The proposed peace pact for Garo Hills-based militant outfits is heading towards an utter confusion. It proposes, as chief minister Mukul Sangma said, to all militant groups to come under the oldest group ANVC, which had signed the ceasefire pact with the government in 2004. Although the ANVC-B leader Rimpu Marak already gave his word to go by the proposal, there is division in the group regarding the method of joining the mainstream. The disgruntled elements in ANVC-B allege that the outfit is sidelined by the government. Its frustration can be gauged by the number of press releases issued by the outfit to the media in the past few months. The group, however, is the same which tried its best to rope in the GNLA into the fold. The latter did not give any word on coming overground so far although expressed willingness for talks with the government. But given its strength, both cadres and arms, the GNLA now led by hardliner Sohan D Shira is unlikely to join a peace process where it would have to play a subsidiary role. At this moment, it is not sure that whether dreaded groups like GNLA and UALA will join the peace pact to be signed within next six months. It’s very unclear whether the government would be able to justify its decision of postponing the elections to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council. Signing an agreement with ANVC only will just create an army of former militants catering to the needs of a certain political class.
There is also a need for looking at the overall worth of such peace packages. Neighbouring Assam is in relative peace, a ‘success’ of Tarun Gogoi-led government. Is it because that top ULFA and NDFB leaders have either agreed to join or joined the peace process which Gogoi government is given credit for? Or is it the fact that the top leaders are either behind bars or on bail but are handicapped by law and security agencies. The ULFA leaders are anyway too old to go back the jungle to join the one and only Paresh Baruah, who is still holding the fort.
Capturing militant leaders alive and making them join the ‘peace process’ every time is nothing but milking the ‘insurgency cow’. Excluding the common man, all concerned including politicians and officials engaged in peace ‘package’ besides the militants, many of whom are murderers, kidnappers and extortionists, are the individual beneficiaries. Such hollow are the so-called peace initiatives that the SULFA (surrendered ULFA) militants are still feared in Assam, fulfilling their purpose in business yet being free men having no accountability of their past crimes. The same money can be utilised for development work such as building rural roads and markets to give farmers their dues and providing vocational trainings to rural youth, thereby addressing the rebel groups’ concern too in a wider perspective.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 16, 2014)