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Garo militant outfit warns
non-Garos not to contest polls
By MH Rahman, Williamnagar

The People's Liberation Front of Meghalaya (PIFM), a little known Garo militant outfit, has warned the non-Garos to refrain from contesting State Assembly as well as autonomous district council elections to be held in 2003 in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. According to it, if the non-Garos contest and win election, they will secure maximum benefit of development for themselves and push the Garos to face a difficult situation as that of the tribal of Tripura.

In this connection, it is notable that there are 60 Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya. All constituencies except three are exclusively reserved for the main three tribes the Khasis, the Jaintias and the Garos of the state. The three unreserved Assembly constituencies are Mawpre, Mahendragonj and Phulbari where non-tribal candidates can only contest election along with tribal candidates.

While Mawprem falls in East Khasi Hills district, Mahendragonj and Phulbari are in Garo Hills that have altogether 24 Assembly constituencies. Almost half of the voters of Mahendragonj and Phulbari are Muslims. Both constituencies are located on the Assam-Meghalaya border in West Garo Hills district.

In 1998 Assembly elections, Abdus Saleh Miah and Abu Taher Mondal were elected to the state legislative body from Mahendrajonj and Phulbari respectively. But Sayedullah Nongrum, a Khasi Muslim, who won 1993 State Assembly election from Rajabala reserved constituency in West Garo Hills had been defeated.

If the PLFM continues to stick to its present stand, it will not be easy for the non-Garos like the Muslims, the Bengali Hindus, the Khasis, the Ravas etc to contest 2003 State Assembly elections in Garo Hills without fear.

As per 1991 census, the Muslim population of Meghalaya was 61,482 and their percentage to the total population of the state was 3.46. By 2000 their population is estimated to be 83,487. In 1981, the total Muslim population of West Garo Hills was 33,337. They constituted 9.01 percent of the total population of the district.

It is also mentionable that the Garo National Council (GNC), a Garo political party, has been demanding a separate state for the Garos. The demand was first raised in 1946 but suspended with the creation of Meghalaya in 1972. However it is revived in 1992. But the status to be given to the non-Garos living in Garo Hills in the event of creation of a Separate state for the Garos is yet to be known.
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