| East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi (left) and Goalpara deputy commissioner P. Ashok Babu exchange mementos during the peace meet at Resubelpara on Thursday. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, Feb. 24: Rabhas and Garos, from Assam and Garo hills of Meghalaya, today took part in a high-level meet initiated by the East Garo Hills district administration at Resubelpara to restore peace along the boundary of the two states.
Billed as the biggest peace meet after the ethnic clash, the leaders of the two communities decided to bury the past and live in harmony.
Several speakers, including the Rabha representatives, termed the chain of events from January unfortunate, but expressed hope that the displaced people on both sides would forget bitterness and claim their land and property to start life afresh.
They agreed to return to their villages in a phased manner within the shortest possible time.
Earlier, the deputy commissioner of East Garo Hills, Pravin Bakshi, said the peace meeting, the biggest so far, held at Resubelpara mini stadium was attended by more than a thousand people from both the Garo and Rabha communities. He listed the difficulties faced by the administrations of East Garo Hills and Goalpara in running the camps and urged the displaced Rabhas to return to their villages, which he said were their real homes and not the relief camps in another state.
The community and rural development minister of Meghalaya, F.W. Momin, welcomed the Rabha representatives and wanted an early return of the Rabhas who are still camping in Goalpara.
He asked the representatives of the relief camps in Goalpara to see for themselves that the displaced people could return without any fear. “We also want them to claim the relief and compensation package that was offered by the administration,” Momin said.
The minister said there would always be goons who would try to derail the peace process and cause mischief, but this needs to be thwarted by the early return of the Rabhas.
Resubelpara legislator T.D. Shira also appealed to the displaced Rabhas to return to their villages to protect and take stock of their land and property.
Shira said unless the displaced people return, assessment of damage and compensation package would be difficult.
Goalpara deputy commissioner P. Ashok Babu thanked the people for restoring peace and harmony. He, too, urged the displaced people to return as the situation was under control in East Garo Hills.
On February 21, a team from East Garo Hills, led by Bakshi, had visited the displaced Rabhas in four of the 18 camps in Goalpara district of Assam to convince them to return to their villages.