GOALPARA, May 28 – Around 500 members belonging to more than 16 leading organisations of Rabha, Garo, Bodo and other communities along with their leaders sat on a dharna recently in front of the deputy commissioner's office demanding an early release of two kidnapped persons Kameswar Rabha and Charit Rabha and take immediate action to apprehend and punish those involved in the incident.
The protest which was held under the aegis of the All Rabha Students’ Union(ARSU) saw many leading organisations coming together to air their grievances and speak out against those who were trying to instigate the ethnic tension which off late is simmering following some minor incidents along the Assam-Meghalaya border. Meanwhile, the dharna which continued for more than two hours saw a vibrant atmosphere where protesters holding placards with slogans like ‘no justice no rest’, ‘stop extortion and kidnapping’, ‘we want peace’ and raising slogans demanding release of the abducted persons. Later on, all the representatives of respective organisations submitted a memorandum addressed to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to the Deputy Commissioner Preetom Saikia demanding unconditional release of Kameswar Rabha and Charit Rabha and appealing for a better law-and-order situation and avoiding fratricidal clashes.
The Deputy Commissioner while giving a patient hearing to all the representatives assured all possible help and assistance from the administration to trace and release the kidnapped duo from the clutches of the kidnappers though he candidly pointed out the difficulties of the security forces in carrying out operations in those areas especially along the Assam-Meghalaya border as miscreants move to the other side of the border after committing the crimes and also due to the inhospitable terrain during the rainy season and their constant shifting of base for carrying out their antisocial and criminal activities but categorically stated that the rule of law will prevail and no guilty will go unpunished. Moreover, while appealing for maintaining peace and harmony , he also mentioned that a number of initiatives have been taken up by the district administration as confidence building measures to restore confidence especially between the two major communities, the Rabhas and the Garos keeping in view the ethnic clashes earlier that tore apart both the communities.
Talking to this correspondent, Preetom Saikia, said that more than three peace committee meetings involving all members were held at different venues off late including one meeting of the coordination committee between Rabha & Garo communities which was held at the conference hall of his office recently to discuss and defuse the current situation and friction arising out of the kidnapping incident. He also said that he has already written to the government for establishing a border outpost along the Assam- Meghalaya border and recently funds have been sanctioned under border development works for construction of a community hall at Nabang Bazar as a part of some of confidence building measures initiatives where members of both the community can interact under one roof. He also pointed out that the public is equally responsible for upholding peace in the district and they should realise that by not informing the police or the security personnel on the illegal activities of the miscreants they are simply helping and encouraging the perpetrators to carry out bold and heinous crimes and urged the people that they must repose their faith in police so they may be able to live in peace and harmony side by side with members of other communities. Moreover, there is no cause of alarm on the rumours of simmering tension prevailing between the two communities as the administration is confident enough to deal with the any adverse situation under any condition.
Meanwhile, Luis Aind, Superintendent of Police said that people must come forward and help the police to carry out their duties but instead they want immediate results after a crime is committed. While admitting that there may be some lapses due to certain inadvertent reasons and human errors while fighting or preventing crimes but there are also solutions once the mistakes are covered up. He also appealed to members of both the communities to uphold peace and live in harmony as he stated in clear terms that violence is not the solution for settling any issue.
Meanwhile, the police have been able to make a breakthrough in the kidnapping case with the arrest of four members of a dacoit gang which comprises an ex-GNLA cadre, a member of Rabha community and investigation has revealed that they are involved in many cases of extortion and a number of dacoity cases in that area.
Moreover, Col Sanjeev Mehrotra, commanding officer, 9th Sikh Light infantry said that it was only after the situation goes beyond a certain point the Army is called in but it is the responsibility of people who are major stake holders for maintaining peace in their areas and he also mentioned that the Army is always on alert and keen to deliver and play a pro-active role for maintaining peace by not only preventing miscreants from carrying out any illegal activities but also undertake various development works to empower people in their area of responsibility. He also appealed to all the people to inform about any illegal activities in their area to the security personnel without having to disclose their identity so that the security personnel can help prevent crimes especially by groups of miscreants who claimed to be owing allegiance to some militant outfits.
Meanwhile, the Lay Association from Catholic Christian community strongly condemned the kidnapping incident involving members of Rabha community and blamed the criminal elements as responsible for the act. The association also warned all people not to politicise the issue and urged people not to be easily swayed by negative publicity along communal lines and further appealed to all sections of people especially the Rabhas and the Garos to maintain their age-old traditional relations and repose faith on the district administration.