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Move to allay traders’ fears

Meghalaya officials meet public leaders and villagers at Hallidayganj on Saturday. Telegraph picture

Dhubri/Tura, July 26: A meeting was today held at Hallidayganj, about 65km from Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills in Meghalaya, bordering Assam’s Dhubri district, to understand the problems of traders and local people and provide them with adequate security. This follows the rise in attacks and extortion by militants.

Police and civil officials of both the states (Assam and Meghalaya) met representatives of Mancachar Nagarik Suraksha Samiti, which comprises non-Garo villagers of South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision of Assam’s Dhubri district, in the meeting that was held at 11am.

Those who attended the meeting included South Salmara-Mancachar sub-divisional police officer Manindra Deori, Hatsinghimari sub-divisional officer (civil) A.L. Gyani (both from Dhubri district) and Dadenggre sub-divisional officer (civil) Sibhu C. Sadhu and the circle officer of Phulbari from West Garo Hills.

“The officials heard the traders’ problems regarding their movement in Garo hills. We proposed a broader meeting involving the deputy commissioners of all Garo hills districts, Dhubri deputy commissioner Kumud Chandra Kalita and superintendent of police Mridulananda Sarma,” Deori said.

Sadhu told the villagers that the Meghalaya government was making all efforts to ensure peace and tranquillity in the region. He said civil society groups from Assam had promised to cooperate with them.

The traders from Mancachar and its adjoining areas urged the Meghalaya official to ensure their safety and security.

“Our traders are served demand notes, kidnapped and killed. They are the only breadwinners of their families. Militancy has created fear in all people,” said Samar Paul, president of the samiti.

The samiti’s adviser Zahangir Alom Mandal said a delegation had met Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and DGP Khagen Sarma yesterday and apprised them of the volatile situation in the Garo hills.

“Gogoi immediately called up his Meghalaya counterpart Mukul Sangma and requested him to take steps to control the situation, while Sarma assured us of deployment of security forces within a week and a joint operation by forces of both the states to flush out militants,” Mandal said.

Mancachar Congress legislator Javed Islam expressed resentment over the deteriorating law and order situation. “If the West Garo Hills administration had taken strong and prompt action against the militants, the situation would not have come to such a pass,” he said.

Islam said he would stage a sit-in in front of the sub-divisional (civil) office at Hatsinghimari, the headquarters of South Salmara-Mancachar subdivision, and submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Gogoi, seeking their direct intervention to stop abduction, extortion and killing of people and traders.

“We seek an end to insurgency in Garo hills. The government has to find ways to restore peace or things may go out of control,” said Abdul Asif, an activist from Mancachar.

The samiti also demanded adequate security at weekly markets in Garo hills and adequate compensation for those killed in insurgency-related violence.

“Two persons were kidnapped on June 21. We have paid ransom but they are yet to be released. We request the administration to help their families,” said Bokhtiar Hussain, an advocate from Hatsinghimari.

Sadhu said the compensation proposal had been sent for approval. On interim relief for the families of the two abducted persons, he said he would take up the matter with the West Garo Hills deputy commissioner.

The villagers also asked Meghalaya officials to convene a meeting at Tura or Hatsingimari, which would also be attended by the deputy commissioners of West and South West Garo Hills along with representatives of NGOs from Dhubri and Garo hills.