HNLC leader Cheristerfield Thankhiew with Meghalya Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong in Shillong on Thursday. Image credit: Northeast Now

Hynñiewtrep National Liberation Council (HNCL) ‘general secretary’  Cheristerfield Thangkhiew who surrendered before Meghalaya government on Thursday slammed the Congress and alleged the grand old party was responsible for creating problems in the hill state.

Thangkhiew said that he did not regret over the loss of precious lives which include the security personnel, HNLC cadres and the members of public when he and other HNLC leaders fought a “losing battle” with the government in the past decades.

The HNLC has been fighting for a sovereign “Hynñiewtrep Land” for the Khasi and Jaiñtia tribes and does not want to be part of the Indian Union.

“I did not regret at all …and I did not regret for joining the HNLC and leaving it now,” Thangkhiew told reporters after he surrendered before Deputy Chief Minister, Prestone Tynsong at the police headquarters here.

Thangkhiew did not surrender any arms or ammunition, though he claimed that all his weapons were left in his hideout in Bangladesh and he did not dare carrying them along, as he feared arrest by Bangladeshi forces.

Sources said Thangkhiew crossed over to India a few days ago after which the surrender ceremony was arranged at the state police headquarters on Thursday.

“Thangkhiew came via Nohksiar, a Khasi village in Bangladesh and crossed over to Dawki in Meghalaya via the porous border,” sourced said.

The 51-year-old Thangkhiew has been hiding in Bangladesh for over two decades and he was the founding member of the HNLC along with the then ‘chairman’, Julias K Dorphang and ‘commander-in chief’ Bobby Marweiñ.

Dorphang deserted the HNLC following internal feud, and surrendered before the then chief minister D.D. Lapang on July 24, 2007.

Thangkhiew further slammed the Congress in Meghalaya for not “serious” in holding talks with the HNLC.

“During the Congress-led government, I personally had a telephonic conversation with the former Home Minister, Roshan Wajri, but the Congress party and the previous government did not take it seriously,” Thangkhiew alleged.

He also said that since the inception of the Indian Union, all problems were created by the Indian National Congress. “The Congress was not serious in solving problems all those years,” he alleged.

On the stand of the Meghalaya government that it would talks to militant organisations only if they give up arms, Thangkhiew said, that the HNLC had proposed for unconditional peace talks, but the government was not serious, and no invitation was sent to the organization, except through the media.

“Calling the HNLC for talks only through the media will reach nowhere,” he said.

Whether he would join politics like Dorphang, Thangkhiew said that he wanted to continue serving the people and serving the people does not mean only as an MLA or MDC. Thangkhiew did not want to use the word “surrender” and instead chose to say that he has “retired” from the HNLC.

“I have retired from the organization. If did not return to my own land, it means that I have retired and live outside (Bangladesh). As I have returned to my own land, I have to come through the government,” he said.

The former HNLC leader also denied the fight for leadership between him and Bobby Marweiñ as the main reason where the HNLC could not elect a “chairman” after Dorphang deserted the organization in 2007.

“It was my personal decision to leave after I decided to retire from the organization. I have been telling the members that I would retire from the organization. There was no enmity or differences within the organization and I still have contacts and good relationship with the HNLC cadres,” Thangkhiew said.

Whether he would play the role of negotiator to bring all HNLC leaders and cadres, Thangkhiew said, he was ready to play his role if the government needed him.

Whether his surrender indicates the end of HNLC, he said, “I cannot comment about this, since I have retired from the organization. I am no longer with the organization now, but the HNLC still has leaders and cadres.” He did not want to reveal the strength of the HNLC at present.

Many HNLC cadres who surrendered before the police in the past had revealed that HNLC cadres in Bangladesh did not work for achieving the objective of the organization but they ended their living as daily labourers in somebody’s quarry, betel leaf and betel nut plantations in Bangladesh.

“To be in HNLC it does not mean carrying arms only arms. When you join the HNLC, you have to do all types of work in order to survive and you should know cooking, and all other works too,” he said.

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