Police escort needed when conflict takes place
Garo and Rabha conflict leads to the
displacement of 10,000 people
January 7, 2011
Serious conflict between the Garo and Rabha communities broke out in the East Garo Hill District of the Meghalaya State of northeast India. According to the report of the Hindustan Times, “More than 30 houses belonging to the Rabha community were allegedly torched by Garos at Mendipathar Rabhapara village in retaliation for the recent attacks on Garos by Rabha youths.” East Garo Hills District Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi said that they have imposted curfew in Mendipathar and its adjoining areas. He has also requisitioned the army for deployment and sought for more companies of paramilitary forces to calm the situation. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/Curfew-imposed-in-Meghalaya-district-following-ethnic-clash/H1-Article1-646169.aspx) IM personnel Debra Mulneix has reported safe as she travels in Assam.
Rev. Rettair Momin, General Secretary of the Garo Baptist Convention, sent out an urgent prayer request for the situation, and shared in an mail dated January 6 that “More than 10,000 people are displaced and thousands are at relief camps from both groups. Last night one Garo was shot dead.”
Mr. Atungo Shitri, Secretary of the Justice and Peace Department of the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India, took an immediate action to organize a delegation to visit the affected area. “We are going to meet with the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police, and appeal to them to provide adequate security to affected villages. If the situation allows, we will also visit the two communities and offer relief assistance and peaceful solution.” Mr. Shitri shared in his email to Benjamin Chan on January 7.
There have been on-going ethnic conflicts between the Garo and Rabha communities that reside on the border of Meghalaya and Assam States of northeast India. Rev. Momin explains that some Rahba groups often call for curfew during Christmas. Many Garo NGOs have requested them to stop the practice. Unfortunately, serious harassment took place against several Garo pastors and youth, including rape at gun point during this past Christmas season. After the failed attempt to address the issue, angry mobs started burning Rahba houses.
Meghalaya is heavily inhabited by tribal people, and Garo is the second largest tribal group in the State. Meghalaya is also one of three states in India to have a Christian majority with 70.3% of the population practicing Christianity. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meghalaya) The Garo Baptist Convention has 2,570 churches and 240,439 baptized members. The Rabha is a scheduled tribe mostly resides in Bengal and Assam States. Rabha people traditionally practice a few animistic rituals, but today more often follow a faith, which is a blend of some Hindu and a few animistic rituals. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabha)
Rev. Momin and Mr. Shitri ask the global Baptist family to pray the affected churches and communities and the success of the peacemaking effort. The Garo Baptist Convention ( http://www.eacinet.org/gbc.php) and the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India are close partners of International Ministries (http://www.eacinet.org/cbcnei.php).