Enough has been written about the Militant-Politician nexus where one of the most affected states today perhaps is Jammu and Kashmir. The unrest will surely affect the Progress Report of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by Narendra Damodardas Modi Government at the centre. During the Assembly election, the voters defied a boycott call by separatist groups, braving inclement weather and ignoring a bomb blast to cast their ballot in large numbers. This made it loud and clear – now they want to pave the way only for development. Similarly in the case of Jharkhand, voters defied a poll boycott call by Maoists, where voting took place in 13 of the 81 assembly constituencies in six Maoist-affected districts, in the first phase that is also spread into five phases.
The recent trend of elections is that there is huge turnout witnessed especially in those states where militancy is affecting development. Jammu and Kashmir along with Jharkhand could be considered as the last bastions of militancy – infested states which normally call for the boycott of polls. Be it separatists, Maoists, Guerrilla Warfare or Underground Outfits, all had one common tactic – infuse a fear psychosis through armed struggle, threats, kidnappings and ransom. Death is normally the judgment for defying their ideologies.
In Meghalaya, militancy was heralded by Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council (HALC) which split in 1992 resulting in the emergence of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). The HALC split due to inter-tribal antagonisms leading to the formation of the HNLC.
On May 18, 2017 through a Press Statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Sainkupar Nongtraw claimed that the incumbent Chief Minister, Dr Mukul M Sangma, during the last week has sent feelers to the Council seeking their support towards the Congress candidates in the entire Khasi and Jaintia Hills in the forthcoming 2018 General Assembly Election.
The Council although has rejected the proposal, stating that they have already lost faith in the Peace Talk initiated by the Government of Meghalaya, under the leadership of Dr Sangma. This issue has exposed once again that the Politician – Militant nexus too is still taking root in the state of Meghalaya.
It may be mentioned that the second innings of Dr Sangma as Chief Minister of Meghalaya in the name and style of MUA II is expected to install peace in the state too, especially in Garo Hills. High drama was staged during the toppling game of the Dr D D Lapang led government in 2010, a time when the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) came into being. The outfit was sending out SMSes and threatening calls to all Congress Legislators elected from Garo Hills to support Dr Sangma or not to enter Garo Hills.
The February 23, 2013, general election was also put on high alert, as the GNLA had openly declared their support to the Congress, though the political party later turned down the support. According to the intelligence feedback, the outlawed GNLA was supposed to come over ground immediately after the election process.
Attempts were also made to dethrone 56 - Gambegre Representative Saleng A Sangma, although he came back as an Independent candidate after being denied a Indian National Congress ticket. He, however, continues to live in fear and continuous attempts are made to prevent the elected representative from visiting his constituency and meet the party workers.
The GNLA has again threatened to kill Meghalaya Congress legislator Limison D. Sangma for not complying with their extortion demands and issued a ‘death penalty’. The outfit also gave him the option to “compensate for the loss” by paying an amount of Rs.2 lakh. Earlier, Sangma had received a text message in which the GNLA allegedly demanded Rs.5 lakh, and if not paid they would kidnap and kill him.
Intelligence officials said GNLA has slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore on petrol vend owners, coal dealers and businessmen in the coal-rich districts of Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya.
Election Commission of India was in the know about the nexus between the political party and the GNLA, yet no attempts whatsoever were made to expose such alliance. The district administration was expecting this to have its natural death, undermining that it is difficult to give up the old habit of making quick money and power.
But the daring death penalty awarded to the sitting legislators does not speak well for the state government. It only means that the Law and Order has broken down especially in Garo Hills. If the life and properties of the elected member of the August House are not safe, how does one expect the lives and properties of the general masses to be secured?
It is not wrong to come to a conclusion that GNLA is now uncontrollable. In spite of the police operations to flush out militant activities in the hill state even while the Chairman of GNLA, Champion R Sangma is in police custody, yet the district administration failed to tame the remaining caders in the wild, including GNLA ‘C-in-C’ Sohan D Shira, who is said to be willing to consider surrendering, but there is no such mention about the rest of the members.
It is a known fact that Law and Order is a State subject, but in the case of Garo Hills, the state government should garner enough courage to declare the districts as disturbed, and seek Central intervention confined to the militancy activities. Otherwise, the developmental work will be hampered in the district.
Till date as the second term of Dr Sangma comes to an end by February 2017, peace is still a distant dream in Garo Hills, although militant activities have been curbed to an extent. One can imagine if the HNLC did accept the proposal of Dr Sangma as claimed, the next five years, instead of restoring peace in the state, the general public will surely pay a high price. It is time for the masses to vote for peace and tranquility, and not propaganda.