SHILLONG, Jan 2 – Militancy-hit Garo Hills is one step closer to signing a historic peace agreement with the Achik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) with the Union Home Ministry slated to hold a meeting to finalise the agreement here next Saturday.The ANVC is under a tripartite ceasefire agreement from July 2004 with the State and Central Government and bi-annual talks are held on the demands of the militant group from Garo Hills.
One of the key demands of the ANVC is for the creation of a Garoland Autonomous Council, just as the Boroland Territorial Council. The State Government has not agreed to this demand primarily because Meghalaya is a sixth schedule State and the Garo Hills has an autonomous district council looking after the welfare of the indigenous community.
But today Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that the “issues raised by ANVC have always received the highest consideration of the Governments (State and Central), just as it is considerate towards the genuine demands and aspirations of the people.”
Sangma said that he has been informed by the Union Home Ministry that negotiations with ANVC for arriving at a permanent settlement have “reached the final stage.”
“I have been informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs that towards this end, a tripartite meeting is being convened on January 5 at Shillong,” Sangma said.
Welcoming this initiative on the part of the Central Government on the advent of New Year, Sangma added that people of Garo Hills have “suffered enough on account of militancy” causing immense hardship to the peace loving people of the region.
“They (people) now look forward to reverting to a period of peace, harmony, growth and development. Let us all work together to grant them this as a New Year gift,” the Chief Minister said.
He expressed confidence that finding a “mutually acceptable” settlement on the issue of militancy is possible when all the stakeholders engage with each other with an open mind. “I keenly look forward to a positive outcome from this engagement,” Sangma said.
Sangma also took the opportunity to extend the olive branch to the breakaway faction of the ANVC to come forward for talks. Unlike the ANVC, the breakaway faction is conducting a hit and run operation from the jungles of Garo Hills.
“May I also avail myself of this opportunity to make an appeal to the breakaway faction, i.e., ANVC (B) to also come forward and join the meeting. If they have the welfare of the people of Garo Hills as their upper most priority, then they should take advantage of this occasion and contribute in arriving at a settlement that would usher in an era of peace and development,” Sangma said in his appeal.