Meghalaya outfit’s interlocutor accuses govt for withdrawal of the group from peace process
SHILLONG — Five days after Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) withdrew from the tripartite peace talks with the Centre and the Meghalaya government, the outlawed militant outfit’s interlocutor for the peace talks, Sadon Blah on Monday blamed the government for group pulling out of the peace process.
He said that the HNLC was forced to withdraw itself from the peace process after the government adopted a “legal” instead of a “political approach”.
“The government must consider the general and basic demands of the HNLC to facilitate the participation of the leaders in the peace talks and take forward the peace process by considering the matter from the political perspective and not from the legal angle,” he told the media.
Blah stated that the ball is in the government’s court, and if they are ready to reconsider amnesty to the cadres of the HNLC, the tripartite peace talks with the Centre and State government can be resumed.
He informed that most of the cases against the HNLC cadres involve bomb blasts, and according to Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra, they are not considered “heinous crimes”.
Even during a war, the critical problems can be resolved through a political approach, Blah remarked.
He said several rounds of discussions were held in the past nearly two years on how to take forward the peace talks. The government had stated that it would provide the HNLC members safe passage but did not talk about granting general amnesty to them even though the outfit has been demanding for it.
Blah said that as the negotiator for the HNLC, he had apprised the views and demands of the outfit to the officials of MHA and Intelligence Bureau as well as officials of the state government, and the government’s interlocutor A.K. Mishra.
Blah, who is also the President of Hynniewtrep National Youth Front, said that his organisation strongly condemned the Meghalaya government for failing to bring this peace process to its logical conclusion.
With camps in Bangladesh, the Meghalaya-based extremist outfit HNLC, in a statement earlier, claimed that their core demands for general amnesty to their cadres and lifting of ban were not accepted.
The outfit demanded the withdrawal of all cases against its cadres before talks could proceed further.
The tripartite peace talks between the Centre, the state government, and the HNLC began last year.
Earlier, the NIA, in August 2022, had filed a charge sheet against four members of the outlawed organisation including its Chairman-cum-Commander-in-Chief Bobby Marwein for allegedly triggering a bomb blast on the premises of Star Cement Factory in East Jaintia Hills district in December 12, 2020 for their failure to pay extortion.
In August 2021, violent protests broke out in different places in Meghalaya after General Secretary Chesterfield Thangkhiew of HNLC was killed in a police operation. Police have alleged that he was involved in the IED explosion in Shillong.
While militancy is on the decline in Meghalaya over the last several years, since 2020, the HNLC has been behind a few low-intensity IED blasts in the state. The HNLC, which has been demanding a sovereign Khasi tribal homeland in Meghalaya, is a breakaway faction of the Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council, the first tribal militant outfit of the mountainous state, formed in the mid-1980s.