Release jailed chairman for peace talks: Meghalaya outfit

Shillong, Feb 17: The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), a rebel outfit in Meghalaya, Monday said it was ready for peace talks provided its jailed chairman is released from prison.

Observing that the peace talks offer by Governor K.K. Paul was highly appreciated, the outfit’s ‘military wing’ chief Sohan D. Shira said GNLA chairman Champion R. Sangma should be released immediately from prison.

“There cannot be talks or a peace process without our chairman,” Shira said in a statement.

Sangma is a former deputy superintendent of police who deserted Meghalaya Police after alleged harassment by his superiors and founded the GNLA in November 2009.

He was arrested July 30, 2012 near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya.

Paul in his Republic Day speech had announced that the government has offered to hold talks with the GNLA.

However, the central government has also made it clear that talks with the GNLA can be initiated only when the outfit lays down arms.

“There has been no proposal from the government for peace dialogue with the GNLA, but if the GNLA made such overtures, they should first lay down arms,” Home Ministry Joint Secretary (in-charge of northeast) Shambu Singh told IANS.

Singh described the law and order situation in the Garo Hills as “worst” in the northeastern states, and said dialogue was the only solution.

Over 150 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the Garo Hills in the last five years by GNLA rebels and more than 50 businessmen and government officials were abducted for ransom.