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Shillong a safe haven for militants
Published on 3 Feb. 2011 11:17 PM IST
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Not all seems to be well with the Scotland of the East’. If security agencies are to be believed, Shillong the capital of Meghalya has turned into a favourite destination for several militant groups from the North East and gun-runners from Myanmar.
“Thanks to a weak administration, arms dealers from Myanmar are using Shillong and other parts of the state to negotiate with militant groups from states like Assam and Nagaland. Militant groups are using routes along the East Garo Hills to cross over from Assam into Bangladesh. In return for the support provided, local groups from Meghalaya are receiving arms and training from organisations like the Ulfa and NDFB,” a senior officer said.
For years now, insurgency-related violence in Assam and Manipur overshadowed the situation in Meghalaya. With the situation gradually improving in Assam and Manipur, Meghalaya seems to be gearing up to leave its mark on the map of insurgency-hit states. In 2010, nearly 20 people perished in militancy-related violence in the state. Three of them were civilians.
“The larger and better-known groups are not too much of a problem any longer. Security forces have achieved significant successes against them. We are more concerned about the smaller splinter groups that have emerged. These groups have been inciting ethnic and communal clashes in several districts,” the officer said.
On January 1, 2011, 10 people died in clashes between the Rabha and Garo tribes along the Assam-Meghalaya border. Several thousand were displaced from their villages in the East Garo Hill district of Megahlaya and Goalpara on the other side of the state boundary. Security agencies believe that these clashes were masterminded by insurgent groups.
Security forces have recorded major successes in 2010 against groups like the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF), Hynniewtrep Liberation Front (HLF) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). The HNLC a primary insurgent group has been forced to scale down its operations in the state. The GNLA, however, continues to remain quite active and turned down an offer for talks with the government in 2010.
“Several new groups are filling the vacuum left behind by older ones. Larger groups like the GNLA had started the process of extortion that the new ones have adopted. In fact, the primary objective of these groups seems to be extortion. The new breed of militants is extremely trigger-happy and kills at the bat of an eyelid in an attempt to terrorize the population. Steps will have to be taken before the newer groups gain a strong foothold and the situation gets out of hand,” a senior home ministry official said.
But this is easier said than done. There have been several leadership changes in Meghalaya in the last five-odd years. None of the governments that have come to power seemed to possess the strength to take on the militants head-on. Should this continue, security agencies believe that they would have another Assam or Manipur on their hands.

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