Garo militant groups to sign pact with Centre

SHILLONG SEPT. 17:In its effort to bring lasting peace in Meghalaya, the Centre would sign a peace accord with two Meghalaya rebel outfits operating in the five districts of Garo Hills in western part of Meghalaya next week, a Union Home Ministry official said Wednesday.

“A tripartite peace pact between the Centre, Meghalaya government with the two Garo rebel groups – A’chik National Volunteers Council and its breakaway group A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC-B) will be signed September 24 in New Delhi,” Shambhu Singh, Joint Secretary (Northeast) in the Home Ministry, said.

The ANVC, once a powerful rebel group in the Garo Hills, has been in a tripartite ceasefire agreement with the central and the state governments since July 2004 and holding negotiation since then.

The group, which operates in five impoverished districts, has scaled down its demand for creation of a separate Garoland state to an autonomous council, had also signed the draft of the agreed settlement with the Meghalaya and union governments on January 5, 2013.

The outfit had demanded strengthened powers for the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council and increasing seats in the council from 30 to 40.

Singh said the agreement with the ANVC and ANVC-B will be signed in the lines of the peace pact inked earlier with Assam-based rebel group the United People’s Democratic Solidarity.

“After the signing of the peace pact, both the outfits will have to surrender all their arms and ammunition besides disbanding the rebel outfit,” the Home Ministry official said.

Welcoming the Centre’s announcement to sign the peace pact with the two tribal Garo rebel outfits, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma who also held meetings with the ANVC leaders in Shillong, said “Conducive atmosphere will prevail in the Garo Hills once the peace accord is signed.”

“Signing of the peace pact would surely send a strong message to others members of different militant outfits to understand the futility of indulging in their armed struggle and criminal activities which bring undesirable results,” Sangma told journalists.

Exhorting members of various militant outfits to shun violence, the Chief Minister said that the government has already appointed an interlocutor to establish contacts with other Garo rebels to accept the government’s offer for peace package.

Meanwhile, the ANVC is hopeful that the final signing of peace accord would ensure lasting peace in the conflict-ridden Garo Hills.

“As of now, there are too many (rebel) groups, we don’t know whether it will bring lasting peace, but we hope that peace will be restored in Garo Hills,” ANVC Spokesman Arist Sengsrang Sangma said.