People’s resistance against militancy is growing in the insurgency-ravaged Garo Hills. Among the region’s five districts, North Garo Hills has been the frontrunner in the movement. There have been instances of kidnappers forced to release victims following public pressure. Most of the anti-militancy rallies in Garo Hills in recent past were held in this district. The rally at Adokgre on February 17 near Meghalaya-Assam border yet again showed the growing public anger against crimes by militant groups. The people demanding custody of alleged kidnappers of a trader, who does not belong to the indigenous community, was unprecedented. Even as police pointed fingers at the dreaded GNLA behind the kidnapping, the people were prompt to organise the massive protest rally in just two days.
Why is it happening, especially in North Garo Hills? This resistance has not grown overnight. Although the trigger was a high court order last year, the public resentment is the result of sufferings of years. Also, it was years of sufferings, after which militancy was born. Now, it’s the time of another movement. Borders of North Garo Hills having run very close to the NH-37, the lifeline of south bank in lower Assam, people of Garo Hills are very much dependent on Assam and its market. Hundreds of traders from one state to the other every day, sometimes several times in a day, in this region. They are the cash cows of militant groups! But when militants target them, it not only affects the victims, but a lot of other people dependent on these traders. With every incident, one established trade link collapses. The indirect victims, who are indigenous Garos, do not get any share of the ransom (neither they want it)! While the number of people getting ‘incentives’ of militancy is very few, the number of indirect victims is several times bigger. It is them who are the driving force behind the new movement.
It’s difficult to predict as who which side will win this battle and when. But this battle against insurgency has an advantage, which is not the sheer number of aggrieved people pitted against the handful of armed militants. It is the positive public sentiment that backs such movement. Unlike forces operation against militants this movement does not run the risk of being criticised for ‘human rights violation’.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 19, 2016)