SHILLONG, Jan 26 (IANS): Meghalaya Governor K.K. Paul Sunday urged militants to talk to the government, as thousands defied threats from the guerrillas and took part in Republic Day celebrations.
"The government has offered a path of dialogue to GNLA (Garo National Liberation Army). Therefore, I urge upon its leadership to consider this seriously," he said in a speech on the occasion.
"It is the most opportune time to restore peace and normalcy in the Garo Hills which the people of the region are entitled to. Violence only results in all round misery," Paul added.
The governor also appealed to the people to spare no efforts to ensure that peace was maintained at all costs.
"Let us join hands to face the challenges of tomorrow through a common commitment towards peace and social justice."
Despite a shutdown called by the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), thousands witnessed the Republic Day celebrations at the Polo ground here.
The HNLC, which conducts hit-and-run operations from hideouts in Bangladesh, wants a sovereign Hynniewtrep homeland in Meghalaya's eastern part.
Expressing concern on the increased activities of the GNLA and the rise of splinter groups in Garo Hills, Paul said the government was committed to deal with the situation firmly.
"The government is keen and determined to restore peace in the Garo Hills where insurgency has caused immense hardship to the common people," he said.
Paul said a settlement with the A'chik National Volunteers Council, a Garo rebel outfit, had reached the final stages of approval by the central government.
"The state government is keen on getting this done before the next elections to the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council.
"It is with this intent that the term of the present Council has been extended by six months," the governor said.