Most wanted insurgent leader and general secretary of the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Cheristerfield Thangkhiew alias Bah Che on Thursday decided to give up arms and vowed to join the mainstream.
Wanted in more than two-dozen cases of killings and kidnappings, Thangkhiew on Thursday afternoon surrendered before the Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Prestone Tynsong in the presence of DGP RP Agarwal and other top police officials.
While Meghalaya government led by Conrad K. Sangma has been trying to bring an end to the three-decade old problem of insurgency in the state, Thangkhiew’s surrender is a major blow to the banned HNLC.
Thangkhiew was a founder member of HNLC, and has been waging a bush war against the state in close coordination with other fraternal insurgent outfits of the northeast. He has been operating in close coordination with the NSCN (IM), NLFT, NDFB and the ULFA.
The HNLC leader was also instrumental is setting up of more than six training camps in Sylhet and Maulavibazar districts of Bangladesh. Taking advantage of the porous border, Thangkhiew and his comrade-in-arms have been criss-crossing the Bangladesh border.
Congratulating Thangkhiew for the decision to give up arms, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said the surrender will herald the era of permanent peace in Meghalaya.
Earlier, the founder chairman of HNLC, Julias K. Dorphang had also surrendered and contested election from Ri Bhoi district. Dorphang was a member of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, and is now in jail for raping a 14-year old girl.
Thankghiew’s surrender is a big blow to HNLC, which has been fighting for a sovereign homeland for the tribal Khasis of Meghalaya. After Dorphang and Thangkhiew’s surrenders, the only top leader who is at large is the commander-in-chief of the outfit, Bobby Marwein.
51-year-old Thangkhiew, son of Stevenson Thangkhiew of Mawlai Kynton Masar, joined HALC in August 1987 and held the post of general secretary. He was actively involved in political mobilisation.
Later when HALC was disbanded, a new rebel outfit–HNLC was floated in 1997 and he became its general secretary. In 2004, he left Meghalaya for Bangladesh and never returned till his surrender on Thursday.