Meghalaya govt ready talk to HNLC within Constitutional framework

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Shillong, Aug 18 (UNI) The Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) government today welcomed the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC's) offer for talks with the government.

''We welcome the HNLC's olive-branch offer and are ready to sit across the table to sort out issues,'' Chief Minister Dr Donkupar Roy told UNI here over the phone.

Proscribed on November 16, 2000, the HNLC was a product of a 1992 split in the Hynniewtrep A'chik Liberation Council, the first militant tribal outfit in the state. The tribal Khasi militant outfit was formed with an objective to fight for a 'sovereign Hynniewtrep homeland'.

Last week, the outfit's general secretary Cheristerfield Thangkhiew, in an e-mail to local dailies here on the occasion of the outfit's 21st raising day, reiterated that the HNLC was not averse to holding ''talks'' with the government.

''We are always ready to hold talks with the government on condition of sincerity,'' Mr Thangkhiew said.

Dr Roy, however, said the government would talk to the HNLC leaders provided they agree to discuss their issues within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

Incidentally, another militant outfit of the state - A'chik National Volunteers' Council (ANVC) - operating in Garo Hills with an aim to carve out ''Greater Garoland'', entered into a tripartite ceasefire agreement on July 23, 2004.

Last month, the Centre extended the ceasefire with the ANVC for an indefinite period for the first time, unlike the earlier periodical review of the ceasefire with the militant group.

Last year, the tribal Khasi militant group suffered a major jolt after the chairman of the outfit Julius K Dorphang gave up his armed struggle for a sovereign ''Hynniewtrep homeland''. Dorphang sneaked into India from his hideout in Bangladesh and surrendered before then Chief Minister D D Lapang.

Earlier, emissary of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) militant outfit Rev P B M Basaiawmoit had accused the Meghalaya government of not being sincere in its offer to bring leaders of the Khasi militant outfit to the negotiating table.

''The leaders of the HNLC, including 'general secretary' Cherishterfield Thangkhiew and 'Commander-in-Chief' Bobby Marwein have agreed in letter and spirit to accept the government's offer,'' Rev Basaiawmoit had told reporters here.

However, the former chairman of the outfit Dorphang alleged that Thangkhiew and Marwein were the 'stumbling blocks' of the proposed peace process with the government.

The HNLC maintained close links with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Issak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT). However, the Meghalaya police neutralised the the HNLC-NLFT links after the state's Special Operation Team busted their hideout in the Narpuh reserve forest of Jaintia Hills district.

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