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Meghalaya Militancy

Meghalaya was once ruled by the ancient tribes known as the Khasis, Jaintias and Garos. Each had its own kingdom. During the British Raj, these kingdoms came under the administration of the British Raj. Meghalaya was annexed under the British Empire. Further in 1935 the Britishers incorporated Meghalaya in the territory of Assam. Yet, Meghalaya enjoyed a semi-independent status due to the treaty that was signed between Meghalaya and the British Crown. When India became independent, the region was included in the state of Assam for administrative reasons. This led to an agitation by the local population.

To overcome insurgency related problems and counter the unlawful activities perpetrated by insurgents groups, Counter-Insurgency Operations are carried out by the Security Forces in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura from time to time. Meghalaya continued to be affected by Garo Militancy which dominates the insurgency scenario. Several Garo outfits like the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA), A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) and A’chik National Liberation Army (ANLA) are active in the State and have upped the ante through a series of attacks on potential targets for extortion in the five Garo Hills districts and neighboring areas.

Major militant outfits, namely, Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a Khasi Militant group are active in the State of Meghalaya. These outfits are extortionists who indulge in illegal and unlawful activities including abduction, extortions from shopkeepers, businessmen and Coal merchants, killings ( of innocent people as well as security personnel), prevention of developmental activities, etc. the militant outfits of the neighbouring States like ULFA(I), NDFB(S), UALA, ANLA and NSCN/IM also have their „Comand Structure? in Garo Hills of the State of Meghalaya.

The Government has undertaken peace initiative along with counter insurgency operations in the State as well as areas bordering with Assam to check the violence in the State. The A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) is under Suspension of Operation (SoO) since July 23, 2004. However, in view of wanton violence by GNLA, the Government decided not to engage the outfit in talks but intensify operations by the Security Forces. Through diplomatic channels, the Government of India has been taking up the issue of presence of IIGs with the neighbouring countries. To supplement the efforts of the State Government, 79 Coys of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and 06 teams of CoBRA have been deployed in Meghalaya to check violence and extremist/insurgency activities.

Language/ethnicity, tribal rivalry, migration, control over local resources and a widespread feeling of exploitation and alienation have resulted in violence and diverse demands by various Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs). The demands vary from sovereignty in some cases to independent State or Homeland or simply better conditions for ethnic groups they claim to represent. The underground outfits indulge in violent and terror activities and intimidate people with arms in order to achieve their objectives / demands. They maintain cross-border links, procure arms, recruit and train their cadre, and indulge-in unlawful activities such as damaging of public properties, bomb explosions, extortions, killing of innocent civilians, Security Forces Personnel, attacks on/ abduction ofGovernment employees, politicians, and businessmen.

There are several historical and institutional constraints to development, many of them operate throughout the northeast. These are; geographical isolation, poor connectivity, inadequate infrastructure, less developed formal credit, little inflow of private capital, and mounting insurgency. Although problems faced by the northeast are far more serious than existing in other poor states of India, institutional capacity to formulate schemes and implement them effectively is still to be developed.

The impact of stagnant economy and poor growth of white collar jobs is being felt in increasing militancy in the state. By 2015 Meghalaya already had 43,000 government employees, and the option of further expansion is no longer available. The local youth must employ themselves elsewhere, as government jobs are saturated, for which they must be mentally prepared to become entrepreneurs. Unfortunately most youth want to get government jobs, which has high social status as it ensures safety and often opportunities for bribes. Since a large percentage of the educated are jobless, militancy becomes an attractive career option. According to the Police, "The insurgents appear to be anti-socials out to make fast money. If they had a committed agenda, they would have at least had a course of action. They operate and strike on the order of other northeastern militant groups."

What began as a rag-tag group of young boys threatening to step into militancy had grown to be a full-blown menace. Periodically, armed militants raid business establishments, threatening its owners who are mostly Marwaris and walking off with the loot. Even the non-local businessmen are not as innocent as they seem. In the early phases, insurgents had the patronage of businessmen. Many of them earlier used these insurgents to secure government and private contracts. Now as the businessmen are being asked to pay the insurgents regularly, it has begun to hurt.

Although one should never support violence, it must be admitted that the anxiety of losing out control to non-locals is a genuine one, and should not be treated lightly. The absence of development has contributed to increased xenophobia. It should not be dismissed merely as an election issue, as locals have a legitimate fear of outsiders with the example of Tripura hovering in their minds all the time. Mining, construction activity and business attracts a large number of immigrants, who stay there for long periods. A development strategy in which the locals lose out both in numbers and positions of economic power is clearly ruled out.

Ministry of Home Affairs has deployed Central Armed Police Forces for counter-insurgency operations and the level of deployment in Meghalaya has increased over the years. For example, the level of deployment was 22 Companies in 2012, which has gone up to 28 Companies in 2015. It is also a fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs has to factor-in considerations of a large number of states for deployment of Central Armed Police Forces since there is a large demand for such deployment from different states facing internal security problems. However, in spite of this, the deployment in Meghalaya has increased over the years. In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs has also funded raising 04 India Reserve Battalions by Meghalaya. A proposal to further raise 02 more Battalions in Meghalaya was also under examination. But, the State Government had to effectively utilize the Central Armed Police Forces in counter-insurgency operations since they work under the directions of the local police, who have to provide the requisite leadership.

In order to supplement the efforts of the State Government of Meghalaya for maintaining peace and Law & Order in the State, by 2016 a total of 79 Coys of CAPFs had been deployed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, out of which, 54 Coys are performing Border Guarding duties and remaining 25 Coys were deployed in the State for Internal Security duties. Besides, 6 teams of CoBRA were also deployed in Meghalaya to check insurgent activities. As and when the State Government of Meghalaya seeks assistance of Central Armed Forces for maintaining peace and law & order, the same is provided keeping in mind requirement of the Security Forces in other parts of the country.

By 2015 there had been marked increase in low-visibility yet high-impact violent crimes like kidnapping for ransom and extortions in Assam and Meghalaya. It has severely undermined common man’s access to justice. In some States, ratio of prosecution of criminals in cases of serious crimes is disturbingly low, as low as 5 per cent as against All India figure of over 85 per cent.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2018 18:00:31 ZULU