Over 60 per cent polling recorded
TURA: Thousands of voters across Garo Hills defied the boycott call given by several pressure groups and militant organizations on Monday to cast their votes for the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) elections.
The tribal region, and not the plain belt where the majority of non-Garo voters are concentrated, experienced the biggest dip in voting in the history of elections in the Garo Hills.
Barring a few remote places where militants held sway with their diktats, the overall percentage of polling has been pegged at approximately 60.66 per cent across the western region with the largest share of votes coming from the non-tribal dominated plain belt region of West Garo Hills which had been the bane for the tribal organizations who have all along been demanding that they be barred from contesting and their voting rights removed.
Despite the overall campaign by tribal student and social groups to disallow non-tribals from participating in the GHADC polls, it was the tribal dominated belt of Garo Hills which registered the lowest turnout.
In 2009 GHDC polls, total poll percentage was 79.48.
The militancy infested region of Williamnagar, home to outlawed ultra Sohan D Shira, registered one of the lowest polling percentages of 36 against all the constituencies of Garo Hills.
Clearly, the militant and pressure group threats to prevent non-tribals from contesting and voting had an impact in the most unlikeliest of place- the tribal region, while the non-tribal majority plains belt had the best (Contd on P-10) showing in voting.
Balachanda and Shyamnagar constituencies in West Garo Hills where there are seven non-tribal candidates contesting registered one of the highest percentages in polling for the GHADC, this time round. Balachanda registered 83.02% and Shyamnagar 84.88%.
Another non-tribal dominated constituency of Batabari also recorded a high turnout of 84.37%.
The district wise break up of polling percentage revealed that South Garo Hills had approximately 53%, East Garo Hills 51%, West Garo Hills 73.46%, South West Garo Hills 77%, and North Garo Hills at 52%.
Another district that held sway to the high turnout was South West Garo Hills where the voting percentage almost reached 80 percent. The four MDC constituencies of Zikzak-82.56%, Boldamgre-77.35%, Betasing-78.5% and Nogorpara-79.88% gave the district a huge 79 percent in the overall polling percentage.
The outcome of the voting pattern clearly revealed that the damage to the polling was most felt in the tribal dominated region itself where many voters abstained from casting their votes due to threats and intimidation, particularly in the remote areas.
Many polling stations in the remote regions of East, North and South Garo Hills witnessed extremely low turnout in polling due to the boycott call by both militants and NGOs.
Violence mars peaceful polls : Automatic gunfire by militants to deter voters, arson attacks on civilian vehicles and a government school were some of the stray incidents that stained what could have otherwise been a peaceful and successful election to the GHADC on Monday.
Unidentified militants perched atop the nearby hills in Bajengdoba region of North Garo Hills opened blank fire at around 9 am to scare away voters who had come to Arukgre polling station to cast their votes. The ultras fled soon after and the voters returned by late afternoon to complete their unfinished business at the polling booth.
Suspected GNLA militants also hampered the election process in Deku region’s Ganchi Kalat village of Chokpot where they reportedly assembled outside the village to deter villagers from casting their votes. A similar exercise was also reported by authorities from a remote area of Gasuapara, in the same district.
In Tura, arsonists tried to burn down the Sampalgre primary school by lobbing a petrol bomb which fortunately did not cause extensive damage. They also set ablaze a motorcycle belonging to a policeman who had just returned from duty at Wadanang area of the town, while in Chitoktak area an abandoned maruti car near Tura public school was also burnt down the same night.