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Peace accord with Meghalaya rebels after polls

By The Assam Tribune

Shillong, March 29 (IANS): The final peace accord with the A'chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) in Meghalaya's Garo Hills is likely to be finalised after the formation of a new government at the centre, a Home Ministry official said on Friday.

"The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) has approved the agreed text for settlement to be signed with the ANVC," JPN Singh, Director (North East) in the Union Home Ministry, told IANS.

Singh, who was here for the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) meeting with the ANVC and the Meghalaya government, said the new government will finalise the date for final signing of the peace accord with the ANVC.

On the other hand, the JMG has decided to extend the ceasefire with the ANVC by another year until March 31, 2015, he said.

The ANVC, once a powerful rebel outfit in the five districts of Garo Hills in western Meghalaya, has scaled down its demand for creation of a separate Garoland state to the formation of an autonomous council.

It signed the draft of the agreed settlement with the Meghalaya and union governments Jan 5, 2013.

"The contours of the final agreement to be signed with the ANVC have been approved. These relate to the political, organisational and development aspects," Singh said.

The outfit had demanded strengthened powers for the existing Garo Hills Autonomous District Council and increasing seats in the council from 30 to 40.

Of the 40 seats, the ANVC proposed that 35 members should be directly elected, while those to the remaining five - reserved for two ANVC members, two Nokmas and one woman - should be nominated.

Under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, Meghalaya has three district councils - for the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills - having powers on myriad issues such as forests, tax collection, and so on.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma earlier asked the central government to consider an "acceptable tripartite accord" with the ANVC for peace in the Garo Hills region.

ANVC spokesman Arist D. Sangma also said they want signing of the final tripartite peace accord "to be done as soon as possible" to ensure lasting peace in Garo Hills.

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