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Civil bodies raise alarm on ‘illegal’ settlers in Garo Hills village

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Tura, Oct 27: A conglomeration of civil groups from Garo Hills comprising of  GSU, FKJGP, ADE and AYWP has up their ante against Government for their inaction on complaints with regards to ‘illegal’ settlers at the famed archaeological site in Wadagokgre village in West Garo Hills.

The civil bodies in their press communiqué have expressed their apprehension on ‘lackadaisical’ attitude of the authorities.

The civil bodies have alleged that over 300 illegal settlements are currently present at Wadagokgre village. “The area falls under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and recognized as an archaeological site. The encroachment of the settlers is completely illegal even when indigenous locals have recognized the site for being of historical value. In fact these settlers have made the settlements permanent through building concrete structures,” said the statement issued by the civil groups.

“We are sure if the indigenous people tried to settle in the area they would have been evicted outright ,however, the stance is different for illegal immigrants illegally occupying the lands,” the civil groups further accused.

They also said, “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”.

The civil groups further pointed that the provisions of the Sixth Schedule and Land Transfer Act, 1971, prohibits settlement by even non-tribal of Garo Hills, let alone allow illegal immigrants.

The organizations 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.

“Even the ASI and Central Government needs the recommendation of the Expert Advisory Committee to carry out even public works or any construction within the prohibited area under Section 20A(4) of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains(Amendment and Validation ) Bill,2010 which received the assent of the President on 29-03-2010. Why is the Meghalaya government not acting which is in contravention of the Act,” they asked.

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 historic 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.

They threatened to agitate on the matter if no move was made by the state or administration on the issue and appealed for the protection of the land from illegal squatters and settlers from Wadagokgre.

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