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Sale of an arms consignment just ahead of a much-publicised disbanding exercise strengthened skepticism about the whole affair. The enthusiasm showed for the disbanding, first in Meghalaya by any rebel outfit, on December 15 was superficial. Hoping for peace by disbanding of ANVC and ANVC-B, while nearly a dozen splinter groups besides the dreaded GNLA are still on the prowl, is asking for the moon! The government is not unaware of the fact and that this exercise is not going to improve the law and order. The skepticism proved right when police revealed sale of a huge consignment by an ANVC ‘rogue’ leader to the GNLA. Timing of the sale just ahead of the disbanding and the transaction amount, Rs 17 lakh, only point fingers at the ANVC leadership who vowed to work for restoring peace in Garo Hills region. Proximity of the ‘rogue’ element and the ANVC leadership cannot be ruled out.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma rightly mentioned that ANVC and ANVC-B leaders would be responsible for any subversive acts of their cadres. The statement coming in the wake of the arms sale report assumes significance. There is an indication that more arms might have been kept hidden by the two outfits. They are either to be sold to those “still in the business” or for future use. Then, what was the use of the peace process? One outfit is handing arms to the other, to become ‘good boys’. Apprehension over the hidden arms was already raised when the two outfits deposited very small number of arms, mostly small arms, during the disbanding ceremony.

Amid this confusing scenario over militancy, the option of ‘zero tolerance’ can be weighed by the government. The so-called peace process is understood to be just a move to empower them and not the people whom they claimed to have fought for. Efforts are made to accommodate them in the political process. In order words, government wants them to become political leaders! Many of them either committed or conducted heinous crimes such as murder, kidnapping besides extortion. For groups in Garo Hills, extortion has been their bread and butter. The same people, who surrendered under ANVC and ANVC-B banners, will now be rewarded with the rehabilitation package. It’s because they have promised to become good guys! Will the law forgive another person for similar crime even if he makes the same promise? Besides, the worth of the militants’ promise is already seen after busting of their arms trade. It’s time for zero tolerance for any crime, whether it is done by an individual or any group in the name of rights of a community.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 19, 2014)