The Telegraph
Saturday , November 7 , 2015

Rebels hold unarmed policeman hostage

- Rallies in Garo hills to protest army act

People participate in the rally at Tura on Friday. Telegraph picture

Shillong/Tura, Nov. 6: Suspected Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) militants today allegedly abducted an unarmed Meghalaya police havildar in North Garo Hills.

Khomraj Bhattarai of the 6th Meghalaya Police Battalion was on his way to work on completion of his leave when a group of GNLA cadres, allegedly led by Rakban D. Shira alias Piliport, waylaid the commercial transport vehicle he was travelling in.

The cadres allegedly dragged Bhattarai out of the vehicle and disappeared into the jungle, inspector-general of police (operations) G.H.P. Raju said.

The incident occurred around 8am near Thapa Darengchi village along Resubelpara-Songsak Road, he said.

Bhattarai had taken leave for 30 days and was to resume duty today.

While the North Garo Hills police have launched a massive search operation to rescue the havildar, Raju said that the GNLA had earlier issued a threat to police personnel who were on leave.

"Police headquarters had issued instructions to all the district superintendents of police and battalion commandants about the do's and don'ts to be followed by police personnel who go home on leave. They are directed to follow, without fail, the procedure laid down while on leave," Raju said.

Today's incident occurred just three days after the GNLA released Jude Rangku T. Sangma, block development officer of Chokpot, South Garo Hills, from its captivity.

Recently, the state police informed the Meghalaya High Court that between January and October this year, insurgent groups of Garo hills had abducted 87 people, which included 25 civilians, 27 businessmen, 25 employees of private sector, five government employees and five teachers for ransom.

The court had even directed the Centre to consider the use of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, in the Garo hills area and the deployment of armed and paramilitary forces to control the law and order situation until "life becomes normal".

The court felt that despite the best efforts by the police and civil authorities, they were not able to control incidents of kidnapping and killings because of non-fulfilment of illegal demands.

Resentment against AFSPA

Two major towns of Garo hills — Tura and Williamnagar — today expressed resentment against any plans to impose the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Hundreds of people in West and East Garo Hills districts appealed to the rebel groups based in Garo hills to come forward for talks and negotiation.

Several civil bodies, including the Garo Students Union (GSU), Garo Hills State Movement Committee (GHSMC) and All A’chik Youth Federation (AAYF) participated in the rallies.

A meeting was held at Chandmari playground in Tura and Rongrenggre playground in Williamnagar as people took to the streets to express their resentment against the recent Meghalaya High Court order. 

Speakers at the rallies said the imposition of the army act in states like Manipur and Assam had failed to contain insurgency and increased human rights violation. 

The speakers, however, conceded that the threat of militancy had to be checked. 

In Williamnagar, activist Roger Benny A. Sangma was of the opinion that the unity of people was paramount to bring about peace.

Walseng N. Sangma, an activist from Tikrikilla, who was a part of the rally at Tura, asked, “Why should we, the people of Garo hills, suffer for the misdeeds of a handful of people?” He expressed concern over atrocities on innocent civilians and appealed to rebel outfits to come overground and settle for peace. 

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