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The extension of terms of the three autonomous district councils (ADCs) is nothing but sheer embarrassment for the Meghalaya government. The state is not going to any apparent major crisis warranting such a move. The government worry for Garo Hills is insurgency, which it failed to visualise and act accordingly. The terms of all the three ADCs are supposed to end on February 17.

In clear terms, there is apprehension of violence in Garo Hills if the polls are held without paving way for political space for militant groups, which are under ceasefire agreement. Since the country’s Constitution allows people to contest elections even from inside the jail, there should not be any skepticism about allowing them to vie for the reins of power. But, the government has to consider the fact that the council is to take care of the interest of the common people more than the small section of militants, although they are powerful and fearful.

Interest of the rebels overpowering the council’s affairs is not a healthy sign in a democracy. The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) where the reins of power are held by former militants is a good example of how wrong the government was to give complete space to them. Although there are reports of development activities peace is still a far cry in the BTC-ruled districts. The move to rope in militants, many of whom are allegedly petty criminals, to the political circle may not ensure lasting peace in the region. However, it is still a question whether the government would be able to clinch the deal without any hiccups within these six months. The chief minister already admitted that his government was yet to reply to a couple of additional queries from the Centre on the peace pact.

The deferment of the elections to the ADCs in Khasi Hills and Janitia Hills is another instance of inefficiency of the authorities concerned to address the controversy over delimitation. Despite protests from several groups and traditional bodies, there had been no clear clarification from the government side to the aggrieved parties. The matter is now caught in a legal entangle with some groups already moving the high court. Chief minister Mukul Sangma might sound confident in contesting the claim and holding the elections within February 17, but a stay by high court would cause him further embarrassment.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 10, 2014)

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