Sohan D. Shira
Tura, Feb. 17: The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) today expressed its willingness to come forward for peace talks but on one condition — the release of its chairman Champion Sangma, who is currently lodged in a Shillong jail. GNLA commander-in-chief Sohan D. Shira issued the statement seeking Champion’s unconditional release just days after another top GNLA commander, Reding T. Sangma, floated a new militant outfit. Champion was arrested from Umkrem Pyrwdiwah along the Indo-Bangladesh border in East Khasi Hills, about 80km from Shillong, on July 30, 2012.
Shira in his statement said: “The GNLA highly appreciates the offer of peace talks by the governor of Meghalaya, K.K. Paul. If the governor is committed, let our chairman break the ice.”
“The GNLA has its own identity, ideologies and our captain knows the direction. The GNLA is firm in its stand and in its own constitution. The leaders and cadres derive their power from the constitution of the GNLA,” Sohan said.
The GNLA commander-in-chief said even he and Champion never went beyond the constitution of the outfit. “We know our own powers and functions. Executive, judicial and legislative power is vested in the chairman and is exercised by him directly or indirectly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the constitution.”
Taking a dig at Reding for floating the new outfit, Sohan said: “The claims of Reding are baseless, concocted and fabricated. He had actually been promoted to public grievances secretary but he failed to exercise his own power and functions as prescribed in the constitution. It wasn’t a demotion as claimed by the police. Reding could not have been allotted double portfolios as he was undergoing treatment for some complicated mental syndromes.”
Sohan also claimed that the new outfit has been floated by Reding and another GNLA deserter Mingran T. Sangma. He said Mingran is a police informer who is supplying arms and ammunition to the new outfit. The new outfit has been named the A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok, which means “vanguards of Garoland”.
New outfit’s reply
The new outfit — A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), which means “vanguards of Garoland” — today refuted all the allegations levelled by the GNLA.
The outfit’s deputy commander, Chue Dilsrang, said: “The GNLA’s allegations against Reding T. Sangma are completely baseless and wrong.”
According to the GNLA, Reding fled with Rs 70 lakh that he used to float the new outfit. But Chue said: “Reding was prevented from discharging his duties as finance secretary of the GNLA.” Chue claimed that Reding never extorted money during his tenure as finance secretary and his post was mainly for show, because Sohan himself took complete charge of financial matters. “Finally, he was stripped of his post.”
On the allegation that Reding killed one of his own cadres, Chue said: “That is impossible because the position Reding held in the GNLA would make it impossible for him to take matters into his own hands. Sohan had complete power over the outfit and it was impossible that Reding would have taken such a step.”
The new outfit has appealed to civil society organisations in Garo hills to support its cause. It clarified that it does not have any intention to harm anybody who works for the interest of Garo hills.