Four months have passed since the governments of Meghalaya and Assam signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) to resolve the vexed border issue, but the voices against the agreement have refused to die down and on Tuesday, the All lndia Trinamool Congress (AITC) staged a protest and two public meetings in New Delhi, Ri Bhoi and West Khasi Hills, respectively, to draw the Centre and government’s attention to the issue.
At a time when AITC legislators, along with eight state MLAs, were staging a protest against the border MoU in the Parliament campus, New Delhi, hundreds of villagers were up in arms demanding the revocation of the MoU in Maikhuli, Ri Bhoi, and Malangkona in West Khasi Hills.
In a public meeting organised by the AITC at Maikhuli playground on Tuesday, about 300 people, including village headmen, church leaders and commoners vowed to move the Supreme Court if the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government fails to repeal the MoU.
“Joint Action Committee on Border Areas Management has decided to move the Supreme Court against the MoU. As a political party, the AITC is supporting the people’s agitation,” said Jirang Block TMC president, Sunmoon Marak, while addressing the gathering at Maikhuli.
During the meeting, protesters, holding placards with messages such as “We will fight for our land” and “Mr CM stop giving our land to Assam” imprinted on them, raised slogan against the chief minister Conrad Sangma-led government.
“This MoU is against the sentiment and acceptance of the people of Meghalaya. Today, our leaders also staged a protest outside Parliament House in Delhi to draw the attention of the Centre on this issue. We demand the repeal of the MoU and respect the people’s sentiment,” said state TMC vice-president James Lyngdoh.
Echoing with Lyngdoh, a woman leader of Maikhuli, Sereimina D Marak said,”Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had signed the MoU with Assam counterpart despite our repeated requests not to sign it. As a result of this agreement, many people of the disputed villages have been arrested by Assam Police and lodged in jail. They are poor people and can’t afford a legal fight,” she alleged, reiterating that it will be good for the people of the border areas if the MoU is rolled back.
In his keynote address, village headman, Kleden Sangma, said that according to the clause of the agreement, the Maikhuli Fish Pond (Muamari Beel), which is adjacent to Maikhuli Playground, has been handed over to Assam.
“We have been occupying the pond for years. A portion of the revenue acquired from fishing in the 2-lakh square metre pond is used to pay off the salaries of the pastor and other staff of the church,” Sangma said. He further alleged that the members of the regional committees of both the states visited the place but never interacted with the locals for their views.
Meanwhile in Malangkona, hundreds of people belonging to several communities participated in a public meeting organised by the AITC to raise their voices against the MoU and demanded its repeal.
AITC leader and present MDC of Kharkutta, Cherak W Momin, while addressing the gathering, said, “We have come here to express our solidarity to these people and to support their cause. Right from the very beginning, we are with them since we are aware of their problems.”
Reiterating leader of opposition Mukul Sangma’s statement that the MDA government has handed over 18.46sq km to Assam as a part of the MoU and it’s not in faith with the locals.
“In 2011, the then Meghalaya government had claimed 36.79 sq km in six areas of differences but the present government has agreed to hand over 18.46 sq km of land to Assam. So, the main reason for protesting is to oppose the agreement signed by both Meghalaya and Assam,” said Momin.
Apart from Momin, the other leaders who attended the meeting were Lazarus M Sangma, MLA Chokpot Assembly, Rinaldo K Sangma, MDC Rongrang, Alphonsush Marak, MDC Williamnagar, Sanjay Koch, MDC Betasing, Ferdinand Shira, MDC Damas, Agassi R Marak, MDC Balachanda and Fernandez S Dkhar, president TMC Youth, among others.