Tribals form border force
Guwahati, June 9: The Khasi tribes people in Meghalaya have formed a self-styled border force and have sought the Centre’s permission to arm themselves with sophisticated weapons to prevent “intruders from Bangladesh” looting their plantations.
Diclosing this over telephone from Shillong, spokesman of the 25 Khasi tribal Kings or Syiems John F Kharshiing said: “The local durbar or council having jurisdiction over 15 villages have already formed a border force and have written to their king with a request to obtain the Indian government’s permission to give them arms and training to defend the border and check Bangladeshi intrusion.”
He claimed that their vigilante groups are already guarding the villages and plantations in vulnerable areas along the international border with existing licensed arms. “What we want is that our people should be given sophisticated arms and training to protect their land and property,” he added.
The traditional institution of kingship still prevails in Meghalaya. The 25 Khasi Syiems or kings, ruling over as many counties, are currently leading a movement demanding constitutional and legal recognition of the Khasis’ traditional and customary rights and usage. The Centre has not responded to their demands.
Kharshiing further informed that the 15 villages which got together to form the border force are located around Lyngkhat, 80 km east of Shillong, where the unprecedented border skirmish between India and Bangladesh had taken place in April this year.
At least 16 Indian and three Bangladeshi border guards were killed in the week-long standoff in the Assam and Meghalaya sector of India’s border with Bangladesh.
The Sardar or chief of Lyngkhat village, in a letter on Friday to their king Balajied Syiem, said intruders from Bangladesh were sneaking into Indian territory and looting fruits, arecanuts and vegetables from the plantations of the local villagers.
He urged the king to request New Delhi to provide men of the newly created vigilante group trains in arms and also provide them with weapons to defend the the nation.
“I have received the formal communication from my chiefs only on Friday. The proposal will be forwarded to Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani,” Balajied Syiem told reporters in Shillong.
Tribal leaders feel that the strength of security personnel manning the border with Bangladesh need to be strengthened to prevent any future armed intrusion.
Reang autonomy heat on Mizoram govt STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
AGARTALA, June 9. – With the authorities in Aizawl showing reluctance in arranging for the early repatriation of tribal evacuees, Reang insurgents are becoming increasingly active along the Tripura-Mizoram border.
The Bru National Liberation Front, a Reang outfit, is ostensibly preparing to step up pressure on the Mizoram government for granting autonomy to the minority Reang tribesmen in the state.
The BNLF leaders have sent a memorandum to the Mizoram chief minister, Mr Zoramthanga, demanding demarcation of an autonomous region for the minority Reangs in the state and setting up an autonomous council to implement developmental schemes for Mizoram’s Reang-dominated areas.
The process of an ethnic polarisation, mainly on religious lines, seems to have become complete in Mizoram with Reang politicians and organisations exerting pressure on the Centre to protect human rights of Reang tribesmen in the state.
A Union home ministry report recently said the governments of Mizoram and Tripura had reasons to worry if the Reang problem was not solved by the authorities in Aizawl. MPs from Tripura had recently expressed their concern in Parliament over Mizoram’s reluctance in taking back the Reang refugees, now huddled in six camps in North Tripura.
After the Reang and BNLF leaders repeated their demand for Reang autonomy in Mizoram, the authorities in Aizawl made one thing clear, though indirectly, that the proposal for repatriation of Reang evacuees would not make any headway until the Reang insurgents surrendered their arms and created a conducive atmosphere for peace in the state.
The chief minister, Mr Zoramthanga, had earlier rejected the demand for an autonomous hill council for the Reangs and reservation of seats in the state Assembly for the Reang minorities. The demand for autonomy made the dominant Mizo community sceptical about the stance of the non-Christian Reang minorities which had apparently resulted in attacks on the minority tribesmen in Mizoram’s Reang villages.
Reang tribals had started crossing over to North Tripura in October 1997 after ethnic disturbances in their Mizoram villages. At one stage, the population in the camps rose to over 40,000. Many of the inmates have now crossed over to the Chittagong hills and some have mingled with the local tribal population. Over 30,000 are still in the camps.
Mr LK Advani had, on 7 August 2000, held a meeting with the chief ministers of Tripura and Mizoram, Mr Manik Sarkar and Mr Zoramthanga, in New Delhi to review the situation.
Mr Zoramthanga had then agreed to take back 16,000 evacuees before 30 October last year. He had also assured that the rest of the refugees would be repatriated within 31 December 2000. The meeting decided that tripartite meetings would be held with senior officials of the Union government, the Mizoram government and Reang leaders from time to time.
But the Mizoram government went back on its assurance given to Mr Advani. The authorities in Aizawl later informed the Tripura government that only about 10,000 camp inmates were genuine citizens of Mizoram and the rest were infiltrators from Tripura and the Chittagong hills.
The Tripura government lodged a strong protest against Mizoram’s stance and urged the Centre to apply adequate pressure on the state government to arrange for early repatriation of the refugees.