SHILLONG, Aug 10 (IANS): The central government is not keen to hold talks with the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) on its demand for creation of a separate Garoland state in Meghalaya, a top union home ministry official said Friday.
"They (the rebels) are always welcome to come out and face trial for their criminal activities. But we are not keen to hold talks with them," Shambu Singh, joint secretary (northeast) in the home ministry, told IANS over phone Friday.
The Meghalaya government too is not in a hurry to accept GNLA's offer for peace talks made by its political secretary Bikdot Nikjang Marak Wednesday.
Marak has offered shun armed struggle if GNLA's demands for the creation of a Garo state within the Indian constitution was accepted.
"We are always willing to hold talks and solve issues peacefully. But GNLA must first disarm and stop its violent activities to create a favourable environment for talks," Meghalaya's Home Minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh said.
He also said that people of Meghalaya did not give their mandate to the GNLA to fight for a separate Garoland state. So the question of holding talks on the issue did not arise.
"The public have not given its mandate to the GNLA to fight for a separate state. The government has not received any memorandum from the public on the demand for separate state," Lyngdoh said.
Shambu Singh, on the other hand, called GNLA's peace offer a "face-saving" measure after the arrest of its chief Champion R. Sangma July 30 near the India-Bangladesh border.
He said dividing Meghalaya further was not viable.
"Meghalaya is already a small state with too many internal conflicts. I don't think further dividing Meghalaya is viable."
"If the centre has not acceded to the creation of Telangana, Gorkhaland and Bodoland, do you think the government will give in to their (GNLA) demand for a separate Garoland?"
The GNLA, which has over 200 rebels in its fold, wants Garoland carved out of five impoverished districts of Garo Hills.
Over 35 people, including security personnel, were killed and more than 20 people were abducted by GNLA rebels in the last one year.
The Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), which is observing a tripartite ceasefire with the central and the state governments, has scaled down its demand for a Garoland state to an autonomous council, like the Bodoland Territorial Council.
The Hill State People's Democratic Party, an ally in the ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government, too has been seeking a separate state for Khasi-Jaintia tribals since 1987.