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Meghalaya secessionist leader enters India, surrenders

Shillong, Oct 18 (IANS) Meghalayas most wanted separatist leader and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) General Secretary Cheristerfield Thangkhiew surrendered before Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on Thursday at the Police Headquarters.

Thangkhiew arrived in Shillong on Thursday from Bangladesh following several rounds of discussions between his family members and the Deputy Chief Minister for his surrender.

"He arrived in Shillong today (Thursday) from Bangladesh via Dawki (near the India-Bangladesh border) and travelled by road to Shillong to surrender before the government," a Meghalaya Police official told IANS.

The surrender of the General Secretary is believed to be a major blow to the Khasi secessionist outfit which now is left with its military wing commander Bobby Reagan MarweiƱ, who is hiding in Bangladesh with a few of his trusted lieutenants.

Deputy Chief Minister Tynsong said that "frequent discussions" were held between him and Thangkhiew's family members and his brother Gray to facilitate the separatist leader (Thangkhiew) to come overground.

Thangkhiew, one of the founding members of the HNLC, was hiding in Bangladesh after he along with Bobby Reagan MarweiƱ, Dilash Marak and Jerome Cherian Momin of the A'chik Liberation Matgrik Army (ALMA) and two cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak Muivah faction escaped from Shillong Jail in 1995.

HNLC Chairman Julius Dorphang was the first top leader of the outfit to surrender before Chief Minister D.D. Lapang on July 24, 2008. Dorphang later successfully contested the 2013 Meghalaya Assembly election but was later arrested on January 7, 2017 for raping a minor girl. He is currently lodged in Shillong prison.

"I am sure his (Thangkhiew) decision to comeback will send a message to other cadres who are in Bangladesh to follow his footsteps. I am sure you (Thangkhiew) will be instrumental in taking part in the programme of the government," Tynsong told the separatist leader.

Asked whether Thangkhiew will face trials for various crimes he had committed, Tynsong said: "...The government has handled such cases a number of times in the past. You have seen how the government handled the issue of people coming overground. Therefore, just leave to the wisdom on how to handle this issue to the government."

Thangkhiew, who said that he has no regrets for joining the HNLC that had killed several civilians and security forces, offered himself to play the role of a negotiator with the HNLC.

"If the government needs me, I am ready to be a negotiator but it all depends on the government. I have discussed with members of the outfit about my decision (surrender). This is my personal decision. There is no personal enmity or differences and I still have a good relationship with all the members of the HNLC," he told journalists.

Hitting out at the previous Congress government in Meghalaya for not taking seriously to the HNLC's offer for peace talks, Thangkhiew said: "From the inception of the Indian union, there has been problems created by the Indian National Congress and they did not take it seriously. I also had a telephonic conversation with the previous Meghalaya Home Minister Roshan Warjri for dialogue but the then Congress government in Meghalaya did not take it seriously."

The HNLC, which runs hit-and-run operations from its hideout in Bangladesh, has been demanding a sovereign Khasi homeland in Meghalaya.

Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is porous, hilly and unfenced and prone to frequent infiltration.

--IANS

rrk/mr


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