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Mukul invites pro-ILP groups to talks table

Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma along with actor Vivek Oberoi (top and left) at Mercy Home at Demthring in Shillong on Sunday. The duo also visited the Observation Home Boys at Cleave Colony, Rilang Children’s Home at Nongshilliang and Lawei Phyrnai Children’s Home at Umpling, Shillong, as part of the pre-Christmas celebrations. Sangma and Oberoi took the opportunity to spend time with the inmates of the homes where they sang Christmas carols and shared some light moments with them. The two men greeted all the inmates of the childcare institutions and old-age homes and wished them a Christmas filled with love and peace. Telegraph picture

Shillong, Dec. 22: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma today extended the olive branch to the pro-Inner-Line Permit (ILP) pressure groups by declaring that the government would invite the groups for talks to discuss influx and illegal immigration.

As the groups had threatened to resume their agitation after the ongoing festive season, the talks have been scheduled for January 15.

However, the chief minister insisted that the groups should come to the negotiating table with an “open mind”, and bring out suitable proposals to deal with influx and illegal immigration into the state.

Around 13 pressure groups have been agitating since September 2 to demand the implementation of the permit regime as a measure to keep tabs on the twin problems.

“We have decided to invite the pressure groups to come and discuss with the government on the possibilities to tackle influx and illegal immigration without sticking to ILP,” Sangma told reporters this evening at his official residence here.

He evinced hope that the proposed dialogue with the groups would ultimately lead to a breakthrough in finding a suitable mechanism that would counter influx and illegal immigration.

All along, the groups have been asking the government to implement the ILP.

Therefore, it remains much to be seen how the groups would react to the invitation, and whether they would still stick to the ILP demand or, as Sangma said, would come to the negotiating table with an “open mind”.

In the last meeting held between Sangma and the groups on August 29, the pressure groups had told the chief minister that the talks would be only on the ILP and nothing else.

Having failed to reach common ground, the groups staged a walkout, which also led to the announcement of a series of agitation.

As the agitation continued, and as Sangma ruled out further dialogue with the groups, the government came up with a draft Meghalaya Regulation of Landlords and Verification of Tenants bill. However, it was fancied neither by the groups nor by the traditional institutions.

“As we celebrate Christmas, and as we step into the New Year, let love, peace, joy and compassion prevail in the state,” Sangma said while not overlooking the contentious issues and problems, which Meghalaya had encountered this year.

On whether the government would desist from arresting the pressure groups’ leaders during this festive season, the chief minister said, “We will allow everybody to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas.”

Law will prevail

Referring to the arrest of cadres belonging to outfits, which are governed by ceasefire norms, Sangma said, “If any cadre, belonging to any outfit, which is under a ceasefire agreement, is caught violating the ground rules, the law enforcing agencies will act.”

In the recent past, a few ANVC (B) cadres were arrested from different parts of Garo hills. However, the outfit, which is a breakaway faction of the ANVC, had strongly reacted to such arrests.

On the allegations levelled by certain ANVC (B) leaders that their chairman was close to the chief minister, Sangma said, “I am a chief minister who does not talk with any such militants whether formally or informally. It is the responsibility of the interlocutor to talk with them.”