Don’t pay extortion to militants, Meghalaya officials told

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SHILLONG - Meghalaya Home Minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh Sunday asked government officials to inform the police about extortion notices issued to them by militants and threatened legal action if they complied with the rebels’ demands.

“We have received some information about GNLA (Garo National Liberation Army) sending extortion notices to some government officials,” Lyngdoh told IANS, adding that police have started their investigation.

The GNLA, a tribal militant outfit operating in Garo Hills region in western Meghalaya, had sent extortion demands ranging from Rs.30 lakh-40 lakh each to three government officials through mobile text messages.

The outfit had sent extortion demands to the district transport officer and block development officer in East Garo Hills district, while a sub-divisional officer (civil) at Resubelpara received an extortion note signed by GNLA finance secretary Jagpil Sangma.

“The government has directed all government officials to report to the police on extortion notices served on them or else face legal action if the government found them complying to the militant demands,” Lyngdoh said.

East Garo Hill Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi said that police have registered a case following complaints lodged by the officials and a probe is on to nab the militants.

A cabinet minister in the previous D.D. Lapang ministry revealed in March that he had received a number of text messages from the GNLA asking him to “contribute to the organisation or face the consequences”.

The former minister, who did not wish to be named, claimed some Garo legislators too had received such text messages.

The GNLA had earlier slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore on petrol pump owners, coal dealers and businessmen in the coal-rich districts of Garo Hills.

Champion R. Sangma, a deputy superintendent of police-turned-rogue, is believed to be heading GNLA, whose cadres are deserters mostly from the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF).

Police are on the lookout for Champion R. Sangma.

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