Shillong, Jan. 5: The Centre today strongly indicated that militants had better surrender as a plan is in the offing not to entertain any more talks with rebel group operating in any part of the country, including the Northeast.
This indication came against the backdrop of a tripartite dialogue between the Centre, the Meghalaya government and the ANVC held here this afternoon.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of P.C. Haldar, the Centre’s interlocutor on ANVC talks. It was attended by Shambhu Singh, joint secretary (Northeast) in the ministry of home affairs, Meghalaya chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat, principal secretary (home and political department) K.S. Kropha and other state government officials.
Speaking of surrenders, Singh said, “Let me be very candid with you. We might take a decision that we shall no longer hold talks with any group, anywhere. It is in the pipeline.”
He said every time “you talk to a group, a small remnant of the group breaks away and continues its illegal and prejudicial activities, and then thinks that it will be given the same moral high ground and the high table to sit and discuss and put across its demands which are basically non-existent.”
Stating that the ANVC (B) was very much a part of the ANVC, Singh said, “As far as I am concerned, there is no ANVC (B). Today they participated in the meeting and (according to me) as a part of the ANVC and that’s it.” The ANVC delegation was led by its general secretary Wanding K. Marak, while ANVC (B) was led by its chairman Rimpu N. Marak.
Singh also stated that the concept of general amnesty would never happen. “There is no general amnesty. After the concept of victims’ rights was introduced in the jurisprudence, you cannot have general amnesty. No question of general amnesty. It will not happen,” Singh stressed.
The meeting finalised the agreed text for settlement. The matter will now be processed further to obtain the approval of the Union and state governments before the memorandum of settlement is signed.
Today’s dialogue set the tone for the signing of the memorandum of settlement with the Garo hills outfit as it agreed to expansion of powers of the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC). The ANVC had earlier demanded creation of a Garoland Autonomous Council (GAC).
Asked when the agreement would be signed, Singh said: “I cannot tell you because elections are imminent, they may get announced any day. If before that we are able to get all the clearances, it might get signed or it has to wait till we are allowed to proceed.”
The publicity secretary of the ANVC, Arist C. Sangma, however, told reporters that the final settlement would be signed next week. “Once the memorandum of settlement is signed, we can play a major role in bringing peace in the region. Two groups (ANVC, ANVC-B) have come and we will try and bring the third group (GNLA) to the mainstream.”
There are now 168 ANVC members, he said.
Sangma said the council would have more powers as “the state government is giving extra subjects and powers to the council” but its nomenclature would remain the same. He, however, added that the group had not scaled down its demand for the creation of a “Garoland” autonomous council.
He said the ANVC has demanded at least 10 more seats for the council, which now has 30 members. Of the 40 members, the ANVC has proposed that 35 would be directly elected, while five, comprising two ANVC members, two nokmas and one woman, would be nominated.
On the issue of direct funding to the council, Sangma said the Centre would provide funds through the state finance commission.
He said the ANVC (B) did not raise any separate demand and had agreed with what the ANVC had earlier submitted. “We are very happy with today’s meeting and the arms and ammunition of all our cadres will be deposited once the memorandum of settlement is signed,” he added.
While the ANVC could have indicated the possibility of reaching out to the GNLA, Singh was of a different opinion. “As far as GNLA is concerned, it is an organisation of rogues. The government of India and I think the state government, too, are not interested in talking to them. We will continue to deal with them the way we are dealing with them,” he said.
Stating that the GNLA was a group of “goondas” who were extorting money and torturing people, he asked, “How do you expect the government to invite these rogues to negotiations and make them sit at the talking table?”
He also said the Centre had no inclination for talks with the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a militant outfit operating in the Khasi-Jaintia hills.