SHILLONG: Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister and National People's Party (NPP) state president Prestone Tynsong said on Wednesday that the Centre and State government are ready to have peace talks with the top leaders of the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) outside Meghalaya. His statement came five days after the outfit's chairman and commander-in-chief, Bobby Marwein, and general secretary-cum-publicity secretary, Sainkupar Nongtraw, expressed their inability to participate in the discussion until the government was ready to drop all pending cases against them and sign a ceasefire agreement.
In February last year, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma held a discussion with Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla over the issue of peace talks with the banned militant outfit Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). "Following the required process to take forward the peace talks with HNLC, I met the Home Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs to discuss the same. The Government of Meghalaya is committed to seeing this through," Sangma tweeted after the meeting.
The move comes days after the HNLC offered to sit down for peace talks with the Central and Meghalaya state governments without any pre-conditions. The outlawed militant made the announcement through a press release. On February 8, 2022, in a statement issued by HNLC general secretary-cum-publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw, the organisation decided to give peace a chance after receiving a lot of requests from elders and social organisations over the past few days. "After consultations with some elders recently, we have decided to come to a peaceful agreement with the GOM (Government of Meghalaya) and the GOI (Government of India)," the militant group had said, adding, "As of now, we are ready to talk within the ambit of the Indian constitution, and we are ready to have talks without any pre-conditions." HNLC did not, however, mention whether they would consider relinquishing arms and armed attacks.
It said the peace process was derailed after last year's (2021) killing or the 'fake encounter' of the militant's former GS (L) Cherishterfield Thangkhiew. Nongtraw said that Thangkhiew's death brought sadness to the whole Hynniewtrep region, adding, "He was also in favour of the peace talks, and he was assigned the task of carrying forward their message to the Government of India."
The militant group had previously been resolute on its demand for any negotiations to include the subjects of the Standstill Agreement and Instrument of Accession and Annexation, which brought the erstwhile Khasi states into the Indian Union following independence in 1947. The HNLC further called on the government to appoint an official interlocutor to show its seriousness to the cause of peace. (ANI)