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Eight rebel groups under scanner

Shillong, June 6: Eight purported militant outfits have come to the fore in Meghalaya’s Garo hills in the last four years alone. Their cadre strength ranges from five to more than 300. Some of them are even in possession of sophisticated weapons.

These facts came to the fore on the first day of the reassembled budget session of the Assembly today.

Giving a detailed break-up of the militant groups (see chart) during Question Hour, chief minister Mukul Sangma said the major outfits operating in the Garo hills region have been demanding a separate Garoland while the mushrooming new outfits are mostly groups of deserters from the ANVC, GNLA and others.

Replying to a question tabled by leader of the Opposition Donkupar Roy, Sangma said the new outfits are mostly engaged in extortion and kidnapping with no specific demands/ideology.

On the HNLC, he said it was the only militant group in Khasi-Jaintia Hills which has been promoting “secessionist ideology”. While the HNLC has been banned, the GNLA was declared a “terrorist organisation”, he added.

Replying to a query, the chief minister informed the House that while banning any militant group, its ideology and the number of crimes it had perpetrated were being taken into consideration.

On the firepower of the militants, he said the state-of-the-art weapons refer to automatic rifles of latest AK series, explosives, remote-control improvised explosive device, and even under barrel grenade launcher. The last weapon, he said, even the state police do not possess.

“Once they (militants) have money, they can have access to arms, which are neither manufactured in Shillong or Tura. The problem is complex, and it requires to be fought jointly with the other states of the North- east and the Centre,” Sangma said.

Moreover, the chief minister said the Centre has sent an additional five companies of paramilitary forces to the state over and above the 10 companies it had sent on Wednesday.