Militant groups and small criminal gangs operating in the Garo Hills region in Meghalaya have been hit the hardest following demonetisation, police said. Suddenly there is an unusual silence and there is no report of any kind of kidnapping and extortion and this is all because of the demonetisation effect which has become a boon for small time traders, businessmen and even farmers, they said. “It gave them no way to push the money back into the banking system given that deposits are being fully monitored by all teams, including Income Tax, police and the like. Militancy has been depressed by the sudden announcement of the prime minister,” said South Garo Hills (SGH) police chief, Anand Mishra.
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South and East Garo Hills are both known as militancy hotbeds with the dense forest cover of Durama Hills providing natural shelter for them. The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and ASAK groups are the most active in the region and have been at the heart of all militant activities in the region, though splinter groups have also done their bit. It is widely suspected that more than 500 crores lies in the hands of militant groups, mostly with the GNLA
“This is a body blow for them as they have to bring out the money they stashed meaning a fear of exposure. We are also keeping a very close tab on amounts being deposited and have identified dozens of sympathisers and over ground workers of the group. Come January and we may fall short of jail space,” added SP Mishra.
Banks in all districts have been asked to provide information on suspicious deposits as was confirmed by banks when contacted. Meetings between police teams and banks have now become a regular feature to ensure that all attempts by militants to convert blood money is thwarted.
“We had information of a huge amount of money being brought into the district but the scrutiny involved ensured they didn’t even get into the line. We have identified many sympathisers and are keeping a close tab,” said Mishra.
Recently a raid on the house of the GNLA chief, Sohan D Shira’s house saw 27 bank passbooks being seized and the accounts frozen. In another incident, three people were arrested while they were brining more than Rs 36 lakhs allegedly belonging to the GNLA for conversion.
“These passbooks belonged to family and relatives of Sohan and were to be used for conversion of hidden stash. We are keeping a very close watch on things,” said Davies NR Marak, Superintendent of Police, EGH.
Police sources said militants are seeking “money mules” and approaching villagers, even through coercion to turn their money white through the use of their (villagers’) accounts.
“The heyday of militancy is over in Garo Hills. To recover it will take decades and even then they may fail as more people move into the banking system. If what is being predicted is right, we will be able to ensure they never receive the kind of money they did and certainly impact movement,” said Mishra.