SHILLONG, Dec 05: Wednesday saw hundreds of people belonging to the Garo tribe taking to the streets of Shillong in demand for the creation of a separate Garoland state.
This demand was reiterated through a rally organized by the Garoland State Movement Committee (GSMC) which has been spearheading the cause since 2012.
The rally was also backed by the Garo National Council (GNC) and Achik Holistic Awakening Movement (AHAM) led by the former chairman of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), a militant outfit that itself was involved in an armed struggle in demand for a separate Garoland state.
Activists of the Garo Students Union (GSU), Achik Youth Council (AYC), Mothers’ Union (MU) and others also participated the rally.
Dressed in their traditional attire, the rallyist also displayed placards and banners which read - “No state no rest, we want Garoland”, “Garoland is our birth right” and others.
GSMC chairman Nikman Ch Marak later said that Garoland has been a long pending demand of the people of Garo Hills since 1889.
“Since the British regime till now, the government is yet to attend to this century demand,” he said.
Stating that the GSMC is committed to aggressively pursue the demand through a non-violent movement, Marak said that Garoland can only be achieved through dialogue.
“We therefore demand both the Centre and state governments to immediately initiate dialogue with us,” he stated.
He also informed that a delegation of the committee will also meet the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma seeking his intervention in the matter.
The committee will sit again to discuss on the outcome of the meeting with the Chief Minister and accordingly decide on the future course of action, Marak added.
Asked on the reason for the demand, Marak said that since the creation of Meghalaya in 1972, the Garos and Khasis have been living peacefully but “we are totally different from each other in term of language, culture and tradition.”
“However if Garo Hills is not given a separate state, we will never be able to come out of backwardness which is there for the past 40 years,” he added.
He also infortmed that the total population of Garos in Meghalaya is around 12 lakhs of which 9 lakhs are residing in the five districts of Garo Hills region.
The proposed map for the separate Garoland was submitted by the now disbanded Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) to the Central government in 2006.
It was alleged that as per the map over 200 villages in the three districts of Khasi Hills region will be part of the separate Garoland state.
Reacting to this, Marak however maintained that the map for the separate Garoland will only be drawn after dialogue with the government, political parties and NGOs representing the three tribes of the state.
“Based on dialogues the map for the new state will be drawn,” he said.
Meanwhile, the committee also demanded the government to re-constitute the State Reorganisation Commission.
He stated that it was based on the recommendation of state reorganisation commission in 1956, Karnataka and other states have been created.
“Therefore, we want the state reorganisation commission to be reconstituted for the second time so that our long standing demand can be achieved,” he said.
On the other hand, GNC vice president and former GHADC deputy chief executive member Augustine R Marak said his party has been pursuing with the Centre on the joint memorandum submitted by the former leaders of Khasi Hills and Garo Hills region.
Marak, who is also presently the chairman of the GHADC’s High Powered Committee (HPC), informed that a resolution moved by him also got the full support of the House.
Stating that parties like the UDP and HSPDP have assured to move a similar resolution in the state Assembly, the GNC leader said it is high time that all political parties in the state should be united on this issue.