SHILLONG, Feb 20 (IANS): The A'chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC), engaged in peace talks with the government over the creation of Garoland Autonomous Council in Meghalaya, Monday expressed unhappiness over the "slow" progress of talks.
The rebel outfit which entered into a tripartite ceasefire with the central and the Meghalaya governments July 23, 2004, served one week's time to the government to clarify its position on their demands.
"We are not at all happy with the progress of talks. It should have been faster than this, and therefore, we are giving a one week's time to the Meghalaya government to explain the delay on creation of the Garoland Autonomous Council," ANVC spokesperson Torik Jangning Marak told IANS.
"If the government fails to give us an answer, we will turn to the people and decide our strategy to put pressure on the government to fulfill our demand of an independent administrative Garoland Autonomous Council," he said.
Blaming the Meghalaya government for the delay in implementing their demand, the ANVC spokesman said, "In seven and half years of ceasefire, we have faced tremendous hardships, mostly our cadres, who had to go through with practically no support from anywhere, yet we stood together with a hope for a peaceful and acceptable solution, which has not made any progress in months inspite of MHA (union ministry of home affairs) reminding the Meghalaya government on our issue."
The ANVC operates in three insurgency-ravaged districts of the Garo Hills in western part of Meghalaya, which is home to at least five rebel outfits demanding separate Garoland.
The ANVC has scaled down its demand for creation of separate Garoland state to an autonomous council in line with the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam.
The proposed autonomous council would include Garo-inhabited areas in Assam's Kamrup and Goalpara districts and in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya Chief Secretary W.M.S. Pariat had said that setting up of the Garoland Autonomous Council "may not be feasible" due to the existence already of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC).
In Meghalaya, under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, there are three district councils -- Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills Autonomous District Councils -- having powers on myriad issues such as forests, tax collection, etc.
"Unlike Assam, the present district councils in Meghalaya, including GHADC, cover the whole of Meghalaya and the implications of creating a Garoland Autonomous Council as demanded by the ANVC are far-reaching in the context of Meghalaya, which already has autonomous district councils," Pariat said.