Municipal polls: Half of Meghalaya shutdown

Shillong: A two-day shutdown in three districts of Garo hills called by a group of organizations protesting the proposed first ever municipal elections in Meghalaya evoked response Tuesday, paralyzing normal life.

Educational institutions, business establishments as well as government offices were closed and vehicular movement was thin, East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Pravin Bakshi said.

He said adequate security personnel were deployed at sensitive places to prevent any untoward incident.

The shutdown call also evoked response in several pockets of West Garo Hills.

While no picketing activities were observed, West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Sanjay Goyal said the administration has decided salary cut for those government officials who did not report for duty.

The Joint Action Committee, a conglomerate of several organizations, have announced a two-day non-cooperation movement in the three districts of Garo hills from today against holding of the elections in the four municipalties of Garo hills slated for September 29. The JAC is demanding demarcation of the municipal areas before conducting the elections.

Proscribed Khasi militant outfit Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had warned people of dire consequences if they participated in the proposed municipal elections.

Earlier, the Gauhati High Court had issued a notice to the government on a petition by the Garo Students Union which challenged the municipal polls contending, following the 1992 amendment in the Constitution, panchayat and municipal provisions do not extend to the tribal areas which are under Sixth Schedule.

In Shillong, Urban Affairs Principal Secretary Prashant Naik ruled out postponing of the municipal elections. We don’t understand why they are opposing the elections. They should wait for the court verdict instead of announcing any agitation, he said.

Since the Supreme Court Notification in 2000, there have been at least two attempts to hold the civic body election in the State but on both the government could not go ahead due to opposition from certain quarters on the ground that such an attempt will dilute the credibility of the traditional institutions in the State.

There had been no municipality election in the State since it attained statehood and nominated administrator of the State Government governs the Municipality Boards.

After the Supreme Court had directed the state government to hold the municipal elections following a petition filed by the Non Tribal Youth Union, the government in November 2000 issued notifications for holding elections. Only one person, a Shillong-based businessman, Ananta Dey, filed nominations. However, he was shot dead by suspected militants.