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Centre rules out GNLA talks

New Delhi, June 29: The Centre, refusing to see the turmoil in Garo hills through Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma’s eyes, has rejected a proposal for talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) but is ready to strengthen police forces with a Rs 500-crore assistance.

Two developments in the ministry of home affairs indicate that the Centre will help the Mukul Sangma-led government but not without red lines, as Sangma’s “overtures” were rejected, The Telegraph has learnt.

Sangma last week met Union home minister Rajnath Singh to brief him about law and order in the state.

Sangma has criticised the GNLA for meddling in the recently concluded elections. However, security agencies believe that the government is in a mood to accept feelers from the outfit for talks, a move Delhi disapproves of.

“The GNLA has to be dealt with force and without compromise,” a government source said. Talks with the outfit are unlikely in the near future unless there is cessation of violence by the group, sources said.

The outfit was formed in 2009 and despite its limited strength, has become a challenge for security forces. The Narendra Modi government has taken a hard view on tackling Naxals or insurgent groups like the GNLA.

However, Sangma’s proposal to the government for strengthening police stations, particularly in Garo hills, may be accepted by the North Block. Sources said a Rs 500-crore proposal would be examined by the cabinet soon.

Earlier this year, the outfit was believed to be willing for talks but one incident changed the ground apparently cleared for negotiations. When GNLA cadres blew up a woman’s head after accusing her of being a police informer, the idea for negotiations was lost.

In fact, the Centre is ready to step up attacks against the group. Following the killing of the woman, 15 companies (about 1,500 personnel) of central forces and five teams of the CRPF’s elite CoBRA force were despatched to Garo hills. Since then, the forces have been taking on the rebels, whose chief, former deputy superintendent of police Champion R. Sangma, is in police custody. Currently, the outfit’s “commander-in-chief” is said to be leading the offensive against security forces.

The Centre is ready to send another 1,000 central forces to Garo hills, along with five more CoBRA. The clash between security forces and rebels would get fiercer as intelligence reports suggest that the outfit is losing whatever little public support it enjoyed in its pocket boroughs.

Meghalaya’s Khasi hills have found some respite from the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council but Garo hills continues to remain on the boil. Settlements have to be reached with the A’chik National Volunteer Council and other smaller groups that are engaged in extortion and remain an irritant for the security forces. Their activitivies have compelled the government to dedicate resources not only to insurgency but also to guard the Indo-Bangla border.


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