Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has ruled out any idea of altering the deal that concluded the first phase of negotiations with Assam over the disputed border.
The deal was signed in March, much to the frustration, anger and sense of betrayal of many residents who wanted to be part of Meghalaya but have now found their villages at the mercy of Assam.
Yesterday in Shillong, residents of these border villages backed by pressure groups launched a massive protest in the heart of the state capital.
Today, Sangma met with the leaders of these pressure groups to try to get them to see the side of the government. The government would like to end the first-phase controversy so that it can proceed with the second-phase talks, which started on Sunday in Guwahati.
As it has done in the past, the CM faulted the previous Congress-led government for not including the affected villages in a 2011 list of villages officially claimed by Meghalaya.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sangma said he had listened to pressure groups’ concerns and assured them he would do what he can, but reiterated that, while frustrating for him, his government had to accept the 2011 report as the basis for the talks.
“It was a huge challenge, but we had to move forward with the 2011 report. They (the NGOs) understood earlier but the concerns about people’s will still exist. People want to be in Meghalaya and they would like to see if some steps can be taken to work in these areas,” the CM said.
Lobby groups, however, were less than pleased, with the Federation of Khasi, Jaiñtia and Garo Peoples (FKJGP) saying they would continue to pursue the inclusion of these villages in Meghalaya. There should be no problem getting them back as Assam never claimed them in the first place, he claimed.
The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) said the government should take into account historical facts, ethnicity and the views of the self-governing district councils and other stakeholders when pursuing discussions on the border.
“We can see right now that there is so much turmoil and resentment. The CM explained to us how and on what basis the decision was taken,” said a KSU leader. and Meghalaya are in India, so I think there is a way to solve this problem and we leave it to the wisdom of the government how to solve this problem.