Shillong, Feb. 17: The Centre has dubbed the deteriorating law and order situation in Garo hills of Meghalaya as “worst” and found that “underestimating” the problem in the beginning by the state administration led to mushrooming of militant outfits and its inability to tackle the situation.
Meghalaya in the past few years has been a peaceful state and perhaps in the “good books” of the Union ministry of home affairs, especially after the ANVC entered into a ceasefire agreement in 2004 and the subsequent dwindling of strength of the proscribed Hynńiewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) in eastern part of the state.
The ANVC was once a powerful militant organisation based in Garo hills in western part and it fought for a separate Garoland state for the A’chiks (Garo tribe). Later it scaled down its demand to more autonomy to the existing autonomous district council in Garo hills.
The HNLC, a Khasi separatist outfit based in the Khasi-Jaińtia in eastern part of Meghalaya, is fighting for a “sovereign” Hynńiewtrep land for the Khasi-Jaińtia tribes.
Since 2010, Meghalaya has witnessed resurrection of militancy in Garo hills with the formation of one group after another, though HNLC, the only outfit in the Khasi-Jaińtia hills, could not succeed in its attempt to regroup.
The situation in Garo hills has gone from bad to worse now because of incidents of kidnapping, extortion and killing of people as well as security personnel by militants including the GNLA which has been declared a terrorist organisation by the Centre.
The GNLA, demanding a separate Garoland state for the Garo community, is led by former Meghalaya police officer, Champion R. Sangma as the “chairman” while former ANVC leader Sohan D. Shira as “commander-in-chief.”
The Union ministry of home affairs attributed deteriorating law and order situation to “underestimation” by the state administration as it did not act swiftly to nip the problem in the bud when some groups started to resurface.
“Our observation is that the problem has been underestimated by the state as it did not take much initiative in the beginning when militants started stretching their dominance in the Garo hills region,” an official source in the home ministry observed.
The ministry rated the situation in Garo hills of Meghalaya as worst affected by militancy among the states in the northeastern region.
To a question that Meghalaya needs “medicine” to stop the reign of terror unleashed in Garo hills by the GNLA and other militant groups, sources said that only dialogue would help to find a solution.
“Dialogue will help find a solution and reduce violence,” a source said adding that so far, the home ministry had not received any proposal from the Meghalaya government on a dialogue with the GNLA.
The home ministry also maintained that insurgency-hit Garo hills region would be declared a “disturbed area” only after proper consultation with the Meghalaya government.
The state and central governments had held peace talks only with the ANVC and talks centred on the need to give more powers to the autonomous district council in Garo hills.
The ANVC had signed the draft of the “agreed text for settlement” with the state and the Centre on January 5, 2013. The breakaway group, ANVC (B), was also allowed to be a part of the settlement, though it is a separate organisation under the “chairmanship” of Rimpu Marak, once the spokesman for the ANVC who deserted the organisation when peace talks were in progress.
The ministry has referred the draft of the “agreed text for settlement” for the final peace pact to the cabinet committee on political affairs, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for approval.