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Meghalaya: Politician-Militant Nexus Gaining Ground?

POSTED ON 18 DECEMBER 2014

Rani Pathak Das
Senior
research associate, CDPS

Militancy in Meghalaya is getting more complex by the day with accusations of politicians having nexus with insurgent outfits flying thick and fast. This has been corroborated by heightened lawlessness in the State, mainly in the Garo Hills areas. The recent chargesheet against the Meghalaya Social Welfare Minister Debora C. Marak, allegations of nexus with militants against Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, and the resignation of Meghalaya Home Minister Roshan Warjri “owning moral responsibility for the prevailing law and order situation in Garo Hills” have created an uncertain situation in the State, particularly in the security front.

On 20 November 2014, Meghalaya Home Minister Roshan Warjri resigned from power owing moral responsibility for the law and order situation in Garo Hills where both civilians and security personnel have been killed. Her resignation was preceded by a series of explosion in Garo Hills perpetrated by the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), killing two police and injuring three others. Her resignation is significant when the opposition Meghalaya People's Front (MPF) has highlighted issues like criminalization of politics, total collapse of governance leading to death of civilians and security forces, and infiltration of militants into Meghalaya Police. While the resignation of the first woman home minister in the Northeast has not been accepted by the Chief Minister, Roshan Warjri has skipped the Winter Session of the State Assembly, sending a message to Chief Minister Sangma about her unhappiness over the disturbed situation in the Garo Hills.

On 3 November 2014, the East Garo Hills district police filed a chargesheet against Social Welfare Minister Deborah Marak for allegedly taking help of the militant outfit Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) during the 2013 Assembly elections in the State to intimidate voters. East Garo Hills Superintendent of Police Davis N. R. Marak said that the police have filed the charge sheet against Ms Marak and another person Tennydard Marak under Section 120 B for allegedly “hatching a criminal conspiracy with the GNLA”; Section 171 F for “undue influence on voters”: and Section 506 of Indian Penal Code for “criminal intimidation.”

Deborah Marak, however, denied the allegation while the Chief Minister stated that he will be “guided by legal perspectives of the case”. The investigation was taken up following an FIR lodged by Mr. Jonathone N. Sangma, the independent candidate and Ms Marak’s rival candidate during the elections. Police investigations found that the GNLA militants distributed leaflets and put up banners during the 2013 Assembly Polls threatening the voters of dire consequences if they voted for Ms Marak’s rival. According to the police, there is evidence of Ms Marak entering into a criminal conspiracy with the GNLA that the militant outfit would intimidate the voters against supporting Mr. N. Sangma. The police also said that Ms Marak assured the GNLA of supporting its demand for a separate Garoland state in lieu of the support of the militant outfit to win the elections. This is no doubt dangerous for state politics.

The Chief Minister too is drawn into controversy. On 10 January 2014, Ajaju Marak, political secretary of ANVC (B) accused the Chief Minister of being close to ANVC(B) chairman Rimpu Marak. Later, the outfit denied the allegation. The Chief Minister denied the allegations and said that some vested interest have hatched a political conspiracy against him and the government. On the other hand, former Lok Sabha MP from Tura, PA Sangma said, “In Meghalaya, everything is going merrily. What can be the worst criminalization of politics than the Chief Minister himself being involved with militancy?” Rapiush Ch Sangma, the Vice Chairman of GNLA, who was arrested by police in June 2014 in Bangaluru, was an unsuccessful candidate in the February 2013 Meghalaya Assembly elections. Rapiush was immediately taken in by the outfit after he lost in the elections. Now, if the Government has been considering the surrendered militants as misguided youths, what would be the Government’s stand in the case of a person who has even contested the elections?

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma could not deny and rule out nexus of any politicians with militant organizations. It is a different matter when he said that law would take its own course if such allegations were substantiated with evidences. Surely, this serious charge of politician-militant nexus must be probed and a logical conclusion should be reached based on evidence.

There has been a spurt in insurgency violence as well as increase in number of new and breakaway militant groups in Meghalaya in the recent past. While seven outfits, four new groups and three new factions of groups were formed in 2013, during 2014 the State has witnessed the emergence of four more groups, apart from the already existing ones. Now, with the resignation of the Meghalaya Home Minister on 21 November 2014, the security scene in the state has further deteriorated. Amidst these, the surrender and signing of peace agreement by the two factions of the militant group ANVC(A’chik National Volunteers’ Council, formed in December 1995) and ANVC-B has been termed by the State Government as “strong message to youngsters who have gone astray”. Some new militant outfits formed during 2014 include, Achik National Cooperative Army (ANCA) formed in 3 January, A'chik Songna An'pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), breakaway faction of GNLA formed in 12 February, A'chik Matgrik Elite Force (AMEF), A'chik Revolutionary Front (ARF) formed in 2 April.

To fight the present day format of armed extremism, the government has created a special force in Meghalaya. The Special Force 10 of the Meghalaya Police will formally take shape by September 2015. About 1200 recruits of the force will exclusively undergo a specialized 10 months training at different commando training centres of the ITBP and Grey Hounds while a section of them will be trained at the Rapid Action force (RAF) training centre.

On 24 September 2014, a peace agreement was signed by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, CM Mukul Sangma and the leaders of ANVC and ANVC-B at New Delhi, paving the way for the disbanding of the armed organizations. ANVC chairman Dilash Marak and commander-in-chief Jerome Momin signed on behalf of the outfit while Bernard Rimpu N Marak and Mukosh Marak, chairman and commander-in-chief respectively, signed for the breakaway group — ANVC-B. The disbanding ceremony was held in Tura on 15 December 2014 where 304 breakaway ANVC-B cadres deposited 98 weapons. Questions have been raised regarding celebration of an event like surrender of militants who have once committed crimes against the state and its people. If the government is supporting the surrendered militants, what will these former militants give in return? That’s a serious question needing introspection on the part of the government.