Garo group wants plebiscite on ceasefire

Garo group wants plebiscite on ceasefire
– Centre’s sudden decision to make truce agreement ‘periodic’ angers ANVC
OUR CORRESPONDENT
Shillong, March 8: The Garo hills-based Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) has decided to seek a plebiscite on whether to continue with the tripartite peace talks, after the Centre took an “arbitrary” decision to extend the ceasefire only periodically.
During the last ceasefire monitoring meeting held on February 23 in Tura, the Centre had informed that the truce would be periodic.
“But during our meeting with the Union home ministry officials and the state government representatives in March, 2008, in New Delhi, it was agreed that the ceasefire would be indefinite,” ANVC publicity secretary Arist Sangma said from Tura today. He said the outfit would seek people’s opinion on whether to continue with the talks.
He said the Centre’s decision was one-sided and violated the earlier agreement to have an indefinite ceasefire.
“Our ceasefire agreement is tripartite and both the Centre and the state government should have consulted us before announcing the decision to go for a periodic ceasefire,” he added.
Sangma said if the Centre could not respect the earlier decision of an indefinite ceasefire, it would be better to break the agreement and engage again in armed struggle.
“We will seek public opinion during a rally of the people of Garo hills,” he said, adding that it was now upto the people to decide whether the militant outfit should carry on with the ceasefire.
The ANVC had a meeting in Tura yesterday with Garo hills-based legislators, NGOs and church leaders to discuss the future course of action.
The conclave entrusted the United Achik Peace Forum, a body of church leaders and NGOs, to suggest a viable solution to the ANVC’s demand.
The general secretary of the forum, Sengrak Marak, today said they would meet tomorrow on the need for a public meeting on the ANVC’s future course of action.
Allegations of extortion by ANVC activists in Garo hills had dominated the meeting between the outfit, the state government officials and the Union home ministry officials in Tura on February 23.
A senior police official today said a few months back, some ANVC cadres were arrested for involvement in extortion cases in various parts of Garo hills.
He said it was because of these criminal activities that the Centre had thought of reviewing the ceasefire periodically instead of an indefinite one. The Centre has already conveyed to the outfit that the ceasefire would expire on March 31.

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