Shillong, Aug. 21: Ten years ago, the proscribed 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.
Now, 10 years later, the proscribed militant outfit has revived its stand on peace parleys.
According to Rev. P.B.M. Basaiawmoit, it was in December 2004 that some officials of the Union home ministry had approached him to make contact with the HNLC leadership if they would agree to talks and ceasefire.
A letter of January 16, 2005, signed by all three top leaders of the HNLC — then chairman Julius K. Dorphang, general secretary Cherishterfield Thangkhiew and chief of army staff Bobby Marwein — and addressed to the then Prime Minister was delivered by Basaiawmoit to then Union minister of state for home S. Raghupathy in New Delhi on February 8, 2005.
“A letter was received by me from A.K. Goyal, director, Northeast division, ministry of home affairs, saying: ‘It has been the policy of the Centre to talk to any militant group which agrees to abjure the path of violence and seek peaceful resolution of their demands within the framework of the Constitution of India. In such negotiations, the concerned state governments are also associated’,” Basaiawmoit revealed today.
However, since the HNLC had addressed its letter offering talks to the then Prime Minister, Basaiawmoit said its response was that the letter should have come from either the Prime Minister or PMO or even from the Union home minister.
“Instead, a director of a division replied and accordingly, I wrote my reply to Goyal on April 4, 2005 where I had written that we (HNLC and I) are awaiting response from those to whom the letter was addressed to or maybe the Union minister of state for home, whom I met on February 8, 2005, can respond,” Basaiawmoit said.
He also revealed that in February 2006, he received a call from the then HNLC chairman requesting him to approach the Meghalaya chief minister for necessary intervention and engagement. The same was put forth before the then chief minister D.D. Lapang, Basaiawmoit said.
He also clarified that he was never threatened by Lapang or any minister on the issue of talks between the Centre and state government with the HNLC. “To state that Lapang had threatened me and hence the talks could not be held then between the state government and the HNLC at that time, is giving a contrasting colour to the whole issue.
“We were let down by those at the helm at the Union (government) level and still feel embarrassed as I was approached by their personnel (Union home ministry) in December 2004 to make contact with the leadership of HNLC if they would agree to talks and ceasefire. I also reiterate that had the Centre been sincere then, we would have a different story to tell today,” Basaiawmoit stated.
Yesterday, the HNLC declared that it 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 of India or outside the Constitution as per requirements,” HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw said in a statement.
Nongtraw had also stated that Basaiawmoit was acting as “our mediator”, and claimed that Lapang had threatened Basaiawmoit.