Inaction against illegal squatters in West Garo Hills,Meghalaya

A group of NGOs, namely the GSU, FKJGP, ADE and AYWP from Garo Hills, has criticized the state government and the district authorities over the inaction against illegal settlers and squatters taking over an archeological site in Wadagokgre under West Garo Hills.

The NGOs, through a press communiqué expressed their apprehension, fearing the lackadaisical approach will have considerable consequences for the future of Garo Hills.

Earlier other NGOs from Garo Hills had also pointed to over 300 illegal settlements that had come up in the area, despite the land falling under Sixth Schedule.

“The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and recognised as an archeological site. The encroachment of the settlers is completely illegal, even when indigenous locals have recognised the site for being of historical value. In fact, these settlers have made the settlements permanent through building concrete structures,” said the NGOs.

The NGOs added that it was this silent invasion that would ultimately take place for their opposition to CAA, fearing that the demography of the state would change drastically. Further, they asserted that the Sixth Schedule and Land Transfer Act, 1971, prohibited settlement by even non-tribals of Garo Hills, let alone allow illegal immigrants.

The organisations even pointed to Sec 20A of the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Site and remains Act, 1958, which states that no construction may be made within the prohibited zone of 100 meters of the monument.

They asserted that the state government needed to act quickly to save the site and the land of the Garos.

“Who knows how many stones of historical value have been removed from the site. Every year under the guise of fleeing from floods, illegal immigrants have taken residence in Garo Hills with successive governments either ill-equipped or unwilling to acknowledge the situation,” asserted the group.

The NGOs threatened to agitate on the matter if the state or administration made no move on the issue and appealed for protecting the land from illegal squatters and settlers from Wadagokgre.