Shillong, Sept. 12: The “indefinite shutdown” in the Garo hills region of Meghalaya today evoked a lukewarm response barring some stray incidents of stone throwing.
The shutdown was called after 13 persons were arrested yesterday in connection with Tuesday’s alleged intimidation and molestation in West Garo Hills district during a 12-hour bandh called by activists demanding a separate state for the Garos.
But this evening, an announcement was made that the shutdown has been called off, and the same will take effect from tomorrow.
The All India Garo Union (AIGU) Garo hills region president Anison Marak said the decision to call off the bandh is “temporary” and was taken to ensure the public was not inconvenienced.
At the same time, Marak demanded “unconditional release” of all those who were arrested since yesterday.
The AIGU is one of the groups under the Garo Hills State Movement Committee demanding for a separate state for A’chiks. “We are going to take stock of the situation, and we will decide our next course of action soon,” Marak said.
Police picked up another 10 persons today from different parts of West Garo Hills district. The number of arrests made in connection with Tuesday’s incident has gone up to 23. The general secretary of the Garo Hills State Movement Committee, Augustine R. Marak, was also one of the arrested persons.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma has shot down the statehood demand.
“I do not foresee further division of Meghalaya. There is only a bunch of people who are asking for this (statehood),” Sangma told reporters here today on the sidelines of a conference on chemical disaster management here.
Sangma also lambasted those activists who created ruckus at the offices of the West Garo Hills deputy commissioner and the District Rural Development Authority (DRDA) in Tura.
On Tuesday, some activists reportedly entered the deputy commissioner's office and that of the DRDA in Tura where they allegedly manhandled the staff, including women.
West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi said the police had picked up at least 10 more people in connection with Tuesday’s incident and that more are in line.
“We also received information that at least four persons are hiding at the residence of Chokpot legislator Clifford R. Marak in Tura. The group managed to flee before the police could arrest them,” Bakshi said.
He said although attendance in government offices was thin following Tuesday’s incident, the shutdown was not total, especially in the plains region. Bakshi said the administration was in the process of booking some of the arrested persons under the Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act (MPDA).
Deputy commissioners of East Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills Vijay Mantri and Ram Singh, said life was normal in their districts.
South Garo Hills deputy commissioner Chinmay Gotmare said there were no adverse reports from his district although attendance in his office was not more than 40 per cent.
The situation in North Garo Hills district could not be ascertained as deputy commissioner Wilfred Khyllep was unavailable for comment.