Meghalaya 2018

Fighting Aadhaar through ballot in Meghalaya

Bernard Marak

Bernard Marak  

Ex-rebel in the fray on Trinamool ticket

More former militants are contesting the February 27 Meghalaya Assembly polls than in 2013. The primary reason why one of them has chosen ballot over bullet is to add power to the fight against Aadhaar, the biometric scheme.

Aadhaar has not been implemented yet in Meghalaya along with Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. Of the three States, Meghalaya has been the most vocal against the identification number perceived to be intrusive and prone to surveillance.

Last year, an NGO called Meghalaya People’s Committee on Aadhaar had launched a signature campaign to opt out of the scheme. The committee claimed it has 1,300 signatories.

“Aadhaar has caused a great deal of resentment among the tribal people of Meghalaya. We do not want to be in a regulated system, as we are Scheduled Tribes and residents of a Sixth Schedule area where such impositions are not applicable,” Bernard N. Marak, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from the South Tura Assembly seat, said.

His rivals include former Union Minister Agatha Sangma of National People’s Party (NPP). Ms. Sangma is the daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A. Sangma and sister of NPP chief Conrad Sangma, the MP from Tura Lok Sabha constituency straddling 24 Assembly seats in west.

“I chose Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool because hers is probably the only party opposed to Aadhaar. We know that through her, the voices of tribal people, unaware of the merits and demerits of Aadhaar, can be raised in Parliament,” Mr. Marak told The Hindu.

Mr. Marak was the chairman of a breakaway group of the underground A’chik National Volunteers Council that declared truce in 2014. A couple of years later, he joined the BJP but resigned after the beef controversy last year.

“Our other major issues include autonomy for tribal council, which was supposed to be implemented after our 2014 peace agreement. We also want the ban on coal and limestone mining by the National Green Tribunal to be lifted because land in Meghalaya belongs to the people, not the government,” Mr. Marak said.

He is not the only ex-rebel seeking a berth in the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly.

The Mawhati Assembly seat has two former militants pitted against each other – sitting independent MLA Julius Kitbok Dorphang and James Sylliang of the newly formed People’s Democratic Front (PDF). Both spent their underground days in the same outfit, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

Mr. Dorphang is in jail, facing charges of raping a minor girl several times.

Another former militant in the fray is Desang M. Sangma, a two-time legislator and leader of the now-disbanded A’chik Liberation Matgrik Army, contesting the Rongjeng seat on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket.

The others of his ilk are former A’chik National Volunteers Council’s top gun Dillash M. Marak of the BJP (Dadenggre seat), former HNLC leader Banteidor Lyngdoh of PDF (Mawkynrew) and Ashahel D Shira, contesting the Rajabala seat as an independent.

The 2013 election had seen five former rebels, including Mr. Dorphang and Mr. Shira, contesting.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 2:57:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/meghalaya-2018/fighting-aadhaar-through-ballot-in-meghalaya/article22785946.ece

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