TURA, July 12 � A conglomerate of student and social groups in the Garo Hills have jointly called for a week-long shutdown in the three districts to prevent the upcoming municipal elections to four municipal boards over fears it could endanger the powers and functions of the traditional bodies including the Nokmaship and the present land tenure system where tribals wield the power.
According to the JAC there would be no let up in the shutdown and the closure would also extend to Saturday and Sunday. Coincidently, July 16 is the commemorative ceremony of the Garo Labour Corps to remember the several hundred Garo men who went to France to work for the allied forces during World War I.
The Joint Action Committee of student and social organisations (JAC) held a public rally in five places in Garo Hills to bolster public support against the polls. However, the turnout at all the venues was far from encouraging.
In Tura Chandmari field there were approximately 500 people who attended the rally. A heavy downpour in the morning has been attributed as the cause of the low turnout.
Official sources inform that at Resubelpara approximately 400 people attended the rally while in Williamnagar there were about 600 participants. In Baghmara approximately 300 people, mostly students led a procession against the civic polls. In Ampati, home constituency of Meghalaya Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma, number of participants in the rally was barely a hundred.
With the government refusing to extend the olive branch to the agitating groups for a dialogue the road appears to be clear for another spell of turmoil in the Garo Hills region while the common man suffers.
During a public meeting, leaders of the JAC including those of the Garo Student Union strongly objected to the Meghalaya Government�s decision to go ahead with the polls inspite of having faced stiff opposition during its previous attempt, last year.
The GSU President Tengsak G Momin accused the Dr Mukul Sangma government of having cold feet by not holding polls in Shillong for fear of taking on the KSU while in Jaintia Hills they were apprehensive of the Jaintia students union likely to block a major highway which could cut off link to other north-eastern states.
FKJGP Garo Hills Zone President Pritam R Marak accused the government of having a hidden agenda by calling for polls. He said that over time the municipal zone would extend to other places and one day lead to extract of uranium from the Balpakram national park range.