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Tura offices torched in protest

Shillong, March 25: The controversy over the Meghalaya Board of School Education is once again raging in the Garo hills, with protesters setting ablaze government offices.

Minutes after the Assembly passed the 2005 amendment bill for the school education board yesterday, the Garo hills erupted, with non-governmental organisations and students’ unions rejecting the amended law.

In Tura, protesters torched the office of the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) late last evening. A few other government offices were also damaged and an attempt was made to set ablaze an office of the agriculture department.

Shops and business establishments remained closed throughout the day today following apprehension that largescale violence could break out all over the Garo hills. Attendance in offices, too, was thin, because the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) had issued a call for picketing today.

West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Sampat Kumar said over telephone that there were no fresh incidents of violence today. There was no picketing either, he added.

“We have called the GSU and other NGOs for an informal meeting to explain the need to maintain law and order,” Kumar said, exuding confidence that the situation would soon return to normal.

Kumar said a magisterial inquiry has been instituted to ascertain the cause of the blaze in the DIPR office. The office was completely gutted and all “valuable government documents” were destroyed.

The district administration has ensured elaborate security arrangements in and around Tura town. Additional security forces are being rushed to Tura and Williamnagar.

The banned A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) has reacted strongly to the passage of the amendment bill in the Assembly. Dubbing it a “humiliation for the Garo people”, the outfit has appealed to the people of the Garo hills to come under a single umbrella and demand a separate state.

The bifurcation of the school education board, which the Garos believe is discriminatory, had sparked several protests in the Garo hills since last year. The agitation against the Lapang government’s move to amend the 1973 act dealing with the board eventually led to police firing in September in Tura and Williamnagar, claiming nine lives.

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