A former tribal militant leader in the Northeast said on Sunday that he was willing to mediate with the region's separatist groups for bringing an end to five decades of violent insurrection.
"Given a chance, I will be able to convince the underground groups into joining the peace process by holding talks with the authorities," said Bijoy Hrangkhawl, former chief of the outlawed Tripura National Volunteers.
"We know how to go about this task, as we once took up arms and fought in the jungles," Hrangkhawl told Indo-Asian News Service.
Led by Hrangkhawl, the militants of the TNV, fighting for an independent tribal homeland in Tripura, surrendered en masse before former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 after waging a war for 10 years.
"The people who are being entrusted by the Indian government to mediate with the underground groups do not know the A-B-C of insurgency," said Hrangkhawl.
"But people like us who know the ground realities are never given the responsibility of brokering peace."
He was referring to K Padmanabhaiah, the government's chief interlocutor for peace talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).
Hrangkhawl, during his days in the jungles, maintained close links with the region's other separatist groups.
"I still know a number of militant leaders. During my time they were junior cadres. I am very hopeful of giving the peace process a kick-start if given an offer by the central government," he said.
The former rebel leader said the growing alienation among the tribal population was the reason behind the rise in insurgency.
He said New Delhi should announce a well-defined rehabilitation package for rebels willing to surrender.
"Let the government first announce a package. If required we can assist them in formulating a practical and attractive scheme," Hrangkhawl said.
Indo-Asian News Service
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