentleman’s agreement was made between the founding fathers of our state regarding the set up of a second capital in Tura. Majority of us believe this narrative. I think it’s time for us to discuss if we want to get to the bottom of what happened and work as stakeholders of the state,” he felt.

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