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Shillong, Aug. 17: The proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) today made a fresh beginning for possible “peace parleys” by asking the Meghalaya government to first offer a “bilateral ceasefire”.
The statement came after chief minister Mukul Sangma, during his Independence Day speech at Polo Ground on Friday, appealed to the “misguided youths who are waging a war against the nation and our own people” to realise the futility of violence.
Sangma also urged the youths to take advantage of the government’s offer to come overground and avail of the rehabilitation package that includes counselling, guidance and sustainable livelihood.
“If the Meghalaya government is really serious about offering a rehabilitation package to the HNLC, then it should chalk up strategies to come under a bilateral ceasefire. Peace process can only start with the advent of a bilateral ceasefire,” HNLC’s “publicity secretary” Sainkupar Nongtraw said in a statement.
He further stated that before any group comes forward, it is necessary is to initiate a ceasefire.
“If the Meghalaya government wants to influence the HNLC, then it should also need to understand empathetically the power of our point of view and feel the emotional force we believe in. It is not enough to study us like beetles under a microscope. The government needs to know what it feels like to be a beetle,” Nongtraw added.
He reminded that in the past, the council had been sending messages for negotiations to the state government and the Centre, only to be “ignored”.
“Every dispute has a history. We have been sending messages to the state government and the Centre, and they have been ignoring us even if only by silence or by a professed refusal to negotiate,” Nongtraw stated.
“Positions have been staked out. Proposals have been made and rejected. One thing we know for sure: if the armed movement is continuing, whatever we have been saying and doing so far has not worked. It has not produced the result we want, or we would have turned our attention to other matters as well.”
Nongtraw, however, warned that the HNLC would carry on its activities as long as the “government turns a blind eye to our demands”.
On the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya, he said the shutdown called by the council had “created an impact” in the chief minister’s mind as he had touched upon the issue in the course of his speech.
“The issue of the NGT is genuine and our people in the Hynniewtrep have wholeheartedly supported this cause. We can also foresee that the next hearing by the NGT will engage in delay tactics and will furthermore come up with excuses to brainwash the people,” Nongtraw said.
Thanking the people for “cooperating” and making the 48-hour shutdown a “success”, he said the HNLC would come up with further strategies to continue the fight against the NGT ban.
The HNLC, which came into existence on August 14, 1987, has been demanding “sovereignty”.
ANVC-B stand: The breakaway faction of the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council said the chief minister should first provide rehabilitation to the outfit.
“The ANVC (B) asked for rehabilitation packages for its cadres who came forward to join the mainstream and have been waiting for the last 18 months. The state government is yet to finalise the camps for the cadres and provide assistance. The hold-up in finalising camps and proper agreement led to annihilation, implication, desertion and rise of splinter groups,” the group said in a statement.
The outfit also said the chief minister should provide a rehabilitation package to the outfit’s cadres “first”. It said that proper rehabilitation should be worked out and implemented in word and deed.