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68 militants give up arms
TURA: The violent era of the United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA) came to an end on Thursday with altogether 68 cadres of the outfit bidding adieu to arms in an official disbanding ceremony held at the SMELC Building in Tura.
The disbanding took place in the presence of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, Home Minister Roshan Warjri, church leaders, senior police officers, government officials and other dignitaries.
There was however, no formal ceremony of laying down arms as the same was done prior to the disbanding ceremony. The arms that were displayed during the disbanding included two AK series rifles, an LMG, a double barreled shotgun, three pistols, a rocket launcher and grenades.
Controversial UALA commander in chief Norrok X. Momin was also present at the ceremony.
The chief minister while speaking on the occasion hailed the decision of the UALA to come over ground and assured that the government would provide the cadres of the outfit to resume normal lives through several welfare programmes.
Stating that militancy was not confined to the state of Meghalaya but the entire North East, he said other states could follow the example to bring militant groups to the mainstream. “Our approach was different. It was not a political dialogue but a peaceful approach. The same can be done in other insurgency hit regions,” he said.
Sharing the concern of UALA chairman Novembirth Marak over negative remarks from certain quarters on the State government’s rehabilitation package for militant outfits who give up arms, the chief minister replied to the skeptics saying the State government was moving ahead with complete clarity to achieve the shared objective of bringing lasting peace in the region.
Home Minister Roshan Warjri urged the cadres to be prepared to live normal lives and to respect the dignity of labour. She appealed to them to work for the peace and development of the State.
The UALA chairman informed that the outfit had tried to convince five other outfits to come together under the banner of the A’chik Revolutionary Front (ARF) to come to the mainstream. He added that the same however could not be achieved due to certain difference. Nevertheless, he urged other militant groups to accept the call of the government for peace.
Former militant turned politician, Julius Dorphang, who was also present on the occasion spoke of his ordeal as a militant leader and termed the official surrender of the UALA as a welcome step towards peace and development.
It may be mentioned that UALA, formed in 2012, had responded to the overtures of the State government and, had signed a peace agreement with the government on December 18, 2015 after a series of dialogues in the past one and a half year.
General Secretary of Garo Baptist Convention, Rev. Janang R. Sangma, Pastor, Hawakhana Church, Rev. F.D. Sangma and Rev. Fr. Januarius S. Sangma were non-official interlocutors, while MBOSE Chairman and Commissioner & Secretary, Education, E.P. Kharbhih was the facilitator from the government side.
The disbanding ceremony was chaired by West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner Pravin Bakshi.