Tura, Feb. 24: The Garo National Liberation Army today said it was not afraid of any operation against it and its decision to come forward for peace talks was based purely on an appeal made by the governor.
“We did not beg for peace talks. We considered the request made by the governor,” a statement issued by the outfit’s political affairs secretary Bikdot Nikjang Marak said.
The outfit’s statement comes in reaction to news report suggesting that it had come forward for peace talks to avoid military operations.
Meghalaya governor K.K. Paul, in his Republic Day speech, had urged the GNLA to come forward for peace talks. The governor’s statement came days after chief minister Mukul Sangma urged all outfits in Garo hills to come forward under the ambit of A’chik National Volunteers Council to hold negotiations.
On January 6, Mukul had promised that in the next six months peace negotiations with the ANVC would be finalised and the “agreed text for settlement”, signed on January 5 last year, would be formalised. The “agreed text for settlement” await the Centre’s approval. The ANVC and its breakaway faction ANVC (B) is part of the “agreed text for settlement”.
On February 17, the GNLA had expressed its willingness to come forward for peace talks on one condition — release of its jailed chairman Champion Sangma. Mukul had reacted by saying that the government would examine the “situation and their demand”. “It is important for the government to understand the situation and then take a call,” he added.
Even after a week, the government has not reacted, forcing the outfit to release a fresh statement.
Reacting to joint secretary in the home ministry (in-charge of Northeast affairs) Shambu Singh’s statement that there was no proposal from the government for peace dialogue with the GNLA, Bikdot Nikjang Marak said, “We will not entertain Shambu Singh’s statement. He is not responsible to make a comment when we are discussing the matter with Meghalaya government.”
On Singh’s take that the outfit has to first lay down arms, Marak said, “We are not scared of his remark. He is neither governor nor part and parcel of Meghalaya government. He is a bureaucrat and is serving on the behest of the Union government.”
The outfit also lambasted columnist Patricia Mukhim for her statement that the outfit has expressed to come forward fearing operation against them. “We outrightly reject Mukhim’s comment. The GNLA only considered the governor’s invitation for a peaceful settlement,” Marak said, .
The outfit said it was willing to face any kind of operation.
The outfit further castigated the newly-floated A’chik Volunteers Peace Council (AVPC). “Who is Che Guevara Marak? Do they exist?” said Marak. AVPC is of the view that the peace talks with the insurgent outfit based in the Garo hills is “unconstitutional”.
The forum in their letter to the ministry of home affairs had even said military operation should be launched against all outfits. The political secretary of the GNLA also remarked that the outfit will survive for another three decades even without Champion Sangma or their commander-in-chief, Sohan D. Shira. Marak hoped that Champion Sangma is fighting a legal battle and will be soon released. Champion was arrested from Umkrem Pyrwdiwah along the India-Bangladesh border in East Khasi Hills, about 80km from Shillong, on July 30, 2012.
The GNLA’s statement issued by its commander-in-chief, Sohan D. Shira had come days after a top commander, Reding T. Sangma, floated a new militant outfit. The new outfit has been floated by Reding and another GNLA deserter Mingran T. Sangma. The new outfit has been named the A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), which means “vanguards of Garoland”.