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The claim that pro-ILP groups have been ‘democratic’ in their protests has come under further question with a banned militant outfit calling bandh in the formers’ favour. It is understood that the HNLC is struggling for issues to fight for, after realising that their main demand for a ‘Hynniewtrep (Khasi-Jaintia) land’ has not many takers. The rebel outfit, which is dubbed almost non-existential by the security forces, started singing paeans of the ‘democratic’ NGOs since they had started the movement for inner line permit (ILP). In a way, the outfit has been self-contradictory by supporting the demand for ILP, which comes very much under Indian democracy. The HNLC is also trying to tap the public sentiment by demanding release of all the pro-ILP activists, who have been accused of arson, assault and even murder during the three-month-long agitation. The number of the ‘political prisoners’, 70, is quite lucrative for the outfit to back their cause and gain lost ground. Public support is very precious for any outfit as has been shown by the pressure groups too. There have been several instances of reducing bandh hours and ‘exemption’ to some areas from bandhs and blockades. They had even relaxed the agitation during the last Durga Puja, the main festival of the non-tribals staying in the state, although the festival itself was not free of violent attacks.

The HNLC, with its demand for release of the arrested pro-ILP activists to allow them to celebrate Christmas at home, is trying to get closer with the 13 pressure groups. However, it is not yet known whether the HNLC’s call for the bandh has any assent from the NGOs. If there is so, the NGOs can no more claim that their agitation has been democratic throughout. If there is no such backing, then they should make their stand clear although their ‘democratic’ image has already gone for a toss with the arrest of their activists in violent incidents including murder. Meanwhile, the bandh on December 23, which is Monday, will give sufficient reasons for government employees to start their Christmas holidays from December 21, Saturday!

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 21, 2013)