Mukul espouses secularism; Purno ‘promises’ Garoland

PA Sangma addresses
a rally at Williamnagar on Thursday

Tura: Principal rivals in Garo Hills politics – Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma and former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma – in their campaign trails on Thursday, harped on the need to protect tribal identity, but in two different ways.

While the Chief Minister underscored the importance of the sixth schedule of the Constitution, Purno espoused the cause of a separate Garoland state.

Purno, who is also the NPP candidate for the Tura Lok Sabha seat, addressed three rallies during the day in East Garo Hills, a Congress stronghold. In all his rallies, at Williamnagar, Rongsak and Rombagre, he sought people’s support to raise the pitch for Garoland. “Voice of the people is more powerful than grenades and AKs. I seek your vote for Garoland,” Purno said.

Urging all insurgent groups in Garo Hills to come forward for peace talks, he said, “Your fight for creation of Garoland by guerilla movement is not correct. Be a voice for the A’chik and eschew peace. I will lead and ensure that Garoland is created.”

Lambasting Congress for its “wrong policies” in dealing with insurgency, he said, “I will raise my pitch at the highest level in Parliament. If we all unite and raise our voice, it will definitely be heard. It is not an easy task but we can make it happen.”

He said the movement for the proposed Garoland state would be restricted to the five Garo Hills districts. “In West Khasi Hills and Assam, the Garos have a good majority. But we will stick to the territory of Garo Hills to begin our movement,” he said.

He said the State Government had worked out a compromising policy with A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) on creation of a Garo Hills territorial council in line with Bodoland Territorial Council, which was not acceptable to the NPP.

The ANVC signed an “agreed text of settlement” on January 5, 2013, for according more autonomy to the existing Garo hills autonomous district council (GHADC).

He termed the talks with breakaway faction of ANVC as “unconstitutional”, as government has brought the ANVC-B under the “agreed text of settlement”. “How could ANVC-B, which has a separate identity, be part of the ceasefire with its parent outfit?” he asked.

The Chief Minister, on the other hand, made an attempt to touch an emotion chord with the people by trying to sell the idea of “secularism” and pro- tribal ideology of Congress party.

Addressing a poll campaign at Rongara, he said, “A’chik in Bangladesh, Tripura and Assam do not enjoy the privilege there but Congress has ensured the indigenous rights of the Garos in Meghalaya.”

He made a comparison of various rights enshrined by the Constitution under the sixth schedule for the Garos in Meghalaya. “You own the land, government has no ownership. You have rights over forest and natural resources. This was guaranteed by the visionary leaders of the Congress,” he said.

“I will come to you after the election to discuss, what you need and will ensure that works are done in your area,” the Chief Minister said.

“Captain Williamson is an acceptable figure among all tribes in Meghalaya. His contribution can never be forgotten. We are fortunate to have young and educated Daryl William Momin, grandson of Captain

Williamson as our candidate to fulfill the aspiration of our people,” he said.