TURA | Sept 14, 2019:
As many as 13 members of the Achik Holistic Awakening Movement (AHAM), an NGO formed by former chairman of the proscribed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Champion Sangma, were arrested for allegedly extorting money from non tribal traders in the coal belt areas of South Garo Hills.
The 13 members belonged to the AHAM South Garo Hills unit. AHAM, created by Sangma after his release from prison, has seen units being opened across the region as well as in neighbouring Assam.
The arrests, which were made yesterday (Friday, Sep 13), came after complaints were made against AHAM members, who seemingly set up a parallel tax network across the region and even into sections of WKH and Goalpara district in Assam – which has a large section of Garos in its midst.
According to police sources, complaints were received about the illegal collection leading to a raid in Jadigittim market in the district.
The 13 AHAM members were apprehended from the area while they were apparently providing temporary licenses to non tribal traders for a fee of Rs 500 per person. The registration, dubbed ‘Non-Tribal Registration Receipt’ was a must for all traders, even if they had all valid licenses from authorities.
The arrests were made under Nongalbibra PS in SGH.
“We arrested the AHAM members over complaints of extortion as they were collecting fees for issuing licenses. A case has been registered on the matter,” confirmed superintendent of police, SGH, Abraham T Sangma.
It may be mentioned that members of the NGO were earlier also arrested in WGH after they allegedly abducted a teacher when he came to Tura.
Meanwhile, reports are now coming in of similar non tribal registration drives near the village of Bajengdoba in North Garo Hills (NGH). The village borders Assam and sees a lot of residents from Assam come to weekly trade markets.
“You can ask most of the Assam traders on the issue and they will be able to produce the ‘Non-Tribal Registration Receipt’ issued by AHAM here as well. The amount collected is also the same,” said a resident who wished to remain anonymous.