Shillong: The central government has sought the views of the Meghalaya government before declaring the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) an outlawed rebel outfit, an official said Tuesday.
"We have asked for comments of the Meghalaya government to impose a ban on the GNLA after assessing its terrorist activities," joint secretary in the home ministry (in-charge of North East Affairs) Shambu Singh said.
The GNLA, which is headed by police officer-turned outlaw Champion R Sangma, has unleashed a reign of terror in the three impoverished districts of Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya.
Over 20 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the Garo Hills in the last one year by GNLA rebels. On Monday evening, four police personnel and a civilian were killed and two policemen were critically injured by the rebels at Nengpatchi in East Garo Hills district.
"We are expecting the Meghalaya government to submit their views and recommendation before declaring it (GNLA) as an outlawed outfit," Singh said.
Meghalaya home department official said the state government would submit its views as early as possible.
"We are still examining their (GNLA) activities and threats before recommending the central government to impose a ban," said a Meghalaya government official on condition of anonymity.
Champion, who claims to be fighting for a `separate Garoland` in the western area of Meghalaya, has been camping in Bangladesh for several months in search of support.
The outfit has also forged an alliance with the Bangladesh-based rebel group, A`chik Special Dragon Party.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is porous, hilly and unfenced and prone to frequent infiltration.
It has forged an operational alliance with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
Both the Assam-based rebel groups have transformed the GNLA into a violent group with access to sophisticated arms and ammunitions.
The GNLA has over 100 rebels, including a few women cadres, operating in the three impoverished districts. The outfit has procured a cache of HK53 rifles and explosives to add to their arsenal.
The outfit had earlier slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 1 crore on government officials, ministers, legislators and businessmen.
The Garo Hills region is being used as a safe haven by various northeast-based militant groups.
With the outlawed A`chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) on a ceasefire agreement with the central government, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the ULFA spawned several militant groups with the main intention of exploiting the lucrative extortion in the coal-rich areas of the Garo Hills region.
The GNLA, which is one among the smaller militant outfits, is believed to have been formed with the help of the NSCN-IM to extort money.
Another outlawed outfit, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), which has been demanding a sovereign Khasi homeland in Meghalaya, is currently on the backfoot with most of its cadres, including its chairman Julius K. Dorphang surrendering to the government.