Shillong, Sept. 11: At least 13 persons were arrested today in connection with yesterday’s alleged intimidation and molestation in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district during a shutdown called by activists who are fighting for a separate state for the Garo people.
The district administration had come down heavily on these activists for allegedly intimidating staff at the deputy commissioner’s office yesterday.
A 12-hour shutdown across the Garo hills region was called yesterday by groups demanding a separate state for Garos.
West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi said the 13 were picked up from in and around Tura, and some of them are top leaders of groups leading the statehood movement.
Following the arrests, Bakshi said around 60 people went to the deputy commissioner’s office where a memorandum was submitted demanding the release of the 13 people.
As per the memorandum, Bakshi said, the people wanted the accused to be released within one hour or else an indefinite shutdown would be called from tomorrow.
Although the 13 people have been sent to judicial custody, the deputy commissioner said the memorandum would be treated as evidence and a threat to the administration and to the people of the Garo Hills.
While Section 144 CrPC has been clamped in the district, Bakshi said five NGOs have come out to oppose the indefinite shutdown as these groups do not want a spiralling of the vandalism and molestation which were caused yesterday.
Yesterday, some activists reportedly entered the deputy commissioner's office and that of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) in Tura where they allegedly manhandled the staff, including women.
“As chairman of the district-level Committee for Prevention of Atrocities Against Women, I am taking suo moto notice of the assault on women employees and criminal intimidation of many to the extent that many of the women staff broke down and started crying,” Bakshi said.
He said the “pre-meditated, pre-planned and cowardly attack” on the offices has been strongly condemned by him and his staff.
“The assault on our DRDA personnel, criminal intimidation of our staff who had dutifully reported to office for service of people, verbal abuse, manhandling of women are horrifying and most reprehensible acts on the part of the proponents for a separate state movement,” Bakshi added.
He said the “cowardly act exposes the criminal intentions of the perpetrators” to humiliate and torture citizens including women, government officials and staff on duty.
“I am also told that they molested and assaulted another woman who had come to the town in a vehicle bearing an Assam registration number. These acts have totally and irreversibly discredited the movement in the eyes of the public as the enforcers now have started cowardly attacks even on women,” Bakshi said.
The attack was also “communal” in nature, which is all the more worrying and shameful, he said, and asked: “Is this how a movement is run, by assaulting women and forcing schoolchildren to participate in dangerous agitations?”
Bakshi said he had been advising the volunteers of the separate state movement to have a dignified and democratic campaign and also pinned the blame on leaders and office-bearers of the groups spearheading the movement.
The deputy commissioner has also instructed the additional district magistrate to lodge an FIR in the case under relevant sections of law.
“We have decided that in future no permission for any demonstration, sit-in, dharna or non-cooperation movement will be given to the organisers of such heinous attacks on women and for all incidents of violence the law will take its own course,” Bakshi said. He added that the State Women’s Commission and the National Women’s Commission would be informed about these incidents.
Meghalaya Pradesh Youth Congress general secretary Richard M. Marak condemned the incident and also said that since Chokpot legislator Clifford R. Marak is the leader of the separate state movement, he should take moral responsibility for the incident and resign from the Assembly.