Meghalaya will witness yet another big surrender ceremony on February 29. Over 70 cadres of the United Achik National Liberation Army (UALA) are going to lay down their arms and join the ‘mainstream’. The outfit’s name will cease to exist. It will be disbanded. In December 2014, over 500 cadres of Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its faction ANVC-B were at the same extravaganza. The Mukul Sangma-led Congress government has to be credited for all these ‘homecomings’. Some of these militants are already in business, some are in politics etc. There is no report, barring a few exceptions, of these cadres taking up arms again. Fine, great job (by the government)! But are these exercises serving any purpose? Is the rehabilitation package offered to these past ‘criminals’ (their crimes are never proved) worth it?

The ‘dynamic’ chief minister Mukul Sangma took over (wrested?) from DD Lapang in 2010, a year after formation of the dreaded Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA). He did not get a very peaceful state to rule. But the crime statistics, as per the state police’s official website, say days were better then. The number of kidnappings rose up from 71 in 2010 to 186 in 2015. In 2013, the year when he became chief minister for the second time, saw a massive jump of the kidnappings to 139 from 92 in 2012. Mukul’s ‘great achievement’ of bringing back outfits after outfits ‘back home’ did little good to the people! Even after one of the biggest disbanding ceremonies in the North-east, the kidnapping cases went up from 179 in 2014 to 186.

The number of murders rose at a comparatively lower rate from 134 in 2010 to 145 (2015). In fact, the figure was higher at 159 in 2014. But, the number was highest at 170 in 2011. There was a sharp jump from 92 in 2012 to 139 in 2013. The graph of ‘total cognizable crimes under IPC’ displayed in the official website rises continuously till 2014, barring a downslide from 2011 to 2012. The rise was very steep from 2012. While murders are less relatively related to insurgency kidnappings are mostly related to the deep-rooted menace. Understandably, over 90 per cent of the insurgency-related kidnappings take place in Garo Hills.

With the figures laying bare the futility of so-called homecoming of militants it’s time for the government to review its strategy to contain insurgency. It can no more be content with the surrender ceremonies, which often follow series of crimes that attract public criticism. There is no offence in top police officials and politicians clicking smiling photographs while taking ‘surrendered’ arms from militants. But, the public should be able to smile as well!

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 27, 2016)

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