NOW that the Centre has agreed to send paramilitary forces to Meghalaya on chief minister Mukul Sangma’s request the law and order situation in the Garo Hills will, hopefully, take a turn for the better. For nearly two years now the district has been plagued by rampant killings of both police personnel and civilians and there have been several cases of extortion, kidnapping and intimidation. Towards the end of last month, eight migrant coalmine labourers from Assam were brutally murdered, triggering an exodus. This is what forced Sangma sit up and act.
Amidst all this comes the report that on 26 June the Garo National Liberation Army chief, Champion Sangma, a former police officer-turned-rebel, and seven jail inmates were severely hurt in a brawl. He had been arrested from the Indo-Bangladeshi border some months ago and has been in jail since then. According to local press reports, Sangma had an “unhealthy interface” with jail inmates and often taunted them.
The report quotes sources as having said that the jail authority&’s request for shifting Sangma elsewhere had been ignored, as had its plea that steps be initiated to ease overcrowding in the Shillong district jail. Primarily built for 135 males and 15 females, the jail currently accommodates 400. The authority also stated that it could not guarantee Sangma&’s security. Little wonder, then, that this facility has been witness to as many as 30 jailbreaks, and with consummate ease, in less than four years.
There is urgent need to change a more than century-old prison act given that jails in the North-east now have to accommodate militant elements who requiring strict security and constant vigilance.
THE Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation, under the aegis of the Naga Council, Dimapur, on whose call Nagaland&’s biggest commercial hub observed a 12-hour bandh on 18 June in protest against the imposition of “taxes” on various consumer goods by militant organisations, must congratulate itself for successfully drawing the Centre&’s attention to its predicaments. New Delhi has reportedly written to the Nagaland government to stop the NSCN(IM) from collecting taxes. (The article alongside by Patricia Mukhim gives an insight into what is happening in that ceasefire-bound state.) It remains to be seen how Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, whose pro-NSCN(M) stance is hardly a secret, goes about it because till now he has taken the stand that his government cannot act against the Isak-Muivah faction on the excuse that it is observing a ceasefire with the Centre.
The Centre&’s talks of initiating operations against extortion have so far remained a cruel joke.
LAST week our Gangtok correspondent, quoting a National Crime Records Bureau report, wrote in that in 2010-12 Sikkim topped the country&’s suicide chart with 181 cases, most of these being in the 15-29 age group. In 2006 also, Sikkim showed the highest rate. Why so many were so driven to taking their own lives is somewhat puzzling because in 2006 alone the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, headed by Pawan Chamling, had boasted that its biggest achievement was in “human security” and claimed that this had been “acknowledged nationally”.
Already into his fourth term in office, Chamling has launched rural development plans in right earnest, reserved 30 per cent jobs for women, taken various ameliorative schemes and his most cherished dream is to provide every citizen with a home and two square meals. Besides, he has a dream of turning Sikkim into a model state and make every citizen a crorepati by 2050.
Misplaced optimism? Perhaps, going by that old adage about affording beggars the ride if wishes were horses.