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Sangma for talks review

Shillong, June 11: The Meghalaya government today said it would review the proposed peace talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) as the “terrorist organisation” has failed to stop its criminal activities.

The government also sought to tackle militancy by taking the help of neighbouring countries to curb the flow of sophisticated arms to militant outfits in the region.

“We will have to review it (proposed talks) and take a decision on whether this type of an outfit deserves to be called for talks,” chief minister Mukul Sangma said in the Assembly today during a general discussion on the budget.

Sangma said his government had held discussions with the Union home ministry a few months ago on the proposed talks with the GNLA and had sent three names to it for approval on the appointment of an interlocutor. The appointment needs to be jointly decided by the Centre and the state.

The chief minister said the government had received appeals from apolitical groups, including churches, from the the Garo hills to engage militant outfits, including the GNLA, in peace talks. But despite the goodwill shown by the government, the GNLA continued to indulge in heinous crimes like killing a woman and other innocent people.

Sangma said the GNLA’s willingness for a dialogue was the result of pressure mounted on it by counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the the state government.

“The threats issued to Congress workers during the last parliamentary elections in Garo hills also indicated that they (GNLA) were desperate for talks because of pressure,” he added.

The chief minister said the mounting pressure had brought the GNLA down to its knees and consider talks.

“But we will have to rethink the proposed peace talks as it (GNLA) continues to indulge in crimes,” Sangma added.

Expressing concern over the easy access militant outfits in the Northeast have to all kinds of sophisticated arms, he said these weapons were not manufactured anywhere in Shillong, Tura, Guwahati or any other part of the Northeast and the problem needed to be addressed by all the state governments and the Centre.

“I will soon write to all the seven states. There is also a need to engage neighbouring countries like Bangladesh to fight insurgency-related problems,” Sangma said.

Besides law and order, Sangma touched upon other issues like infrastructure development, education and health. He said steps would be taken to improve the overall delivery system of the government.

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