Shillong, Oct. 10: A resolution for the creation of a separate Garo state was meekly withdrawn in the Meghalaya Assembly today after chief minister Mukul Sangma apparently managed to drive home the point that “small is always beautiful”.
Interestingly, the mover of the resolution, Clifford R. Marak, a Garo National Council (GNC) legislator from Chokpot, himself provided fodder to the chief minister who, in turn, convinced the veteran leader to withdraw the resolution.
“Small family, happy family. Likewise, a small state is a happy state,” Marak said while trying to convince the House to adopt the resolution. Taking cue from the statement, Sangma said, “Meghalaya is really small. That is why it is beautiful. Let us not split it further. We should, in fact, work together to make the state stronger.”
Earlier, Marak, who has been advocating a state for the Garos since the 1990s, said Meghalaya should be divided on “linguistic lines”. Pointing out the communication gap between Khasi-Jaintia hills and Garo hills, he said one has to cover hundreds of kilometres to reach Shillong from the Garo hills. “Besides, we still have to pass through Assam to come to Shillong as the roads in the state are not in a good condition.”
Supporting the resolution, Hill State People’s Democratic Party legislator Hopingstone Lyngdoh said the Garos needed a separate state, as their culture, tradition and customary laws were different from the people in the Khasi-Jaintia hills.“Let us now separate,” he said.
HSPDP legislator Witting Mawsor said his party and the GNC had jointly approached the Centre to bifurcate the state. “Every Garo citizen will be happy. Even militants have been extending support.”
Replying to the resolution, Sangma enumerated the changes that have taken place in the state in the last 41 years since its creation in 1970. “The Garo hills has witnessed significant improvement in its socio-economic profile since the emergence of Meghalaya,” he said, while not discounting the fact that militancy had caused a major setback to it and there were challenges to be overcome.
He urged militant leaders to come forward and be a part of the settlement process.
“A division of the state would place more constraints on our resources and the development process. It would only increase the social and economic vulnerability of our people without yielding substantial gains in the long run,” Sangma said.
Before appealing to Marak to withdraw the resolution, Sangma said, “Our strength is because we are together. Let us show that we can live together and we will surely be stronger. Let us send a strong message that the Khasis, Jaintias and the Garos can live together.”
Area: 22429 sq km
Major communities: Khasi, Jaintia, Garo
Languages: Khasi, Pnar, Garo, English
(6 in Khasi-Jaintia hills,
5 in Garo hills)