The border agreement between the governments of Assam and Meghalaya, which has led to immense heartburn in the Garo Hills region over allegations of ceding traditional Garo lands to the neighbouring state by the Conrad K Sangma government, continues to simmer in the affected areas adjoining West Khasi Hills with hundreds of affected villagers attending a rally and warned that they would take their struggle all the way to state capital Shillong and the corridors of power.
On Tuesday, villagers from the disputed areas of Salbari, Huhuapara and Mallang Khasi came to Siminaguri locality of Mallangkona village in adjoining West Khasi Hills district to air their grievances and hardships they faced by the decision of the two states to exchange land in six disputed areas.
The affected villagers, who fear for their future, particularly loss of their traditional tribal lands to outsiders, now that Assam has taken control of the disputed area, had to cross into Meghalaya for the meeting since they are reportedly barred from holding any gathering in the state they have been made a part of against their will.
“Authorities prohibit anyone from their villages to conduct meetings and have imposed prohibitory orders which compel them to come across to apprise us of their hardships,” informed an elder from Mallangkona.
Leaders from Garo Hills-based organisations, including the Garo Students Union, the FKJGP, Association for Democracy and Empowerment (ADE), Niksamso A.chik Society (NAS) and even the Tura Garo Senior Citizens Forum, that includes retired bureaucrats of the state government, visited Mallangkona to participate in the meeting.
The NAS president Tengrak Raksam Marak told the gathering that all organisations would raise a united front against the government decision and fight tooth and nail against the agreement to see its deletion.
“This land does not belong to the chief ministers or the government. It belongs to our Garo and Khasi-Jaintia clans and families since time immemorial. How can governments decide its fate and that of the people with a decision to exchange it. We will not rest and shall mobilise and take our protest to Shillong,” warned the NAS chief.
The senior citizens from Tura, who attended the rally, questioned the timing and the move of the government to ink an agreement on the six particular areas without taking into confidence the public of the affected areas. They termed the agreement as “fishy”.
Just last week, a conglomerate of organisations under the banner of the Joint Action Committee on Border of Meghalaya (JACBOM) had termed the MoU signed between the two states to resolve border disputes in six areas as having no legal basis and demanded the resignation of chief minister Conrad K Sangma.