Meghalaya has witnessed various militancy related activities for decades where the armed movements have not only pushed the developmental work backwards, they have also tarnished the good name of the state, where both the tourists and investors, refuse to set foot in the hills state. Conrad Kongkal Sangma heading the newly formed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) is one lucky Chief Minister, to have come to power then the state is witnessing relative peace.
On the very first day, after winning the Trust vote, as many as eight rebels of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), who were once the close aides of Sohan Dalbot Shira the military wing chief of the GNLA surrendered before Meghalaya Home Minister James Kongkal Sangma, with the hope that peace will now prevail in the state.
Just a couple a days earlier, the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) had urged the MDA government to consider including it for peace talks with the Centre through a media communiqué. The Council expects the NPP which heads the MDA government in the state and also an ally of NDA-led Centre government to consider including the outfit for peace talks in order to address the issues which are pending for past 70 years.
It may be reminded that one the most dreaded Self Styled Commander-in-Chief of GNLA, Sohan who is also the chief of the Military Wing and an Ex-cop had escaped from police custody after being arrested as an Ex- Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) member. Shira was wanted in several cases of murder, kidnapping, bombings and extortion in Garo Hills, besides the killing of Nationalist Congress Party candidate, Jonathone Sangma on February 18, which have created fear psychosis in the then poll bound Meghalaya. Acting on a tip off, the SF-10 Commandos raided Sudugre area in East Garo Hills district and shot dead Sohan in a gun battle, at 11.50 AM, on February 24 last.
The operation was conducted when the Code of Conduct was imposed in the state, Sohan was killed on the last day of the campaigning, which also means, the Central Intelligence were reporting directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs, instead of the elected government in the state for this particular operation which managed to yield results. During the 2013 election, Political-militancy nexus was suspected.
It is also a well know facts that Political- Militancy nexus cannot be ruled out and Janathone Sangma was the first casualty in the record of Meghalaya which has seen candidates who have been attacked for political mileage. Although in the past many attempts were made which include threatening messages or poster campaigns which warned about such actions, the attention of the districts administrations was not necessitated. In this case the Chief Election of India has to resist the report on poll-preparedness with election officials.
It may be mentioned that, just last week, through a press communication, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a militant organization operating in Meghalaya has claimed responsibility for the lobbing of a hand grenade, thrown into the compound of an Exporter, Than Khonglah in Dawki. This, the HNLC said is a warning against his activities even as it alleged him to be a conspirator, using Surrendered HNLC (HNLC) and Police to destroy the Council. However, there is no mention about the recovery of a live Chinese hand grenade from the private vehicle of a Congress supporter at around 11 am on February 11, at Bishop Falls in Lower Mawprem.
At the same time HNLC had vowed to obstruct the Congress Party from forming the next government claiming that the party has lost the confidence of the masses, particularly from the districts in the Khasi –Jaintia hills. It may be reminded that the Council claims to represent the Khasi-Jaintia tribal people, and its aim is to free Meghalaya from what it terms as the domination of the Garos and the outsiders (the “Dkhars”) from the Indian mainland.
The Central authorities had in the past tried to establish a politician - militancy nexus, which is still underway, the first ever threats coming from armed militancy perhaps came to fore in October 2010, during the high drama that staged for the toppling of the Dr D D Lapang - led government. It was at the same time that the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) came to light. 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.
Again during the February 23, 2013, general election, a high alert was sounded as the GNLA had openly declared their support to the Congress Party, though the political party later turned down the support. According to intelligence feedback, the outlawed GNLA was supposed to come over ground immediately after the election process. Even this time, the jailed Chairman of GNLA, Champion R Sangma had made all attempts to seek bail and was contemplating contesting the election. He had also tried this during 2013 elections but both attempts failed as he could not get the bail.
Meghalaya had also in the past witnessed such during polls, when there was an attempts to dethrone the then Gambegre Representative Saleng A Sangma.
Also in 2013, 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’. They had also given 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 pump owners, coal dealers and businessmen in the coal-rich districts of Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya in the past.
In the past 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?
The threats in the past have now turned fatal as the young leader- Jonathone (43) lost his precious life while campaigning for February 27 poll. He had also contested the 2013 election from Williamnagar as an Independent candidate. He lost the elections to the incumbent Education Minister and senior Congress leader Deborah C. Marak. Deborah had won the seat in 2013 securing 8,402 votes while Jonathone had garnered 5,525 votes, this time too he is said to be a strong contender. Such attacked or killed for political mileage is definitely not a healthy trend in the peaceful state of Meghalaya.
With such recurring threats, the Central Intelligence conducted the operation in the poll bound state, such that no political pressure or interferences will hamper the action. Now that the Peace is expected to prevail in the state, almost like the MDA had usher it in, the incumbent Home Minister will now be faced with the task to further enhance peace and tranquility in the state.