Shillong, Feb 19 (IANS): The Meghalaya government will examine the demand of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) for the release of its jailed chairman as a pre-condition for peace talks, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said on Tuesday.
"We need to evaluate everything in hand before moving forward and examine their demand," Sangma told journalists at Williamnagar, the district headquarters of East Garo Hills, about 300 km from Shillong.
"It is important for the government to understand the situation and then take the call," he said.
On Monday, the GNLA said it was ready for talks provided its jailed chairman Champion R. Sangma is released immediately from prison.
"There cannot be talks or a peace process without our chairman," the outfit's 'military wing' chief Sohan D. Shira said in response to an offer for peace talks by Governor K.K. Paul.
Sangma is a former deputy superintendent of police who deserted Meghalaya Police after alleged harassment by his superiors and founded the GNLA in November 2009. He was arrested July 30, 2012 near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya.
However, the central government has also made it clear that talks with the GNLA can be initiated only when the outfit lays down arms.
Over 150 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the Garo Hills in the last five years by GNLA rebels and more than 50 businessmen and government officials were abducted for ransom.