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There has been a hue and cry over ‘peace settlement’ with insurgent outfits in Garo Hills. Rival rebel groups are fighting over their share of the yet-to-be delivered ‘package’ for all they did for the society so far! Some other ‘principled’ rebels, however, are not interested in the package and carrying on with their ‘mission’ (of extortion, killing and kidnapping). The peace packages for rebel groups in the Northeast have surely helped scale down violence in many regions. But here lies the question as to how long the taxpayers’ money be spent for rewarding rebels, who are criminals as per the law, for promising to be good guys in future. Has the government asked itself this very question? It’s high time to do it.

The militants, although ‘powerful’, are a very small faction of the society. None of them admit that they took up arms to earn money. Some want sovereignty for their state while others demand autonomy, greater autonomy, reservation and so on. The public supports them due to the so-called demand and also out of fear. Since their demand is related to the public and not themselves, the government should ask the public as to what should be done with them. Should they be eliminated by counter-insurgency operations or tried for the crimes they committed as per law or be rewarded with peace package – everything should be opened in the public domain. If the government can conduct public hearings before going ahead with any project, there is no reason for not facilitating such a platform to elicit opinions on such sensitive and vital issues. Since the rebels proclaim to have been acting on public interest or rather interest of the community, the latter should be given the opportunity to decide on their fate as well.

The role of political parties, who are very prompt in blaming each other for deterioration of law and order, are surprisingly not seen making any effort to resolve conflicts at the grassroots. There is rarely any instance of any party holding a public meeting to discuss the issue of insurgency. The same parties lose no time in catching in on identity issues like the recent crisis over the demand for inner line permit (ILP) in Meghalaya. It needs a lot of courage to speak the truth about militancy while views in favour of identity issues bear no risk and rather rewarding (in terms of votes). The time is ripe for political parties including those in the government to come out of their traditional closet and stop politicising the issue of insurgency. Let public be the ultimate judge.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 4, 2014)