Strike for Garoland state hits normal life

Shillong, Aug 8 (IANS) Normal life in the western part of Meghalaya's Garo Hills was crippled Thursday following a dawn-to-dusk shutdown by the Garo Hills State Movement Committee (GHSMC) demanding a Garoland state.

All government offices, private establishments, commercial outlets, schools and colleges remained shut while vehicles stayed off the roads in the five districts of Garo Hills.

"The situation is peaceful," Inspector General of Police (Western Range) H. Nongpluh told IANS.

The GHSMC - a conglomeration of several Garo organisations including the Garo National Council (GNC), a regional political party - launched a series of agitation since Tuesday in all the five district headquarters of Garo Hills demanding a Garoland state.

"The committee will soon decide our next phase of agitation after the Independence day," GSHMC general secretary Augustine Marak said.

"If the government can give Telangana for the Telugu-speaking people of that state, why can't it create Garoland for the Garos? Our statehood demand is on the linguistic lines of the States Reorganisations Act, 1965 and the government must concede our demand," he added.

Meghalaya became an autonomous state in 1971 and a full-fledged state Jan 21, 1972.

The GNC, one of the oldest regional political parties, has been demanding Garoland for over two decades. It has one member in the 60-member assembly.

The Garo National Liberation Army, a rebel group, is also fighting for Garoland.

Meanwhile, the Achik National Volunteers Council, currently observing a tripartite ceasefire with the central and the state governments, has scaled down its demand for a separate Garoland state to an autonomous council like the Bodoland Territorial Council.