Tura/Shillong, Feb. 18: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma today said the government would examine the demands of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) for holding peace negotiations.
The outfit is seeking release of its chairman, Champion Sangma, lodged in a Shillong jail.
“We will examine the situation and its demand,” said Sangma. “It is important for the government to understand the situation and then take a call.” However, he refused to comment when asked about his views on the GNLA’s move.
On January 6, after holding a cabinet meeting, Sangma had urged all outfits in Garo hills to come forward for talks. He had stated that the peace talks with the outfits would be done under the ambit of A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC). Sangma was positive in taking forward the dialogue with the GNLA but he was not willing to disclose anything.
GNLA commander-in-chief Sohan Shira in a statement yesterday had expressed willingness to hold peace negotiations. However, the outfit has not officially written to the government. The decision of the GNLA comes in the wake of a rift in the outfit and the formation of a new group by one of its top cadres — Reding T. Sangma.
Reding T. Sangma and Mingran T. Sangma have floated a new outfit — A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok, which means “vanguards of Garoland”. The outfit is also part of the conglomeration of outfits — United People's Revolutionary Alliance, which comprises United A’chik Liberation Army, A’chik National Liberation Army and the breakaway faction of A’chik National Volunteers Council.
Police sources said Sohan Shira and Champion Sangma are now opting for dialogue because they fear operations against them.
The GNLA was formed in November 2009 by Shira and Champion, a former deputy SP in Meghalaya police.
The breakaway faction of the ANVC, the ANVC (B), today asked the Meghalaya government to expedite the process of taking the GNLA on board the peace ship saying there was an attempt to “stab peace” in Garo hills.
“If GNLA is willing to join the peace talks, the government must process necessary steps at the earliest to bring them on board in the best interest of Garo hills. We have no reservations, and would be happy to work on a common platform for growth and development of our people,” ANVC (B) chairman Rimpu Marak said.
The ANVC (B) is already part of the tripartite peace settlement between the ANVC, Centre and the Meghalaya government. The settlement, however, is yet to receive the Centre’s nod.
However, the ANVC (B) chairman also sounded sceptical. “As Garo hills prepares to hail peace, some vested interests are attempting to disrupt it. A desperate attempt is being made to underline Garo hills as a disturbed area. This is absurd and erroneous. Garo hills is not a disturbed area,” he said. He said all concerned citizens must oppose such gratuitous plans as it will devastate the Garo society and turn futile the initiatives of the civil societies to bring peace in Garo hills. Further deterioration will only pave way for the empowerment of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, he added.
He said if the government was serious in tackling militancy in Garo hills, it should create jobs rather than spending crores of rupees on forces.