Bringing militants to ‘mainstream’ is one was toward making the society free of militancy-related violence. Meghalaya police definitely deserve a pat on its back for achievement on this aspect. Numerous surrenders took place during the nearly three-decade-old militancy in the state. Law and order scenario has seen many ups and downs during this period. The focus of militancy had shifted from Khasi Hills to Garo Hills over a decade ago and the latter is still plagued by it. Militancy in Garo Hills, unlike Khasi Hills, has turned into sort of a trade with gangs formed overnight claiming to be on revolutionary path. Most of them seem to have no objective about Garo Hills, but to loot money by means of extortion and kidnapping. Many of such people are among those who surrender their arms, to join the mainstream! The government claims credit for their ‘homecoming’, an often-questioned proposition.

The recent surrender of as many as 16 militants – GNLA 14 and ULFA 2 – who operated in Garo Hills came in the wake of efforts by various civil society groups to persuade militants to give up arms, besides the intensified anti-insurgency operations. It could not have happened at a better time for the ruling Congress since campaigning for the Tura Lok Sabha bye-election is at its peak. The group’s leader being the GNLA ‘area commander’ of North Garo Hills Philiport D Shira, one of the dreaded militants in the region, the surrender is viewed as one of the biggest achievements of the state police in its fight against militancy.

One interesting thing that can be seen among the surrendered militants is that none of them say they decided to give up arms as they got disillusioned with the ‘ideals’ of the outfit. They say they quit the outfit as they were either exploited or deprived of their ‘rights’! This means all of them knew that there were no ideals (apart from earning money) at all! So, they are just looking for greener pasture (by surrendering), which they may not get! Most of them just need a livelihood, which is exploited by their gang leaders. Can we expect there will be no more such people with same need! Is there any guarantee they will not be lured (by money) again by nefarious elements in the name of fighting ‘for the rights of the sons of the soil’?

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 6, 2016)