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HNLC awaits next step

- Centre holds key on negotiations with banned outfit

Shillong, Aug. 24: The ball for possible peace parleys with the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), which had displayed its willingness to talk peace, would rest in the Centre’s court in New Delhi.

In a series of press statements, the council, which was declared a banned outfit since November 2000, had publicised its inclination to come to the negotiating table, and to hold talks.

Sources said from its heights in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the outfit’s criminal activities have now dwindled. From 2004 onwards, several HNLC cadres, including its founding chairman Julius K. Dorphang, had come overground.

Being a proscribed outfit, the state government alone cannot decide on whether peace parleys would be held with the group, sources in the state home department said.

The Centre, too, has its say on the issue like the peace talks, which were held with the ANVC following the suspension of operation. Former Intelligence Bureau chief P.C. Haldar was the Centre’s interlocutor for talks with the ANVC.

“Since the HNLC is a proscribed outfit, the Centre, too, has its role. The state government alone cannot act on the issue,” the source said. The sources said the state government was examining the council’s statements.

Ten years ago, the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had responded to peace overtures, but the Centre did not reportedly display sincerity to take the process to a logical end.

Recently, Rev. P.B.M. Basaiawmoit said it was in December 2004 that some officials of the Union home ministry had approached him to contact the HNLC leadership if they would agree to talks and ceasefire. The HNLC had lately stated that Basaiawmoit was acting as “our mediator”.

On Wednesday, HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw declared that the proscribed outfit was “ready for peace talks” and asked the Meghalaya government to appoint an “interlocutor” if it was committed to peace.

“The HNLC is ready for peace talks within the ambit of the Constitution or outside the Constitution as per requirements, as the Constitution was not drafted by God,” Nongtraw had said in a press statement.

Following the offer to rehabilitate “misguided youths” by chief minister Mukul Sangma, the outfit had indicated that it was ready to take the offer provided a bilateral ceasefire was first put in place.

The government, in turn, had stated that it was examining the outfit’s statement. The group had wanted a bilateral ceasefire before possible peace talks could commence.

While the Centre would possibly adjudicate on the HNLC offer, the Union home ministry had recently indicated its unwillingness to hold talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), which was declared a “terrorist organisation” in 2012.

The Centre had formally indicated to the state government that it should not continue to pursue to hold talks with the GNLA since the group was continuing with its criminal activities.

Earlier, the GNLA had expressed its desire to have a dialogue with the governments and demanded that its “chairman” Champion R. Sangma, who is currently lodged in a Shillong jail, be released.

The state government had appealed to the GNLA to give up the armed struggle, and stop violent activities to create a favourable environment for talks.


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