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Centre ‘no’ to ANVC demand on council

ANVC cadres at an undisclosed location. File picture

Shillong, Jan. 15: The demand of the militant outfit, A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) to expand more seats in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) is unlikely to materialise soon, even if the peace pact is approved by the Centre. The ANVC, which has climbed down from its demand for a separate Garoland state for the Garo community, has signed an “agreed text for settlement” on January 5, last year by placing a charter of demands before the state and Union governments.

Among the demands, the outfit said the GHADC, having a total strength of 30 members, be given more autonomy and powers, including raising the number of seats to 40. The state government acceded the ANVC’s demand and submitted its views to the Union ministry of home affairs recently with the hope that the Union cabinet will give its nod to the “agreed text for settlement” signed with the Garo outfit at the earliest.

“Even if the agreed text for settlement is approved, the demand to have 40 seats in the autonomous district council will not happen so soon. Such expansion can happen only through a constitutional amendment to the Sixth Schedule,” a government official said today.

There are three district councils in Meghalaya, created according to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule. Apart from GHADC, the other two councils are Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) and Jaińtia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC). At present, the three councils have 30 members each — direct elections for 29 members and one nominated. In GHADC, the ANVC proposed that direct elections should held for 35 members, while five — two ANVC members, two nokmas (traditional heads) and one woman — would be nominated.

The ANVC entered into tripartite ceasefire agreement with the state and Centre on July 23, 2004 with an aim to have a political settlement to bring lasting peace in the Garo hills. They had some rounds of peace talks with former Intelligence Bureau chief P.C. Haldar who was appointed as negotiator for the outfit before signing the “agreed text for settlement”.

On January 8, the Meghalaya cabinet extended the tenure of the GHADC by six months and preferred to conduct elections to the council only after the text agreement is approved. The extension was, however, becoming unnecessary as the demand of the ANVC to have 40 seats in GHADC can come into effect only through an amendment of the Sixth Schedule.

The state government has outlined to the ministry of home affairs the need to increase the number of seats in the other two district councils – KHADC and JHADC. The government has proposed to the Centre that KHADC should also have 40 seats like GHADC while the JHADC may have 34. If the proposal is accepted and the Sixth Schedule amended in Parliament, out of 40 members, the GHADC and KHADC will conduct elections to 35 seats as five members would be nominated. However, out of 34 seats in JHADC, direct elections would be held for 29 seats with five nominated members.