Shillong, Feb. 17: The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) has served demand notes to businessmen in Tura, West Garo Hills, ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 15 lakh.
Tura town is Meghalaya’s commercial hub where people from all the three districts of Garo hills come for trade and commerce. There are also reports that the militant outfit had served demand notes for Rs 10 lakh each to several government departments in Garo hills.
According to sources, the GNLA even did not spare the petty shopkeepers in Tura.
A police official today said unless the businessmen or government officials lodge complaints, the police would find it difficult to act tough to check extortion.
Besides the mode of distributing printed copies of the demand notes, the militants also demanded for money by sending text messages through cellphones. Sometimes they used different cell phones with SIM cards registered in Manipur and Nagaland to call up people.
In the past, several legislators from Garo hills had received texts related to extortion from the GNLA.
After the GNLA was declared a terrorist outfit on January 12, Meghalaya director-general of police N. Ramachandran had made it clear that anyone who helped the outfit would be booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
It was only after Meghalaya police busted several finance cells of the banned Khasi hills-based Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) militant outfit several years ago, that the extortion activities of the outfit was reduced in Shillong and on the outskirts.
When R.G. Lyngdoh was the state home minister, the police had also filed FIRs against more than 100 businessmen in Shillong for donating money to the HNLC. The method yielded results in controlling the extortion activities of the HNLC in Shillong.
A senior official attached with the East Garo Hills district admitted that the GNLA has created enough fear among the people to the extent that the businessmen and government officials were forced to maintain silence on the demand notes served by the GNLA.
Nine persons were killed by GNLA this year alone for some whimsical reasons, resulting in fear psychosis among the business community in Garo hills.
Besides the West Garo Hills, the GNLA continues to extort money from the coal barons in the East Garo Hills, South Garo Hills and West Khasi Hills.
The police said a practical strategy should be adopted to tackle extortion.