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Peace volunteers’ council in Garo hills

Shillong, Dec. 30: With 38 lives lost in the Garo hills region this year at the hands of militants, a volunteers’ council was formed today to establish peace through appeals and persuasion.

A group of 15 “peace-loving and educated youths” from the Garo hills gathered at an “undisclosed location” recently to discuss the violence which has plagued Meghalaya’s western region.

After several preliminary meetings, the youths today formed the A’chik Peace Volunteers’ Council (APVC) to try and establish peace in the Garo hills.

Making the announcement through an email sent to media houses, Che Guevara Marak, convener of the council, said, “After a detailed analysis, we have concluded that the militants in the Garo hills have been doing simple business. It is business with the blood of innocents.”

Creation of terror in the minds of people is the militants’ investment, Marak said.

“They kill or abduct a trader, businessman or a civilian and the entire trading or business community or the civil society dances to their tune. Therefore, the killing of innocent people is their investment, which yields good returns in the form of crores of extorted money. They are criminals and should be punished according to the law of the land,” Marak added.

According to the council’s technical team, the crimes inflicted upon society in the Garo hills this year by the so-called militant groups — GNLA, ANVC (B), UALA, LAEF and many other splinter groups — were heinous.

“They took 38 lives in 2013, which included seven security personnel. Among the victims are two nokmas (headmen), two government officers and an assistant pastor,” Marak said.

Fourteen traders and coal labourers were abducted for ransom while more than five people sustained injuries in militant-related attacks, he added.

Marak said the council would be reaching out to every individual “directly or indirectly assisting the militants.”

“We will approach all the village elders who are providing shelter to the militants, the mothers who are cooking food for them, the people who are passing information to them, the businessmen who are paying money to them with which they procure weapons and grow stronger, the middlemen who stash their money, the officers who pay to them out of fear, and appeal to them to stop assisting the militants in their blood business,” Marak said.