Dorphang offers to play negotiator

‘HNLC should declare truce first’ lRelease Champion for talks: GNLA

SHILLONG: The rebel-turned-politician Julius Dorphang is open to play the role of a negotiator with the proscribed HNLC if the State Government wants it and the outfit abjures violence even as Garo rebel outfit has demanded unconditional release of its jailed chairman Champion Sangma for felicitating dialogue.
Speaking to The Shillong Times, the sitting legislator and former chairman of HNLC, Dorphang on Thursday said that he was ready to take up  the role of a negotiator provided the Government approves it and the outfit declares unilateral ceasefire.
However, he asserted that there should be a conducive atmosphere for holding talks and the outfit should first declare unilateral ceasefire.
After the Chief Minister Mukul Sangma made an offer of peace talks with HNLC last year, the outfit reciprocated and even agreed to give up the sovereignty demand. The organisation was also willing to hold talks within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.
The State Government is yet to approve the name of the interlocutor to hold talks with HNLC though the process had started last year.
According to the state government, the talks process can start once the Ministry of Home Affairs gives its nod to the name of the interlocutor proposed by the State government.
Asked whether the Government should first stop operations against them, the Independent legislator said that first the militant group should declare ceasefire and the rest will follow.
Dorphang said that in the past too, he was keen to bring the militant group for a dialogue.
To a question, the former rebel leader said that he does not favour any mass surrender of HNLC cadres, and added that political talks should be held to arrive at a peace settlement.
It was on July 24, 2007 that Dorphang came over ground signaling peace in Khasi Hills.
Later, Dorphang successfully contested the Assembly elections in 2013 from Mawhati constituency, Ri Bhoi.
The strength of HNLC and the fire power have considerably reduced following the police action against the cadres coupled with surrender of many members over the years.
Meanwhile, GNLA in a statement issued to the media on Thursday by joint publicity secretary Garo Mandei Ch Marak said that Champion should be released unconditionally if the State Government intends to invite the outfit for negotiations.
In the past, there were reports that the chairman had resigned from the post, but the GNLA said that since the outfit had not received any resignation letter from Champion, he is still the outfit’s Chairman. “Based on our rules and regulations, each and every member has the right to tender his/her resignation letter as per the constitution of GNLA, and the same has to be produced in the general assembly. But so far we have not received any resignation letter from Champion,” GNLA said.
The militant outfit further said that the cadres are not going to offer themselves forcefully to the Chief Minister. “If peace committee wants us to come to negotiating table, then they should take responsibility, and All Garo Hills State Movement Committee ( AGHSMC) also has to stick to its demand for a separate Garoland  and it is  its (peace committee) responsibility to sit for talks”, GNLA asserted. The outfit also said that if the Government agrees to discuss their demand for a separate Garoland, they are ready to talk.
It may be mentioned here that Meghalaya Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in his customary address in the State Assembly on the opening day of budget session on March 9 had made a conditional talks offer to both HNLC and GNLA by saying that commitment of the Government to have dialogue  with the militant outfit remains, provided they give up their  anti-national stance and abjure violence.
The Governor said that inspite of the positive intent shown by the Government, certain outfits such as GNLA and HNLC continue to indulge in violent activities.