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Cloud over GHADC polls

Shillong, June 16: The Meghalaya government is uncertain about conducting elections to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) pending signing of a “memorandum of settlement” with the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC). The militant outfit is demanding more powers to the existing council.

The Centre had only approved the “agreed text for settlement”, which was arrived at with the ANVC in January last year.

In reply to a query in the Assembly by Opposition legislator from Sohra Titosstarwell Chyne, Meghalaya district council affairs minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh said the term of the GHADC, extended for six months with effect from February 18 this year, would expire on August 17 and the date for election to the district council was yet to be decided by the government.

Lyngdoh said the government had decided to extend the term of the council since the “agreed text for settlement” was in its final stages. The government felt it proper to wait for the signing of the “memorandum of settlement” with a considered view that the agreement would bring lasting peace in the Garo hills, he added. “Now that the new government at the Centre has been formed, the state government would urge the Union ministry of home affairs to speed up signing of the final agreement so that the election may be held within the extended period.”

Stating that even the ANVC (B), a breakaway faction of the ANVC, appeared to have taken up the truce with the Centre, Chyne asked: “What will happen to the GHADC and the ANVC if the final agreement is not approved within the six-month period?” Lyngdoh, however, said that the government had not decided anything and was waiting for approval of the Centre on the final “memorandum of settlement”.

Though elections to the two councils — Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council and Jaiñtia Hills Autonomous District council — were held in February this year, the Meghalaya government had refrained from holding elections to the GHADC and, instead, extended its term.

The ANVC had demanded more powers and seats in the GHADC. It had proposed that the seats should be enhanced from the existing 30 to 40 (35 directly elected members, with five nominated members).

The breakaway group (ANVC-B), led by Rimpu Marak, had also joined the peace process by being party to the “agreed text for settlement” signed with the ANVC in January last year.

To a query by another Opposition legislator, Embhahlang Syiemlieh, (in picture above) on the state government’s proposal to set up designated camps for the ANVC (B) cadres in West Khasi Hills area, chief minister Mukul Sangma said his government had not taken any decision on the matter as yet.

There has been strong opposition against the move to set up camps for the ANVC (B) in Khasi hills region from various organisations including political parties.

The chief minister, however, said the deputy commissioner of West Khasi Hills district had indicated that no land was available.