From highway robbery and ‘revolutionary’ taxes to plain old extortion, militants in the northeast have tried every trick in the book to fund their secessionist activities. One group in Meghalaya, however, has now turned to gambling.
A breakaway outfit of the militant A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC-B) in Meghalaya is raising funds for ‘sustenance’ by organising Bawil-Dawil, a tribal version of tambola or housie – a game of probability played by betting on numbers.
“This is our initiative to sustain members and keep them engaged so they aren’t distracted or forced to return to the jungle out of frustration,” an ANVC-B statement said.
It attributed the novel move to a failure by Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma’s government in providing a rehabilitation package promised during the signing of a peace pact last year. The ANVC-B, headed by Rimpu Marak, insisted the outfit has given up extortion and Bawil-Dawil was the only option to generate funds for the time being.
The police in five districts under Garo Hills – where A’chik National Volunteers’ Council -B and rival outfits operate – said they were not sure if action could be taken against a traditional gambling game.
“Everything’s fine as long as they are not harassing people or causing law and order problems,” a senior officer from Tura, the nerve centre of the Garo Hills districts 284 km southwest of Guwahati, said.
Years ago, Meghalaya had legalised Thoh Kyntip, a traditional archery-based gambling sport popularly known as Teer that entails betting on any number between 1 and 100.
Teams of archers shoot up to 3,000 arrows on a cylindrical target made of hay. The number of successful arrows that remain after eliminating 100 at a time is the lucky number.
Teer, though, is illegal in the Northeast beyond Meghalaya but police say several outfits such as the United Liberation Front of Assam and National Socialist Council of Nagaland make money from illegal Teer counters across the region.