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Nowadays, everybody takes ‘taking up arms for the people’ with a pinch of salt, if not more than that. It’s an open secret that militant organisations of the North-east are doing business, if we can call it so. In business, the trader offers some service or product in lieu of the money paid by the customer. In case of militants, the service they offer is that they spare your life. They collect ‘tax’ from the actual businessman, allowing him to do all kinds of illegal activities. Initially, many of them might have taken up arms for a noble cause, for their community or the nation, but they all end up being extortionists. Of course, it is understood that once a militant commits an act of violence, which he thinks is his job, there is no place for him in the mainstream society. He is bound to carry on with his job and extortion is the only way left for him to sustain his ‘struggle’ for …

No sane person on earth will voluntarily bet his money on the so-called goals of the militant groups. Most people consider unrealistic the demands for sovereign nation or state by Meghalaya’s Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Assam’s United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), two main National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) factions, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and so on. If there is a referendum, the sovereignty goals of most of the outfits are likely to be fall flat. Then why they are thriving? It’s because of the support they get from the political class, who want these problems to remain so that they can hide their corrupt practices behind ‘bigger problems’.

The recent joining of a prominent Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) leader along with 13 others might make a difference to the almost-defunct HNLC, but not the Khasi-Jaintia community. With the KSU leader Fedrick Kharmawphlang’s network in the mainstream society, the HNLC might recover some lost grounds to strengthen its coffers. It is too early to judge as to what prompted the KSU men jump the track – HNLC ‘ideology’ or its business. But in either case, the loss is of the society which far from seeking a sovereign Khasi-Jaintia nation and does not want the HNLC ‘heydays’ back once again.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 21, 2014)