SHILLONG, July 14 (IANS): The Meghalaya government Thursday again postponed the first-ever civic polls in the three districts of Garo Hills scheduled for next month, fearing breakdown of law-and-order situation in the insurgency-prone area.
This is the second time in less than a year that the government has been forced to reschedule the municipal polls due to widespread public protest.
"For the moment, we have rescheduled the elections to the four municipal boards in Garo Hills until further notice due to the prevailing law and order situation in these areas," Urban Affairs Minister M. Ampareen Lyngdoh told IANS.
"We cannot hold these elections under this kind of volatile situation. The atmosphere is not conducive for such an exercise and we will take a fresh look into the matter once Chief Minister Mukul Sangma returns from the US," Lyngdoh said.
Following the government's decision, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) has withdrawn its six-day shutdown which was supposed to start Friday to oppose the civic polls to Tura, Williamnagar, Baghmara and Resubelpara municipal boards in the three districts of Garo Hills in western Meghalaya.
The JAC is opposed to holding the civic polls, fearing it would dilute the power and functions of the Nokmas - the clan head of a village.
"We have also called off our agitation in reciprocation to the government's decision, but under no circumstances we will allow the government to hold municipal elections," JAC spokesman Manseng A. Sangma said.
The Gauhati High Court had directed the Meghalaya government to hold polls to the four municipalities in Garo Hills before September.
In fact, polling to the Baghmara Municipal Board in South Garo Hills and Resubelpara Municipal Board and Williamnagar Municipal Board in East Garo hills are slated for Aug 6, Aug 13 and Aug 23 respectively.
On Tuesday, the JAC held protest rallies against the civic polls at Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo hills; Williamnagar, the district headquarters of East Garo hills, and Baghmara, the district headquarters of South Garo hills and Resubelpara subdivision.
"These elections are illegal and it is tantamount to violation of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution and will erode the functions and powers of the Nokmas and, therefore, we will not allow to hold such elections," Sangma said.
Last year, the Meghalaya government was forced to adjourn the civic polls following violent protests by the JAC.