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Hope of truce with ANVC

- Tripartite accord may bring Garo militants into fold

Shillong, Jan. 23: The tripartite peace accord with the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) is likely to be finalised in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, while the outfit’s breakaway faction has vowed to bring other groups like the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) to smoke the peace pipe.

A meeting, attended by senior Meghalaya government officials, representatives from the Union home affairs ministry, and leaders of the ANVC, including its chairman Dilash Marak, commander-in-chief Jerome Momin and general secretary Wanding Marak, and also ANVC (B) chairman Rimpu Marak, was convened here this morning.

“We have been informed that the peace pact is likely to be finalised within two months. It is going to be tabled in the upcoming session of Parliament,” ANVC publicity secretary Arist Sangma told reporters after the meeting.

Both Houses of Parliament will sit from the early part of next month to pass the vote-on-account.

The ANVC had demanded a hike in the number of seats in the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) from existing 30 to 40, apart from granting more powers to the autonomous district council.

Although the state government cleared the demand, the Centre is yet to give its nod.

However, even if the Centre concedes to the demand, Parliament has to amend the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to give effect to the demand.

Today’s meeting was held to discuss the peace pact, which, if approved by the Centre, will enhance the powers of the GHADC.

“We want it (signing of the final tripartite peace accord) to be done as soon as possible to ensure a lasting peace in Garo Hills,” Sangma added.

The ANVC, which has more than 100 cadres, had signed a tripartite ceasefire with the Centre and the Meghalaya government in July 2004. Both the ANVC and the ANVC (B) felt that the peace pact would bring about lasting peace in the ravaged Garo Hills region.

Sangma said the government is welcoming other militant outfits as well to be part of the settlement process.

Rimpu informed that an initiative was being undertaken to bring GNLA commander-in-chief Sohan D. Shira and United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA) chairman Singbirth Marak alias Norok to be a part of the peace settlement.

On whether the GNLA and UALA would come forward to join the peace pact when these groups are actually demanding a separate state of Garoland, Rimpu said, “Garoland is a political demand, and it cannot be achieved by taking up arms. But we can raise this issue through political means.”

Stating that the ANVC (B) has around 130 cadres, including women, Rimpu said the group would have to soon furnish to the government the names of its cadres and an inventory of its arms and ammunition. He said the arms and ammunition would be deposited before the authorities in the next couple of weeks after following due procedures.

The ANVC (B) chief also dismissed the allegation that he had any nexus with chief minister Mukul Sangma. “I do not think there is any ground or evidence that can be provided with it because until now we are not in contact with the chief minister, and we are not in contact with any political leader. We are going on our own,” he said.

Welcoming today’s talks, chief minister Mukul Sangma stressed on the need to sustain the pace to ensure an early settlement for lasting peace in the Garo Hills.

“Everyone must understand that certain timelines and preconditions are adhered to strictly so that the ongoing efforts by all concerned fructify at the earliest for the greater benefit of the people of Garo Hills in particular and the state as a whole,” he said.

He also said that certain modalities, such as providing the details of the number of cadres and an inventory of arms and ammunition must be completed for the peace process to move on.

The chief minister renewed his appeal to other militant outfits to come on board and join the peace process.