GNLA threats

The GNLA is following a predictable path. When cornered all militant outfits grind and gnash their teeth and believe that people will take them seriously. Militancy has always survived on fear. Fear psychosis is what gets them compliance. People are insecure because they see militants having the upper hand and the police force almost immobilized during the early stages of their counter-insurgency operations. The forests of Garo Hills have provided shelter not only to militants from that region but also to all other outfits from neighbouring Assam, particularly ULFA, NDFB and other fringe elements. Garo Hills has been used as a safe corridor to move in and out of Bangladesh where most outfits from the region operate and have their safe houses. After the Government of Sheikh Hasina came to power, most of the hard- core militant groups like ULFA and NDFB lost their clout in that country. The leaders were arrested and handed over to Indian authorities. Only then did the insurgent leaders begin to make peace overtures to the government of Assam. It is learnt that Champion Marak the GNLA supremo is also holed up in Bangladesh. But the more enterprising strategist and military commander, Sohan Shira is leading his men from the front and is in hiding in Garo Hills with the security forces in hot pursuit. Countering insurgency in Meghalaya has always been a matter of political will. Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma has taken the bull by the horns. He has warned the GNLA and its patrons of serious consequences. It is a fact that no militant outfit can survive without overt and covert help from other powerful forces who operate over-ground. Meghalaya has the experience of political patronage to militant outfits. There is also the experience of how militancy was tackled by breaking that nexus. The story repeats itself today, so the same methods will have to be adopted if Meghalaya is to return to peace and normalcy. Militancy makes development a casualty. But that is no excuse. Garo Hills has remained in the backwaters despite having 24 MLAs and at least three chief ministers from that region. Development must be given priority now. The Chief Minister is keen on implementing the livelihoods programme with special emphasis on Garo Hills with the fond hope that people will adapt to the schemes and shun needless violence. After all, violence pays no dividends. It kills entrepreneurship and destroys all vestige of governance. The people of Garo Hills need to make a strong commitment for peace, yet again.

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