Meghalaya voters forced to exercise franchise in Assam

From Eric Calvin Ranee

Travails of Khasi villagers in disputed Block-II areas

SABUDA: The border dispute between Assam and Meghalaya, continuing since the latter was carved out of the former in 1972, is leading to ludicrous situations.

Like, in the on-going Lok Sabha polls, many villagers in Block-II of Umsning Block in the Ri-Bhoi district voted twice – once for the Shillong parliamentary constituency in Meghalaya and again for the Autonomous District constituency of Assam. Polling for the Shillong seat was held on April 9 and that for the Autonomous District seat on April 12.

Twelve villages under Block-II are included in the Mawhati Assembly constituency and Shillong Lok Sabha constituency in Meghalaya as well as under the Baithalangso Assembly constituency and the Autonomous District Lok Sabha constituency in Assam.

Apparently, the Election Commission of India has no knowledge of this.

Threatened and compelled, about 400 Khasi people, residents of Madan Umwang, who are dual voters in Assam as well as Meghalaya, cast their votes on Saturday in the Autonomous District constituency of Assam.

Except for a few pro-Assam Khasi people, a majority did not want to vote in Assam. The Synjuk Ki Rangbah Shnong, Raid Nongtung had demanded that their names be deleted from the electoral rolls in Assam, but to no avail.

Residents of Madan Umwang complain that a few days before the polling they were threatened with dire consequences by pro-Assam leaders if they did not come and cast their votes in the Assam seat. The pro-Assam leaders had reminded them of past incidents of shooting by Karbi People Liberation Tiger and threatened that if they did not cast their votes in Assam the villagers themselves would be responsible for the consequences.

One such shooting had taken place before the election to the Shillong seat, in which the tyres of an earth-moving machine (JCB) were damaged. Earlier, in February this year, residents of Umthlieh were threatened by KPLT that they could not carry out agricultural farming in the village if they possessed Elector’s Photo Identity Cards of Meghalaya as the land belonged to Assam.

A similar threat was issued to residents of Madan Umwang in March, for possessing EPIC of Meghalaya. To intimidate them, ginger plantations of three families in Madan Umwang were burnt.

Just a few days ago, an assistant teacher of Umsarang LP School in Assam who is also a booth level officer under Assam Election Department threatened the Khasi people living in Umsarang with dire consequences for possessing EPIC of Meghalaya.

The agony of the villagers does not end there. Earlier this year, residents of Umtlieh and Jatalong were served with a demand note from the KPLT, demanding Rs. 2,000 per household. The villagers, however, defied the diktat.

The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council is not lagging behind in tormenting the Khasi people living in Block-II as the Council is collecting exorbitant amount at the toll gates set up in the areas on brooms manufactured in the villages, ranging from Rs. 6,000 per trailer to Rs. 8,000 per Mahindra Pick-Up truck.

Memorandums to the Meghalaya government from the Synjuk Ki Rangbah Shnong Raid Nongtung and CSWO (Irene) Sabuda Circle demanding the setting up of a Meghalaya police outpost at Madan Umwang or Sabuda for ensuring safety and security of the people had yielded no result.

Since the assumption of charge of the new executive committee of KHADC more than a month has passed, but till date, the Council is yet to take any initiative to address the problems by the Khasi people living in Block-II.