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Garo hills peace talks onus on new govt

Shillong, May 26: The peace process in Meghalaya’s Garo hills region will now depend on the Narendra Modi government, which assumed office today in New Delhi.

The Manmohan Singh government had approved the “agreed text for settlement”, which was arrived at with the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) in January last year.

Days before the Lok Sabha polls were announced this year, the Centre had approved the contours of the final agreement to be signed with the ANVC. These related to the political, organisational and development aspects.

As far as the political aspect is concerned, Parliament needs to amend the Sixth Schedule to accommodate the demands put forth by the ANVC.

The outfit had demanded more powers and seats for the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC).

The ANVC had proposed that the seats should be enhanced from the existing 30 to 40 (35 directly elected members, with five nominated members).

The state government had asserted that if the powers and seats of the GHADC were enhanced, the councils in Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills would also reap similar benefits.

Moreover, much before the constitutional amendment takes place, the final settlement with the ANVC would be inked between the group and the Centre.

The ANVC had entered into a tripartite ceasefire agreement with the state and Centre on July 23, 2004, for a political settlement to bring lasting peace to the Garo hills.

The group held peace talks with former Intelligence Bureau chief P.C. Haldar, who was appointed negotiator for the outfit before signing the “agreed text for settlement” on January 5 last year.

Besides the ANVC issue, the Union home ministry is also expected to approve a name for appointment as emissary in the anticipated peace parleys with the proscribed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).

In March, the ministry had received three names that were proposed by the state government for appointment as emissaries.

With several other tasks cut out for the Modi dispensation, it remains to be seen how much weight the peace process in the Garo hills will receive from the new administration, given the fragile law and order condition. Several splinter groups have surfaced in the past several months.


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