Shillong, June 6: The gruesome killing of the 35-year-old woman in Raja Ronggat village in South Garo Hills, and the rise in militant-related activities in the Garo hills prompted the Opposition today to push for the imposition of President’s rule in Meghalaya.
Tabling an adjournment motion on the first day of the reassembled budget session of the Assembly, the Opposition censured the Mukul Sangma-led government for its alleged failure in controlling the law and order scenario, especially in strife-torn Garo hills.
The House witnessed an animated, and at times acrimonious, debate with most of the Opposition members suggesting Sangma step down as chief minister to pave the way for the restoration of the “rule of law” through President’s rule. However, the motion was defeated when Speaker Abu Taher Mondal put it to vote.
“The Garo hills is in a state of total lawlessness where the facts and figures speak for themselves. Earlier, I had a belief that this government meant well. Now I have stopped believing in that, and I have lost hope in the government. President’s rule should be imposed (in the state),” NPP legislator James P.K. Sangma said while initiating the discussion on the motion.
The chief minister intervened by saying “this was not the place” to demand President’s rule.
The NPP legislator also spoke on the recent alleged custodial deaths in Tura and Chokpot, and the need to inquire into the politician-militant nexus.
Leader of the Opposition Donkupar Roy said the militant groups have been mushrooming since the last four years, and that this was one of the “greatest achievements of the government”.
He also said at present peace was more important than having a chief minister occupying the chair. “Let the chief minister step down for the time being, and let the state be under President’s rule,” Roy suggested.
He likened the present strategy of fighting militancy in the Garo hills with that of blind men reaching out to touch an elephant. “The militant groups are not as strong as the Taliban yet. They are a group of criminals and thieves. But if we do not act now, a time will come when you will not dare to go to the Garo hills any longer,” he added.
UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh, while highlighting the gruesome murder of Jospin M. Sangma, said, “We hang our heads in shame as a woman was not even safe in her own house and village.”
Stating that a spell of central rule was required to allow “the skeletons to tumble out of the cupboard”, Lyngdoh said, “If engaging with terrorists is the government’s policy, then we are heading towards very difficult times. The terrorists have nothing on their agenda except loot. What kind of policy are you following?”
In order to allow the rule of law and sanity to come back, he said President’s rule is welcome. “Meghalaya is doomed if 500-odd people are holding the entire state to ransom. To cure a chronic ailment, you need to swallow a bitter pill, and that pill is President’s rule.”
Replying to the motion, the chief minister said the law and order scenario was a “matter of concern”, and assured the House that the government would overcome the challenges.
“It is not a fact that militants have created a situation where police have become helpless. The government has taken measures to set up police stations in important areas to tackle the militants. Recruitment to fill up vacancies in the police department has been going on, and we are in the process of completing the recruitment to Special Force 10, a 1,795-strong battalion to tackle the militant groups,” Sangma said.
Stating that other dreaded outfits of the Northeast, like Ulfa and the NDFB (anti-talks), have been jointly working with groups like the GNLA, he said some members of militant groups in Meghalaya also hail from neighbouring Assam and Bangladesh. He also stressed the importance of states from the region tackling militancy together.
On the demand for imposition of President’s rule, he said, “It is an extreme thing in our democratic system and against the spirit of the federal structure. But it suits their (Opposition) agenda as they see that they cannot topple the government. However, we will tackle the problems.”
Asserting that the time has come to “pull up our socks”, Sangma said that the government had offered a one-time offer to militant groups to engage in dialogue, but with a rider that they should stop all criminal activities.
“The groups are under pressure and hence they are desperate to hold talks. Should we not give them a chance? Sometimes we have to be guided by the sentiments and wisdom of the people,” he said.
At the same time, he said that even “good things” have been happening in the state, and highlighted the government’s initiative to provide road connectivity even to the most difficult areas.
He assured the Assembly that things would be much better by the turn of the year.