TURA: Interesting indeed, the halls of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) office on Tuesday resounded with a ‘Big Yes’ for the demand for a separate Garoland state while the move to exclude non tribals from voting or contesting elections to the GHADC met with more ‘nays’ than ‘ayes’.
The two resolutions which dominated the last day of the winter session of the GHADC were passed through a voice vote in the House in the presence of 25 sitting MDCs being part of the session.
The motion to exclude non tribals from voting or contesting was moved by the Tura MDC, Rupert Sangma while the demand for a separate state was tabled by deputy CEM, Augustine Marak.
It may be reminded that the issue pertaining to a separate Garoland state has always remained a contentious issue in the state as witnessed by the mushrooming of militant outfits demanding for the same, or so it seems!
On the political front, the Garo National Council (GNC) have been behind the democratic struggle for a separate Garoland state for the past few decades and its leader Augustine Marak had even been arrested and jailed on the issue, a fact highlighted today by the Tura MDC, Rupert Sangma.
After many years, Augustine’s motion was supported by party colleague and executive member Wenison Ch Marak. The late leader of the National People’s Party (who along with the BJP and GNC have formed the present EC) Purno A Sangma, was also remembered for his fight for the cause of a separate state by the Rochonpara MDC, Dipul Marak. Purno during his life time had taken up the cause for smaller states within India.
The question of Garos living in Khasi Hills was also brought up by Rupert though the question was turned down by the Chairman Boston Marak on the basis that the motion was only on for a Garoland state.
Shyamnagar MDC, Esmatur Mominin even suggested that the state could be worked in a similar line to the Bodoland Territorial Council.
The resolution on the demand for a separate state, which was passed unanimously, would be sent to the state government and the Governor.
Meanwhile the motion seeking the removal of non tribals in the election process of the GHADC was met with muted response with only a few ‘ayes’ to a majority of ‘nays’.
“I am not against non-tribals and I don’t oppose their participation in the assembly or parliamentary elections but the creation of the GHADC was to safeguard the interests of the tribals. Non tribal participation in the Council must end,” said Sangma during the debate for his motion. He was supported in his motion by Jogonsing D Sangma (Bolsong MDC and Kenadik Marak (Siju). Jogonsing feared that Meghalaya could go the Tripura way if the same continued.
Dy CEM Augustine Marak however pointed out that the issue being sensitive while mentioning that a similar move to bar non-tribal participation took place in Tripura that was ultimately turned down after the matter went to High Court.
“The Council had earlier sought a reply from the state law department over the demand though the reply was that there was no law against their participation in the entire north-east. Also there are legal sides to the issue of one’s fundamental right being violated so we cannot support the motion,” said Augustine.
“Para 2 of 6th Schedule does not specify who is eligible to vote or contest council elections. It is silent on participation of non-participation by non tribals. In 2008 the GHADC wrote to Meghalaya Government seeking deletion of all non-tribal voters from the electoral roll and contesting the polls, the Meghalaya government stated that the constitution did not allow it to be done,” stated Dipul Marak, the Rochonpara MDC.
“The motion needs a constitutional amendment. The house does not have the legal authority to amend the rules,” pointed out Esmatur Mominin, the Shyamnagar MDC and one of two non tribal MDC in the GHADC.
Sofiur Rehman, the second non tribal MDC appealed to all not to support the motion. He substantiated his claims through the history of election of non tribals to the GHADC ever since its formation.
When the motion was put to a voice vote, the ‘Nays’ dominated the ‘Ayes’.