File picture of ANVC rebels
Shillong, Jan. 3: The A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) breakaway faction today said it would participate in the “historic settlement” if it was beneficial to all three existing autonomous district councils of Meghalaya and the common people.
The ANVC (B) was responding to chief minister Mukul Sangma’s invite, asking the outfit on Tuesday to take part in a tripartite meeting to held here on Saturday.
Officials from the Centre and state government, besides leaders of the ANVC, will the attending the meeting, which will work towards inking a permanent settlement on the basis of demands made by the outfit.
“Looking at the present scenario in the state, the ANVC (B) is of the opinion that the common people share the same deprivation. The ‘historic settlement’ should benefit the common man and bring changes at the grassroots level,” ANVC (B) chairman Rimpu N. Marak said in a statement.
The group also wants introduction of “grassroots democracy” and strengthening of village-level governance.
“Our focus has always been the Garo people and Garo dominated areas, which undoubtedly will continue to be so. But we have seen places in Khasi and Jaintia Hills that need as much attention as we anticipate for our own areas. The state needs to consider a mechanism which will empower people and bring changes to these areas with direct funding from the Centre,” Marak said.
Meghalaya has three autonomous district councils — one each in Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills, created under the Sixth Schedule to protect the indigenous people.
Stating that “our people and our areas are our priority”, Marak said the same benefit should percolate to all councils.
“Today we are not looking at secession but rather to be partners in productive development of our own areas. Therefore, we are ready to join the peace pact if the settlement benefits all the three councils of the state,” he said.
The ANVC’s demand at the time of signing the ceasefire pact with the Centre and the state government in July 2004 was for creation of separate state of Greater Garoland. It later scaled down the demand to that for a Garoland autonomous council on the lines of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). But since the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council already exists, like in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, even the scaled-down demand has put the government in a spot.
Sources said the government would try and convince the ANVC leadership to agree to a settlement that would only strengthen the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council.
“Since the creation of a Garoland Autonomous Council is not feasible, the government will propose that more powers and new areas of jurisdiction will be given to the existing council,” the source said.
The ANVC (B), too, does not seem to be averse to strengthening of the existing council.
“Our stand for strengthening of the council is open. However, we emphasise introduction of a mechanism that will empower the common man and allow direct flow of funds to the grassroots through village governance,” the ANVC (B) chairman added.