Meghalaya-based militant group wants to talk after ban

Cadres of HNLC in an undisclosed location. (DH Photo)

Days after the Centre declared Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) as an unlawful organisation, the Meghalaya-based rebel group on Sunday expressed it wish to sit for unconditional talks.

In a statement emailed to DH, general secretary of the outfit, Sainkuper Nongtraw, however, said it was not ready to accept the Centre's condition to lay down arms first before sitting for peace talks.

"Right from 2004, we have been expressing our willingness to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream but nothing much has been materialized as yet. This attitude of the government had sent a negative response to us and our council. This also made us believe that peace talks are a far cry and hence bloodshed should carry on. But again we are also of the opinion that we should be given a chance and a platform to voice our concerns. We are now looking forward to give up our arms struggle and concentrate on political dialogue," said the statement.

The ministry of home affairs on November 18 issued a notification declaring HNLC as an unlawful organisation as it was involved in various violent activities including extortion and abduction. The MHA said HNLC's activities were detrimental to the safety and sovereignty of the nation. 

HNLC demands sovereign geography for the Khasi and Jaintia communities in Meghalaya. Recently it also raised a demand for a separate flag and a Constitution for Meghalaya. 

"The main problem that we face in our region is not law and order but a political one.  Our demands are very legitimate in nature.  Our objective is to end this battle, at this point in time, we believe that we can achieve whatever we want and that is possible through peaceful means. We also believe in the wisdom of listening, the power of participation and the strength of informed dialogue to build an understanding and trust between the government of Meghalaya and the government of India. This shall become a joint effort to strengthen the foundations of peacebuilding. While it is long overdue, we believe that opening and sustaining the space for dialogue and consensus-building would lead to the peaceful resolution of the age-old conflict that has been going on for the last three decades," HNLC statement said. 

"We believe that it is high time for both the GOM, GOI and the HNLC to lay aside our prejudices and biases, to be able to find a common ground for peace to flourish. At this point of time we express our faith in the government and we do believe that we could strengthen our relation after getting positive responses from the government's end. We are hoping for a positive outcome from the government's end which would enable us to build bridges with the GOM and the GOI as a whole," it said.

HNLC was declared an unlawful organisation in 2000 but the ban was later withdrawn. 

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