New govt rules out peace talks with militant outfits

Eight GNLA cadres surrender arms at official ceremony

SHILLONG: Meghalaya’s new home minister James Pangsang K Sangma said on Monday the government would not negotiate with any organisation that indulges in violence or criminal activities.
Sangma reiterated Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma’s appeal to militant groups in both the eastern and western regions of the state to shun violence and come back to the mainstream.
Giving an insight into the insurgency problem that has plagued the eastern and the western parts, the home minister, who was speaking at the official surrender ceremony for eight GNLA cadres at the police headquarters here on Monday afternoon, said the fight against militancy has been a long one.
He recalled that in 2004 a tripartite agreement was signed between the central and state governments with the now disbanded A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC), which brought back peace to Garo Hills for a few years.
While militancy in the eastern part was curbed by 2003 and kept under control due to the consistent efforts of the Police Department and people’s resistance, in Garo Hills the insurgency problem was spearheaded by the GNLA and the mushrooming of several other rebel outfits like the LAEF, ASAK, UALA and AMEF, among others.
“There were many kidnappings and extortions as well as death of civilians and police personnel,” said Sangma.
The minister said the turning point was people’s resistance against militancy. “The church leaders and NGOs played an important part and were supported by various government departments, especially the police,” he added and went on to laud the state police for their endeavour.
“It is important to note that the fight against militancy was spearheaded by Meghalaya police, especially SOT and SWAT teams and SF-10 personnel. Everyone contributed to this fight and at various points of time, we were also supported by the Meghalaya Home Guards,” said the home minister.
Sangma hailed the surrender of the remaining cadres of the once dreaded outfit GNLA and termed their move to return to the mainstream as “the beginning of the end of  militancy in Meghalaya”.
The cadres handed over their weapons to the minister in the presence of Meghalaya Director General of Police SB Singh and Chief Secretary Y Tsering and a host of top bureaucrats and police officers.
The rebels were led by senior GNLA cadre Rahul S Sangma alias Nikam and Sohan D Shira’s bodyguard Timbil Ch Marak alias Churik.
With the surrender of the last batch of rebels who were with Shira when he was shot dead in a gun battle with SF-10 commandos at Bawagre, the rebel group now literally ceases to exist. Apart from its chairman Champion Sangma who continues to languish in Shillong prison, the once formidable outfit has run out of arms and recruits.
“Today is a day of great significance and I thank the people of Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills, church leaders, civil society organisations, police and government departments who worked in harmony to restore peace to the disturbed areas of our state,” said Sangma who added that “it takes great courage” to come over ground and surrender.
The eight rebels handed over two AK-56 rifles, an INSAS rifle, a foreign made Glock pistol, one semi machine gun, a .303 rifle, a 9 mm pistol and a large quantity of ammunition.
“I congratulate them for their decision to give up arms and join the mainstream and I also congratulate their families who are getting their sons back with them,” said Sangma and announced that they would be provided with the government rehabilitation package and given guidance and counselling.
To a question about pursuing cases against them, the DGP said heinous cases would be followed up.
With the decline in insurgency activities in the state, the government plans to now focus on improving other facets of policing. “We are going to fight crimes against women, children and human trafficking. We will also strengthen the police in forensic science and other modern equipment,” said the home minister.

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