Tura: Leaked messages are never good for the government, especially if it originates in the police department, as Meghalaya found out.
A message meant for internal circulation in the police department, which got leaked to the outside world, has left some people looking for answers and others looking for a surety that the message was just a red herring.
Reason? The message was about the dreaded militant outfit, the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), regrouping and recruiting at least 500 new cadres.
Following the leak, the authorities, of course, played down the message, but despite that, the places named in the message – Nongalbibra and Jadigittim in South Garo Hills and Shallang in West Khasi Hills – are still feeling the aftershocks.
The message stated that a source had mentioned at least 500 people being recruited and sent for training to Myanmar or Nagaland. The number may not be believable, but the noise around the leaked memo got so loud that even Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and former Speaker and UDP president Metbah Lyngdoh issued a statement on the situation.
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The government, they said, was checking the veracity of the complaints made. Of course, they would also look into how such a secret document meant only for internal information was leaked.
Earlier, a high-ranking source in the police department had said there was a need to investigate how the report was leaked.
“The GNLA regrouping is not only sensitive but also huge in terms of what it means to peace in the state. The matter needed investigation and that should have been the base of it but someone, it seems, wanted more fame and leaked it online. What has been done is extraordinary, and now a fear-psychosis prevails,” said the police official on the condition of anonymity.
A visit to the places mentioned in the message – Jadigittim and Nongal – revealed that no one in the area was unaccounted for. Quite a few from the area have travelled to other states but only to seek employment and were in constant touch with their families.
A police source from Shallang, also one of the places named, stated that there were no reports of anyone missing from the villages. In fact, only one missing person has been reported in Shallang and is a woman. Everyone else has been accounted for.
Former members of the GNLA not only called the leaked message baseless, they termed it an attempt to harass them, as ever since the report has been circulated, they have been faced with a huge dilemma and many questions.
Also Read | Garo Liberation Army regrouping? Leaked police memo causes panic
“When you talk about 500… first, the source should have been thoroughly vetted before a message was sent out. It would have only taken a few phone calls to prove that the source itself is lying. GNLA, even in its prime, didn’t have so many members (leaving aside the OGWs or over ground workers). So, such numbers needed to be treated with extreme care. Five hundred militants with guns can give the entire state sleepless nights,” said a former GNLA member, on the condition of anonymity.
The former GNLA member, who had earlier surrendered to authorities, felt there was “something fishy” about the entire leak, which apparently referred to a former GNLA member as the source.
“Where did he get the numbers from, and if he knows things, why did he not name anyone? At least give five names if not 500. It’s incredulous that the police took such numbers so seriously without even basic investigation,” added the former militant.
The first problem with such a leak has been the immediate impact on the state’s populace, mainly in the Garo Hills region. The panic created by such a sensational message has people worried, who fear that a resurgence of the GNLA could spell doom for a place praying for an economic upturn.
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Next, criminal elements could take advantage and pretend to be the outfit’s members to demand money from people as had been the GNLA signature earlier.
“There are many things that can happen, but first, it must be found out if the leak was intentional or not. Garo Hills has suffered over two decades of militancy and now found peace. We don’t want that to dissipate just because someone thought of leaking a document that clearly seems to have come out of the depths of their imagination,” said a resident of Tura on the condition of anonymity.
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