Shillong, July 24: Labelled a moderate and sidelined by his compatriots, the chairman of one of Meghalaya’s strongest militant groups surrendered today before chief minister D.D. Lapang.
Julius Dorphang’s clout in the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council had decreased after a spat with commander-in-chief Bobby Marwein and general secretary Chesterfield Thangkiew. “He became a recluse after being sidelined for his moderate views. These developments in the outfit helped us get him on our side,” a senior police officer said.
Lapang announced the surrender to the media with the militant leader by his side. “I am very happy to announce that responding to an appeal by the government of Meghalaya to join the mainstream, Julius Dorphang and four of his colleagues decided to renounce the path of violence and confrontation.”
The chief minister touted the surrender as “a sacrifice made in the greater interest of peace, harmony and development of the people of Meghalaya”.
Dorphang was a member of the banned militant group since its formation in 1988. The HNLC split into two camps over strategy making and management of finances. The outfit has units in several provinces of neighbouring Bangladesh.
The four militants who surrendered along with Dorphang are Teilang Wanniang, Salonsar Thongi, Bima Suting and Rit Lakashiang. After crossing the Dawki-Tamabil international border with Bangladesh, they passed Lyngkhung in Jaintia Hills district on their way to Shillong. The five-member group arrived in the capital town in the wee hours. Dorphang and his comrades were based in Moulvi Bazar, under Sylhet district, until they crossed over to Meghalaya.
“Everything was orchestrated and schemed by the police in a manner that would not attract the attention of other HNLC leaders in Bangladesh. We helped Dorphang cross over from Bangladesh on Monday in collaboration with the BSF,” a source said.
Director-general of police Bijon Dey Sawian said Dorphang’s surrender was the culmination of sustained efforts to communicate with him. The actual surrender deal was struck after phone conversations between the HNLC leader and senior officials over the last two weeks.
Lapang did not go into specifics, only saying that the development would lead to better things. “I appreciate the boldness of their decision and welcome them to join the national mainstream. I understand it takes a lot of courage and character to take a decision of this magnitude,” Lapang said.
On whether Dorphang would be given a role to play outside the theatre of militancy, the chief minister said: “His decision (to surrender) is of great importance and will affect the lives of a number of young men and women of the state. This shows that the interests of the people of Meghalaya are close to his heart.”
Dorphang was not allowed to interact with the media.
The police said the militant leader was the “brain” of the HNLC and that his surrender was “a huge setback” to the outfit.
Lapang hinted that Dorphang and his surrendered comrades would get amnesty despite the mountain of cases against their names. “We have not discussed this yet, but we will definitely treat him under the same provisions (that are applied to surrendered rebels).”