Tura, Feb 17: The recent announcement made by the breakaway faction of the GNLA, namely A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) formerly GNLA – F, of coming out of the shadow of the Sohan D Shira led GNLA, has come as a body blow to ongoing peace settlement process. While early indicators have been coming through that the GNLA was also keen to come overboard, the news of the outfit’s breakup means the process has to restart once again.
The more critical part of the process has been the suggestion that the Reding T Sangma led group has also added factions of the ANVC (B) and UALA along with it. The consortium of groups would mean that the Rimpu Marak led ANVC (B) too has broken up with one part willing for talks while the other still wants to continue the fight for Garoland. The other group in the consortium, UALA has not given any indication as to where they want to be.
One worried resident of Baghmara, which has been run ragged by the new group said, “How many more will we have to hear about. Can there not be an end to this? We have been praying for peace for years and from the looks of things, we will have to wait for quite a while”.
While Reding had come out in print against the GNLA serving demand notes to Garos, sources have said that people, including Garos, have begun to receive demand notes from the newly floated group.
More importantly, if indications are right, the GNLA will be a part of the peace process, but with the breakup of the group what happens next will be critical. Reding has made it clear that the group wants to continue its fight for a Garoland. For the people of Garo Hills, the news could not have come at a worse time.
NGOs and Church organizations have already started their prayer for peace in the region and are hoping that their appeals will turn hearts. They are also of the firm belief that all those fighting for the cause of Garoland from the jungles need to come out and join the mainstream and continue the fight legally.
One resident of Tura (name withheld) said, “What is the point of this peace pact with two groups, who from the very outset have wanted to be a part of the settlement. The need for a permanent settlement for all, needs to be sought out. We cannot have groups forming by the dozen, endangering the lives of the people our region, in the guise of an ideology”.
The same feeling has been pervading all sections of society in Garo Hills with a call for things to change for the better. Another resident of Tura said, “There has to be an end to this madness. How many groups with the same set of demands need to be formed? If we cannot get everyone on board, then the whole region will be lost”.
Residents have also expressed fear over the inclusion of the army to fight insurgency. Jaynie Sangma, a member of the United Peace Forum and CSWO (Tura) said, “We are all fearful of the impact that the Army will have on civilian life. The Army will definitely not come without AFSPA. To think of all those states where they are present and the human right violations, makes us shiver at the thought”.
She, however, is not alone in expressing her fears. Given the rate at which civilians are being targeted by militant groups and the number of killings, it is not a matter of if but when if things cannot be resolved soon. For everyone, the settlement has to be all inclusive to really make a difference and the Government should not spare any means to make that possible for a region that has taken every hit to its chin.