The recent trend of militants laying down arms in Garo Hils is a welcome sign. Such gestures renew hopes for restoration of peace in the restive region. There is already an ambience of such hope especially due to claims by security forces. It looks like an outcome of several factors afflicting militants. One of them, cited by the state police is the ‘Operation Hillstorm’. The police claim holds some water as cadres of at least three outfits – Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), United Achik Liberation Army (UALA) and A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), a recent offshoot of GNLA – surrendered in different parts of Garo Hills. All these happened within past two weeks.
Militants surrendered in Meghalaya in the past too. In fact, there were bigger surrender ceremonies. Those surrenders hardly helped the situation getting better. Even arrest of dreaded militant leader like GNLA chief Champion Sangma made any difference in insurgency scenario of Garo Hills. It’s contrary to the initial hope that Champion’s arrest will start decline of militancy in the region. Thus, sporadic surrender, arrest or killing of militants and their leaders contribute least to bring in peace. The cases with Sri Lanka and Punjab were different. Those were large-scale operations inflicting heavy human casualties which ultimately led to a long calm, if not peace. Otherwise, peace is possible only through multi-pronged efforts and other external factors.
Besides Operation Hillstorm, there were two other major happenings that preceded the ongoing surrender spree. A devastating flood, worst in recent history of the region, claimed over 50 lives. Severe damage was caused to roads, bridges, crops, business establishments etc., dealt a heavy blow to the economy of the region. The government already announced that the floods have taken the region 10 years backward. Killings and kidnappings came to a historic low since the floods, as if it hit the conscience of the extortionists too. It’s like an undeclared ceasefire causing less inflow of money and supplies, which frustrated the young blood in the militant groups. Another factor that might have motivated the young minds is the recent signing of a peace agreement between two groups – Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its breakaway group ANVC-B. They will have to disband their groups to avail the rehabilitation package offered by the government. They have agreed to accept all terms of the government, which might inspire more others to come forward and give peace a chance.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 24, 2014)