Ex-Home minister questions BJP move for talks with HNLC
SHILLONG: Former Home Minister RG Lyngdoh has taken a dim view of the recent move by the BJP for resumption of peace talks with HNLC.
In an exclusive interview with The Shillong Times, the no-nonsense politician described the BJP’s surprise move to push for a dialogue with the banned outfit as an attempt to gain “political credibility” in Meghalaya.
Lyngdoh, who deftly handled Home portfolio at a turbulent time when militant bodies were wreaking havoc, pointed out the mediation offer by BJP was yet to be endorsed by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui. This, he interpreted as a veiled attempt to bypass the state government on whom lies the onus of maintaining law and order in the state.
The hurry with which the move has been put forward to central government smacks of circumventing the established system for holding such parleys, he observed.
In reply to another question, Lyngdoh did not attach much justification for resurrecting an organisation which had become “spent up” and irrelevant.
Following is the full text of the interview:
ST: What do you have to say about the proposed talks between government and HNLC?
RGL: It appears that this proposed talk with the HNLC is more of a move to gain political credibility by the BJP, as a party, rather than a move initiated by the State Government. I say this because I have not seen any official statements from the Home Minister or the Chief Minister in this regard. I do not know if the move has been initiated from Delhi. If it has the blessings of the Central Government, then the views of the State Government should be solicited before any such announcements are made. I say this because maintenance of law and order is the responsibility of the State Government.
ST: Do you think it’s the correct step?
RGL: During my tenure as Home Minister, we had made it clear that if any of the militants wanted to genuinely return to the mainstream, then they had to surrender, with their arms, as individuals and not as a group. Each surrender would then be taken in its own merit and the law would take its own course according to the cases pending against that individual. We refused to talk with the militants as a group or as an organisation. The main reason for this is that we saw that talks with the group would dilute the responsibility and accountability of each individual in the group. The individual members remained anonymous and the group’s identity came to the fore. As a result, even as the group agreed to abide by the law, many of the individuals returned to their illegal activities. This was seen in the case of SULFA then, and later on with the surrendered ANVC and then the surrendered GNLA. The group did not take responsibility for the actions of the individual.
ST: What do you think of the HNLC and their ideology?
RGL: When the HNLC was initially formed, it must have had some ideology or philosophy driving the members. But over the years it appears that this ideology degenerated to simply making money by any means possible. The intention to form the organisation may have been good, but the execution of these intentions was definitely wrong and illegal. They took the law into their own hands and this cannot, and should not, be tolerated.
ST: Why do you think the present Government is keen to talk to a spent force when earlier governments did not succumb to pressure of having peace talks even with the dreaded GNLA?
RGL: Like I had said, this move to call the HNLC for talks appears to be an attempt to get some credibility among the masses. But it can become very counter-productive in the long run. Yes, we are happy if our misguided youths return to the mainstream, but it cannot be at the expense of maintaining law and order in the long run. And it definitely cannot be at the expense of the welfare and well-being of the public at large.
ST: Is it a positive portend to speak to every rag-tag militant outfit?
RGL: Talking to militants with the intention of forgiving and forgetting what crimes they have committed does not portend well. Firstly, by recognising and talking to these unlawful outfits, you are giving credence to illegal activities. You are saying that it is alright to break the law if you repent later. Secondly, it has a negative, and a very demotivating, effect on those youth who have walked the straight and narrow. It tells them that if they want the Government to recognise their plight, they should first break the law. This is wrong in the long run.
During my tenure, each militant who had surrendered was first given counselling and then trained in whatever trade he/she wanted to take up. After that they were then asked to apply, with the general public, for government schemes and each application was processed according to its own merit in accordance with the norms laid down for the particular scheme. Every individual was made accountable for his or her actions after the surrender.