13 members of AHAM arrested in extortion case

Tura, Sep 14: 13 members of the NGO, Achik Holistic Awakening Movement (AHAM) of a unit from South Garo Hills (SGH) were arrested over allegations of extortion from non tribal traders in the coal belt areas of the district.

The NGO was formed by former chairman of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Champion Sangma. Sangma created AHAM after his release from prison and operated 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 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.

Members of the NGO were earlier also arrested in WGH after they allegedly abducted a teacher when he came to the town of 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.

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