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GSU plea to speed up peace talks

Tura, July 21: The Garo Students’ Union (GSU) today said it has urged New Delhi to speed up the peace process with the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) and its breakaway faction, the ANVC (B).

“We have urged the Centre to constitute an interim body in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council under the newly proposed nomenclature of A’chik Territorial Council, which is on the lines of Bodoland Territorial Council,” said GSU general secretary John Miltu Sangma.

On July 19, the GSU leaders under the leadership of its president, Tengsak G. Momin, met minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi apprising him of the chaos in law and order situation, insurgency and influx. “Rijiju has assured us that a draft on the peace pact is being prepared and the matter will be given importance for peace in Garo hills. After the Parliament session, the Centre would invite both the outfits — ANVC and ANVC (B) — for the final preparation of the draft agreement for settlement,” said Sangma. The GSU has also appealed to the Centre to hold talks with other groups, including the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).

“The Centre is quite miffed with the GNLA, regarding its hostile activities in the region and is in a dilemma whether to offer peace talks to the group,” he said. A release issued by the GSU has appealed all outfits operating in Garo hills to immediately shun violence and eschew peace. “We request the A’chik Revolutionary Force (ARF) and the GNLA to immediately stop their activities, and create an atmosphere conducive to peace talks.”

The ARF is a conglomeration of outfits like the United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA), the A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) and the A’chik National Liberation Army (ANLA).

“Rijiju has communicated that it will be hard to consider peace negotiation if the armed groups continue to show aggressive attitude towards the people. He (Rijiju) assured us that if the GNLA and the ARF create an environment for peace, the Centre will extend its olive branch,” said GSU president Tengsak G. Momin.

The ANVC signed a ceasefire with New Delhi and Meghalaya in 2004. In 2008, the outfit scaled down its demand to a territorial council from separate statehood. On January 5, 2013, an “agreed text for settlement” was signed.

The fresh date for re-election to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) is yet to be announced as the government is contemplating to resolve a peace settlement with the outfits. The term for the council expired on February 16.

On police high-handedness and atrocities, the GSU in its memorandum to Rijiju sought the Centre’s intervention to punish the erring officers. “We highlighted the recent custody death of two undertrials in Tura and Chokpot and have sought a CBI probe,” said Momin.

Twenty-year-old Balsan Marak, accused of illegally confining, kidnapping and torturing 12 women, died at a government hospital on May 20. Witson Sangma, an alleged overground GNLA worker, died in custody on May 28 in a police lock-up.

The GSU also raised the issue of Washington Marak, who was shot dead in a fake encounter at Rongrekgre in the East Garo Hills, about a year ago. The National Human Rights Commission has directed the government to release the compensation, which is yet to be released.

On influx, the GSU has demanded the introduction of an inner-line permit to tackle the problems. Saying that the problem of influx is destabilising the region, the GSU stated in its memorandum the growing number of illegal immigrants in the plain belt areas of Garo hills comprising Phulbari, Rajabala, Mahendraganj, Singimari and Baitbari.

“We have apprised Rijiju about the dual voters in the plain belt of Garo hills, where electorates have election ID cards of Assam and Meghalaya. Rijiju has promised an investigation into the matter,” Momin added.


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