Shillong, Feb. 10: Security forces in the five districts of the Garo hills region are faced with the task of neutralising militant outfits and ensuring that the polls will pass off peacefully, with less than two weeks left before the Meghalaya votes for a new Legislative Assembly.
Last night, Garo National Liberation Army area commander Hadeo Ch. Momin managed to give the security forces a slip during a heavy exchange of fire that took place at Chigitchakgre in Betasing under West Garo Hills district. The exchange of fire broke out when Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) commandos came under attack from GNLA rebels hiding in the area.
However, Hadeo, who is in command of the West Garo Hills region, and is wanted in several criminal cases, managed to escape under the cover of darkness. “The encounter lasted for a couple of hours. The GNLA cadres were arrested by us and their area commander retreated back to the jungle after intensive firing from the security forces,” a senior police official said.
The arrested GNLA cadres were identified as Brightwell D. Arengh alias Chiga and Nathson Ch. Marak.
The official said the duo were involved in abduction and extortion in Garo hills.
The police recovered one AK-47 rifle, three magazines with 55 rounds of live ammunition, detonator, fuse wire, remote control, communication sets, and extortion notes from the encounter site.
On February 4, Jimmy, GNLA area commander of Williamnagar and seven other cadres managed to flee after a brief exchange of fire with SWAT commandos in Rongdol village under Songsak.
For the upcoming polls, election officials have identified several sensitive and hypersensitive polling stations in the Garo hills region.
Under the 60 Assembly constituencies, there are 2,485 polling stations. Of these, 412 have been identified as hypersensitive because of militancy, 462 as hypersensitive because of group clash, 348 as sensitive because of personal clash, while 1,263 polling stations are identified as normal.
In the 2008 polls, there were only 1,599 polling stations in the state.
The increase in the number of polling stations came after the delimitation of the constituencies.
Meghalaya had asked for 76 companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre to be deployed in the entire state, especially in the Garo hills region, for the Assembly polls.
While some companies have already arrived, the remaining will be deployed soon after the Tripura Assembly polls slated on February 14.