The surrendered GNLA cadres in Shillong on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Shillong, April 28: Five cadres of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) who were purportedly threatened to join the outfit, today formally surrendered before Meghalaya police after they were "disillusioned" with the terrorist organisation.
"Garoland" or a separate state for the Garos has been the principal claim of the outfit since its inception in 2010.
For Rakseng Ch. Marak, alias Geloram, Krewingbirth S. Sangma, alias Gongga, Jambil Ch. Momin, alias Jamindar, Walban R. Marak, alias Bawil alias Rewak, and Tarzan Ch. Sangma, alias Ruby, who handed over their arms to director-general of police Rajiv Mehta at the police headquarters here as a sign of their relinquishment of violence, the "Garoland" issue, which the GNLA claims to be fighting for, is incomprehensible.
"Yes, the GNLA is fighting for Garoland," Krewingbirth told reporters when asked what was the GNLA fighting for.
Asked what "Garoland" means, Krewingbirth could not give any answer.
The five surrendered cadres had joined the outfit in 2012 and underwent training at the "general camp" of the GNLA in Durama hills.
Trained by Ulfa, the cadres were given training in drill, arms handling and preparation of IEDs.
After completing their training, they were placed under the command of Rakkam who is the "finance secretary" of the GNLA in the Nongalbibra region of South Garo Hills.
Police maintained that the cadres were tasked to commit crimes such as abduction and extortion in villages. The police also blamed the cadres for being involved in ambushes and IED attacks on police.
However, Krewingbirth denied ever having used the arms and ammunition to terrorise people.
He confirmed what has been the issue since the GNLA came into the picture - the use of underage boys by the outfit.
"Children of 15-16 years of age were threatened to join the outfit. They were provided arms training in Durama hills," he stated.
Like those children, Krewingbirth, who completed his matriculation, claimed that he and others had joined the outfit as they were threatened by the GNLA.
"They (GNLA cadres) had threatened our parents that they should send us to join the outfit," he claimed.
Several armed militants like Krewingbirth have been surrendering before the police in the past few months.Data provided by the police indicated that from January 2016 till today, 63 militants, belonging to at least seven outfits based in Garo hills, have surrendered. The corresponding figure for January 2015 until December 2015 was 107.
"Now there are only about 50-60 cadres left in the GNLA, of which, around 20 are with 'commander-in-chief ' Sohan D. Shira," Krewingbirth claimed.
He said: "We are unhappy with the work of the GNLA. It has done a lot of harm to people, and continuing in it is useless."?
Krewingbirth said after escaping from the GNLA camp in South Garo Hills, they contacted a church leader based in Shillong to facilitate their surrender.
Mehta, while speaking to reporters, said police operations, coupled with the role played by church leaders and certain NGOs, have led to the surrender of several militant outfits. "If this cooperation continues, it will bring peace to Garo hills. So we are hopeful of more surrenders," Mehta said.
However, he made it clear that cases against surrendered militants would be investigated. At the same time, he said, there was no "amnesty" on heinous crimes committed by militants.
Mehta said those who continue to indulge in crime would be dealt with firmly. "The police will verify their names and if their names appear on the list of surrendered cadres, they will be removed from the list and would be denied the rehabilitation package," Mehta said.