| Participants at the Shalom Meghalaya campaign in Chokpot on Saturday. Picture by Saidul Khan |
Tura, Aug. 23: The Shalom Meghalaya peace campaign today reached trouble-torn Chokpot in South Garo Hills.
Nearly 5,000 people witnessed the programme and spoke their hearts out, venting anger against rising insurgency.
Chokpot, a militancy-hit area in Garo hills, has seen many incidents of violence, killing and abduction. In June this year, a 35-year-old woman’s head was blown off in the presence of her four children and husband.
A contingent of motorists accompanied the peace caravan from Somenpara in South West Garo Hills to Chokpot yesterday.
At Chokpot, they halted for the night and began their campaign this morning.
Torrential rain, bad roads and a broken bridge at Dekku near Chokpot failed to deter the messengers of peace.
“In the last week, the campaign has reached nearly 50,000 people with the silent and invisible message of peace. People who could never speak up and express their anger were given an opportunity to speak out,” said Fr Sunny Mavelil, the director of Bakdil, associated with the campaign.
“The situation is beyond our tolerance. Insurgency has brought a bad name to us. We are peace-loving people. We urge the militants to stop their barbaric acts,” said Cherak Marak, a youth participating int eh campaign.
In the last three months, Garo hills has witnessed a peak in insurgency. “Huge response to the campaign demonstrates that people of Garo hills cannot take the situation for granted anymore,” Mavelil added.
The campaign was flagged off at Tura on August 17 and passed through several places in South West Garo Hills, including Garobadha, Ampati, Purakashia, Nogorpara, Rimrangpara and Gambegre. “Militancy has affected the lives of the people leading to a state of under-development, a sense of helplessness and insecurity. We have realised the need for ensuring peace. Shalom Meghalaya envisages to be the messengers of peace, welfare and prosperity,” said a booklet titled I Want Peace.
“We have gathered to pray and pledge for peace”, said Balsrang Marak, an elderly person who took part in the campaign at Chokpot today.
Different persons spoke of the need to protect the fundamentals of social systems. Many also spoke of the need to improve the primary education system, where teachers are found to be absent.
“Teachers can play a very important role in guiding the youths. They should mould the children in the best possible way, so that they are not misguided to join insurgent outfits,” said a speaker.
The gathering also called upon the government and public leaders to conduct themselves as responsible citizens. “At this time of trouble, the politicians should unite and work together to bring about change,” said another speaker.