Peace accord before Lok Sabha polls: Meghalaya rebel outfit

Shillong, Jan 23: The final peace accord with the A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills is likely to be finalised before the parliamentary elections, the rebel outfit said Thursday.

“We have been informed that the peace pact is going to be finalised within two months. It is going to be tabled in the upcoming session of parliament,” ANVC spokesman Arist D. Sangma told journalists after a meeting with central and state government officials.

The meeting, attended by officials from union home ministry, Meghalaya government and ANVC leaders, discussed the proposed Garoland Autonomous Council and on finalising a peace accord.

“We want it (signing of the final tripartite peace accord) to be done as soon as possible to ensure lasting peace in Garo Hills,” he said.

The ANVC, once a powerful rebel group in the Garo Hills, has been in a tripartite ceasefire agreement with the central and the state governments since July 2004.

The group, which operates in five impoverished districts, has scaled down its demand for creation of a separate Garoland state to an autonomous council.

“The peace accord with the rebel outfit will be finally signed once the union cabinet gives its seal of approval on the agreed text of settlement which was adopted Jan 5, last year,” a union home ministry official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The ANVC spokesman said it has taken an initiative to rope in its splinter groups – the Garo National Liberation Army and the United A’chik Liberation Army – under one outfit before signing the peace accord.

The Garo Hills region is being used as a safe haven by various northeast militant groups, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah, the United Liberation Front of Asom, and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

Another outlawed outfit, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, has been demanding a sovereign Khasi homeland in Meghalaya.

IANS