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Govt to set up police outpost to stop widespread boulder theft in GH

The police outpost will be set up in the village of Jongkipara - the most impacted region that lies on top of thousands of tons of boulders and stones which are being stolen almost daily by illegal miners.

Our Correspondent

TURA:

Years of widespread illegal extraction of boulders from the Garobadha-Selsella region into neighbouring Assam and even Bangladesh, orchestrated by a mafia network of mining barons, could soon be nipped in the bud.

The Conrad K Sangma-led state government has given the go ahead for the establishment of a police outpost in the village of Jongkipara – the most impacted region that lies on top of thousands of tons of boulders and stones which are being stolen almost daily by illegal miners.

Jongkipara area of Rajabala constituency is one of the largest stone mining regions that feeds the demand for Tura and much of the Garo Hills region. It is a major revenue generating area for the state, but has been witnessing revenue loss due to the rampant illegal mining taking place.

The area borders South Salmara Mankachar district of neighbouring Assam.

Despite sharing a boundary with Assam, from where criminal elements and groups come into Garo Hills, there is no police presence for over 30 kms, beginning from Garobadha police investigation unit all the way to Hallidayganj police station giving anti-social elements the upper hand.

“We have been demanding the establishment of a police post for so many years but no one took heed to our demand. The criminal gangs are not the only groups stealing our precious boulders, but even our land is being illegally encroached by people from Assam,” informed the Jongkipara nokma’s family while speaking to The Meghalayan on December 8.

They have been living in fear all these years due to threats from criminal gangs after they began resisting the illegal mining and encroachment.

“We have been running from pillar to post all these years and no one took heed for so long. So much of our precious land has disappeared. We hope things will now subside,” says the Nokma’s elder brother who single handedly petitioned the state for over a decade.

There are 34 villages beginning from Jongkipara all the way to Bolma Rongmandigre that have been affected by the illegal mining and criminal activity all these years.

The West Garo Hills district police is expected to put in place the outpost at Jongkipara within this week and police officials along with forest and district council authorities have already paid a visit to the village and met with the village elders.

The depth of the problem can be best summarised by forest and council teams who conduct frequent raids with the help of police against illegal mining.

There are said to be over a hundred illegal mines extracting boulders and ferrying them at night.

All such operations are carried out in the dead of night deep inside the forests with armed goons of the gangs keeping watch against possible police raids.

“During one raid we came across an illegal quarry that had mined stones as big as a huge hill. If you take a look from the road you will not find anything. It’s always deep inside the hills where the mining takes place. But it is dangerous to conduct raids at night due to the presence of armed gangs,” recalled an official.

In the last six years there has been 15 criminal cases registered in the area and incidents of murder and dacoity has also taken place.

Vehicular traffic at night between Assam and Garo Hills through the Garobadha-Garodoba-Oidoba road is a no-go for travellers due to cases of highway robberies and even kidnappings.

Of late, transportation of narcotics through the route by drug peddlers has become the latest criminal activity.

Police sources reveal that Kalapani town on the Assam side of the border is a hub for narcotic supply into Garo Hills and also a transit point for entry of the stolen boulders and stone chips that pass through in dozens of trucks each night.

“There is a strong nexus between locals from Kalapani and the gangs that operate the illegal mines in Garo Hills. Sometime ago, our village vigilance party with help of police had chased and intercepted three truckloads of illegal boulders that had been lifted from our village area. But instead of helping the villagers turned against us and surrounded the raiding party carrying daos and lethal weapons with an intent to attack us,” recalls the Jongkipara nokma’s family revealing the kind of danger they have to frequently deal with in their quest to protest their land and resources.

There is now some semblance of optimism among the villagers that things could now turn for the better with the establishment of the police outpost.

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