Hundreds of volunteers and activists belonging to the Garo Hills State Movement Committee (GHSMC) participated at a rally on Wednesday at Parliament Street in New Delhi demanding the creation of a separate Garo state in the North-east.
The GHSMC that is spearheading the demand for a separate state is a conglomeration of several Garo organisations, including the Garo National Council (GNC), a regional political party in Meghalaya.
The Garos predominantly inhabit the three districts of the State namely East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South Garo Hills. They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population.
The protestors, dressed in colourful tribal attire including Kotip (headgear) and wielding traditional Garo weapons mi’lam and sepi (sword and shield) chanted “No State, No Rest”, “We want Garoland” and “A’chik A’song Tangbanhchina” as they marched from Ramlila Grounds towards Parliament street.
Nikman Marak, the chairman of the GHSMC, led the gathering in taking a pledge to continue with their struggle until the government accepted their demand for a separate Garo state. Addressing the rally, Mr Marak said, “Our people’s demand for a Garo state is more than a century old. It began during the period of the first Garo statesman Late Sonaram Sangma in the 19th century. We have confidence in the Constitution of India and urge upon the legislators from the state and centre to listen to the voice of the Garo people”.
Speakers at the rally stressed that their demand was on the linguistic lines of the States Reorganizations Act, 1956 that paved the way for the creation of new states based on the language of the people. The Garoland demand was first moved by the Garo National Council, the oldest political party from Garo Hills, during the creation of the state of Meghalaya in the early 70s’.
On March 18, 2014, the Meghalaya Assembly had rejected a resolution for the creation of a separate “Garoland” state in Garo Hills in the western part of the state.
In August last year, the GHSMC had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding creation of Garoland, to be carved out of tribal Garo inhabited areas in Meghalaya and Assam.
Statehood demands or calls for greater autonomy arrangements based on ethnic lines are not new to the north-east. Bodoland and Kamatapur statehood demands in Assam; Garoland demand in Meghalaya; Tipraland demand in Tripura and single administration demand by the Chakmas within Mizoram are some of the current demands that continue to dominate the political landscape of the region.