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Julius Dorphang must salute the tricolor this Republic Day. The present MLA and former chief of the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had no qualms in taking pledge of upholding the Indian Constitution once he denounced. Dorphang, one of the most silent MLAs in Meghalaya assembly, ‘sacrificed’ his ideology apparently for personal gains. The jailed Garo Hills National Army (GNLA) chief Champion Sangma is also on his way to the ‘mainstream’. These leaders once claimed to have believed that rights of their tribes could not be protected through peaceful means. So they took up arms and engaged in all kinds of crimes – killing, kidnapping, looting… They did not believe in the Constitution. They faithfully practised the ritual of calling bandhs on Independence Day and Republic Day. Finally, they reaped the benefit of the government policy to reward what critics term ‘criminals’ with rehabilitation package. While these people, who orchestrated major crimes on humanity like indiscriminate killing, get the red carpet from government, petty criminals continue to languish in jails due to delayed trials.

Like every year, the HNLC called a bandh to boycott this Republic Day too. In the press statement, the outfit leveled all kinds of allegations against the Union of India. HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw termed ‘illegal’ celebration of Republic Day within their ‘jurisdiction’. Dorphang might have spoken the same language once. The irony is that the same outfit is crying for government attention for peace talks. Several political parties, ostensibly to appease Khasi sentiment, are holding government responsible for delaying the peace talks with the outfit. They have been demanding appointment of interlocutors to initiate peace talks between the HNLC and the government.  However, it has become difficult for the government to maintain soft approach towards militant groups who want peace talks and resort to violence at the same time. The hard line approach had to be adopted following BJP-led NDA government’s directive not to hold talks with any outfit which indulges in violence. The government’s lack of response towards HNLC’s call is also due to the police perception that the outfit is just a spent force now. The outfit’s claim that holding Republic Day in Khasi-Jaintia Hills is ‘illegal’ and its desperation for talks with Indian government are contradictory. The public, who still have some sympathy left for HNLC, should notice such hypocrisy of the outfit that claims to have been fighting for the rights of indigenous Khasi-Jaintia people. Given a chance to be in a position like that of Julius Dorphang, these underground leaders would take no time to sing paeans of the Government of India.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 24, 2015)

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