SHILLONG, Jan 04: The year 2014 was indecisive and bleak as far as negotiations with the proscribed outfit the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was concerned. The ongoing peace talk is yet to be instituted even as the year drew to a close. Disgruntled youth and men disillusioned by the impasse joined HNLC. This trend is alarming especially in the wake of the ban on extraction and transport of coal in Meghalaya was imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) early this year in April and the Inner Line Permit (ILP) saga. It is in this light that the pertinent question as to whether the youth of the state are falling prey to despair arises.
In February, the news of former vice president of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) Frederick Kharmawphlang and 13 others joining HNLC sent shockwaves throughout the state. The group reasoned through the publicity secretary that they had joined the outfit as a last resort as police were hunting them down for demanding the implementation of the ILP. A lot of news of young men joining the outfit flooded the local media. Later in August a school teacher of Laishnong Secondary School Mawlangsu, West Khasi Hills, identified as Sromwel Mawdoh joined the HNLC after which the staff of the school expressed utter shock over Mawdoh’s decision. With the cloud of the NGT ban and the ILP deadlock hanging over the state, morale was low amongst the youth of the state already burdened with low employment opportunities and bleak futures.
It is in this backdrop that it was reported time and again in the local press that a number of the youth were enlisting and joining the HNLC ranks even though they knew full well of the harsh conditions that the HNLC cadre were subjected to as revealed by surrendered HNLC cadre such as Elvis Syiemlieh who surrendered before police after escaping from a HNLC camp.
The month of May saw a significant turn of events as Wanbor Khardewsaw, the Personal Security Officer (PSO) of the HNLC commander in chief, Bobby Marwein surrendered before the police. Khardewsaw who had joined the outfit in early 2002 decided to surrender after seven days of escape from police ambush at Danger village, East Khasi Hills near the Indo- Bangladesh border.
The year also saw a number of arrests of HNLC cadres and sympathisers such as the arrest of Phyranilang Swer alias Pastor stated to be the ‘area commander’ of the outfit in Jaintia Hills District who was apprehended by Police on the outskirts of Kolkata.
In August HNLC Publicity Secretary, Saiñkupar Nongtraw said in a press statement, “The HNLC is ready for peace talks within the ambit of Constitution of India or outside the Constitution as per requirements. More or less the HNLC is ready for unconditional peace talks. The Government of Meghalaya should try to adopt a practical approach, instead of giving statements in the media. If the honourable CM Dr Mukul Sangma is really committed to his words, then he should try to appoint an Interlocutor to initiate the peace process with the HNLC.”
Emphasising the importance of the role of interlocutor Nongtraw said that interlocutor play a vital role to assist both the sides for a constructive agreement. Nongtraw claimed that the peace talks was not anything new even as he pointed out that something along the same lines was initiated as far back as 2004. He however alleged that the process failed due to ‘inability and inefficiency’ of the then Congress led government.
Expressing the desire of the HNLC to engage in unconditional peace talks, Nongtraw said that this must be taken as a positive sign at this juncture as “We are at the threshold of the year end. It will be prudent on the part of the government that astute and empathic interlocutors, who understand the outfit inside out and know their desire can be fulfilled in a manner that is conducive and acceptable to both the parties, should be appointed.”
The Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma in his Independence Day address said that in order to attain peace and the scope of entering into talks will be possible when the HNLC shuns its illegal activities.
As October came, the Meghalaya government was seen trying to identify an interlocutor for peace talks with the outfit. However, nothing concrete has emerged out of this till date and the people of the state are still eagerly awaiting another milestone moment for Meghalaya after the historic disbandment of the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its breakaway faction the ANVC (B).