Violence looms large in run-up to Meghalaya polls

SHILLONG: Ominous signs of violence seem to be looming large on the horizon in the run-up to the assembly elections in Meghalaya, likely to be held in February next year, with several incidents reported from across the state, especially the insurgency-ravaged Garo Hills.

On Saturday, there was reportedly an attempt on the life of working president of the Meghalaya Pradesh Congress and former deputy chief minister Deborah Marak by militants of the A'chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC)-B faction at Rongbinggre.

Deborah, an aspiring candidate, was distributing prizes after a football match when the militants opened fire. East Garo hills deputy commissioner Vijay Mantri said about 10 heavily-armed militants fired in the air during the prize distribution ceremony causing the spectators to run helter-skelter; many of them sustained injuries as they fell down while fleeing the spot. Marak, who was distributing the prizes, also fled along with the crowd.

Meanwhile, the banned Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) too has unleashed terror in the Garo Hills region even as its chief, Champion Sangma, languishes in jail.

The relatively peaceful Khasi Hills has had its share of violence with a non-tribal labourer allegedly being assaulted to death by activists of a students' organization at Mawiong.

"There are groups that have vested interests in flaring up communal tension ahead of the elections," said a source in the Intelligence Bureau. "We have reports that attempts are being made to disturb the otherwise congenial atmosphere in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills," the source added.

"With the assembly segments having been chalked out anew after delimitation, there are chances of sections of the electorate being coerced," the IB source said.