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Militants, till a few years ago, used to speak the language of action, not words. The scene is different now. They speak both the languages and sometimes their words speak louder than action. Perhaps, they have learnt a lot from the politicians, whom they had despised and taken the jungle route. Like politicians, they also try to appease the larger section of the public, through words. If votes are the target of politicians, the main weapon of militants is public sentiment. The worst trend is the nexus between politicians and militants, mainly seen in backward regions like north-east India. The hilly areas of the region barring a few have failed to see the global light, thanks to the deep-rooted militancy which is undeniably influenced by a section of politicians.

The Garo Hills region of Meghalaya is a stark contrast in terms of development with the Khasi-Jaintia Hills part of the state. Militancy had taken its roots in the region several decades ago. At present, at least six militant outfits have been active in the five-district region. Split in the groups, mostly over authority and extortion sums, are frequent. There is hardly any day when newspapers do not have any report based on press statements sent by these groups. Some of them have been also dubbed as ‘paper tigers’, thanks to the frequent media releases. The ongoing war of words between the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and its offshoot the A’chik Songna Anphachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) is sometimes tend to be mistaken as mudslinging between two political parties.

They have the audacity to tell the people that as to how “illegal” were the ways of extortion and other crimes committed by their rival parties. The militants see nothing wrong in most of their acts seen as crime by the law of the land. However, they have a different version of crime too. The GNLA has claimed that it was not eager to accept a “donation” of Rs 5 crore from a traditional village chief, but its leader Reding Sangma “illegally” went ahead for it, leading to the creation of ASAK by him later. The GNLA also accused Reding of triggering a grenade blast at a petrol pump at Tura without “authorisation”. ASAK also issued several press releases in the past few weeks since its formation justifying its split from the GNLA. The Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its breakaway faction ANVC-B are also known to send patriotic and nationalistic messages to the media for publication (so that their crimes are wiped out from public memory). Even if it is accepted for a moment that militancy is required for social reformation, is the current populist style of militancy going to serve any purpose?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 28)