Northeast Now had recently emailed a questionnaire to Saiñkupar Nongtraw, general secretary of the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) raising some important issues.
On behalf of the outfit, Saiñkupar Nongtraw has responded to the questionnaire.
Northeast Now: In November 2019, your organisation had offered to come forward for peace talks with the government. Did you get any response from either the state government or the Centre?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Our first offer started during the year 2014 after the Governor of Meghalaya invited us to come forward to the negotiating table. We had also declared a unilateral ceasefire from our end proving our sincerity. But the Government of Meghalaya kept on delaying until everything was derailed.
Northeast Now: Some political parties/organisations in Meghalaya had welcomed your offer for peace talks; did any of those organisations or political parties extend any helping hand to you to establish the initial links with the Ministry of Home Affairs?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Off course some political parties and pressure groups had expressed their willingness to become a mediator between us and the Government but nothing ever materialized.
Northeast Now: If there is no positive response from the government on your peace offer, what do you plan to do?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Whether the government accepts or rejects our peace offer, it shall depend merely upon the government’s sincerity as to give peace a chance or continue the war. Our cadres will ensure that the motto of HNLC lives forever.
Northeast Now: Do you think you can achieve your goal of a sovereign homeland for tribal Khasi people?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Please be clear we are not demanding a sovereign homeland for “Khasi” tribal people only, but a homeland for the “Hynniewtrep”. Neither are we looking for any kind of separation nor integration with India, but our struggle is to achieve recognition within the Union of India or without.
Northeast Now: You are carrying out armed movement for such a long time. How long can you sustain the movement?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: It’s 2020, we started our armed struggle since 1987 …Many of our cadres were martyred and we believe that nothing worth gaining is ever gained without effort. We cannot achieve our goals without striving and suffering for it. 33 years and still counting, Long Live HNLC.
Northeast Now: Meghalaya government always raises serious questions about the capabilities/strength of your organisation. How strong is your organisation?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Unlike other armed groups of Meghalaya who had disbanded….HNLC has been a thorn in the flesh of the Meghalaya government….questioning our strength is like questioning their weakness for the inability to bring us to our knees. We shall prove ourselves once again to be able to defend our Hynniewtrep land, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of injustice, even if it is necessary for years, fighting is at the core of our hearts. The strength of a fruit tree does not depend upon its branches but rather in its roots. The roots cannot be seen but the effects of the roots are visible at the fruits of the tree.
Northeast Now: How many armed cadres do you have at present? (Please send us some latest photos of a group of your cadres).
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Our cadres are spread throughout the length and breadth of the Hynniewtrep Land, a single frame (photo) is unable to capture the number of our cadres.
Northeast Now: Meghalaya Police claims that all the top leaders of your organisation are “hiding” in Bangladesh. Is it true?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: Well that is a protocol to be maintained. Our leadership is not only confined to Bangladesh, and that is upon the wisdom of the leadership.
Northeast Now: Even Pa’iem Wickliffe Syiem had left Meghalaya, and had settled near Sunamganj (now in Bangladesh). He could not achieve what he had dreamt. Don’t you think your movement is also is heading towards total uncertainty?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: The question of uncertainty does not arise here. Subash Chandra Bose, the freedom fighter went to Germany in exile. He believed that it was only through armed struggle that India could ever attain its freedom. The struggle of Subash Chandra Bose did not last for long, but his legacy still lives. The struggle of Paiem Wickliffe and the HNLC is the same and, we are here to create history. Not all battles are fought to be won, sometimes we know that we may lose the battle, but our pride is to have fought on the right side knowing its consequences. Paiem Wickliffe dared to dream and we dare to see his dream turning into a reality.
Northeast Now: You planted IEDs in coke factories East Jaintia Hills and West Khasi Hills districts during the last few days. What is the message you want to send to the people of Meghalaya?
Saiñkupar Nongtraw: The message is clear that perpetrators will not be spared, even if the law cannot reach them our organisation will not turn a blind eye to illegal activities within the Hynniewtrep Land. If the government is unwilling or unable to bring about justice to the Hynniewtrep land, our people have their right to protect themselves, as the saying goes, that self-preservation is the first law of nature.