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Morally wrong to negotiate with militants, says Meghalaya home minister James K. Sangma

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Engagement possible with militants only if they give up violence & surrender, said Sangma at the sixth edition of Democracy Wall.

New Delhi: Meghalaya Home Minister James K. Sangma said Wednesday that the government wanted no negotiations with militants and reaching out to them would be an ‘acknowledgement’ of their beliefs.

“If they carry on with their violent activities, I think it’s morally wrong on our parts to call them for talks,” he said at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall held at Shillong’s North Eastern Hill University.

It is only when militants give up arms and surrender that the government, he said, will engage with them and ensure they get the promised rehabilitation packages.

Sangma further admitted that militancy in the state has survived because of political patronage.

“But things are changing now. One of the biggest reasons why we have been able to solve militancy in Meghalaya is because it took the form of a social movement,” he added.

Sangma emphasised that today the youth’s aspirations have evolved and they no longer ‘enjoy living in jungles’. In Meghalaya, alienation and deprivation has led many to join insurgency.

The government has so far maintained that peace is needed for development, but Sangma said the new generation of politicians believe it is development that will usher in the peace.

On Dynastic Politics

Sangma admitted that children from political families have an advantage since they are ‘groomed’ for a politician’s job since an early age. In Meghalaya, National People’s Party (NPP) and Congress are two ‘families’ which are ‘running the entire show’, he said.

“Elections are rigorous and gruelling. It is not easy to win an election. You must have some kind of leadership qualities, connect with the grassroots, excellent PR skills – these qualities helped people coming from political families,” he added.

Sangma however urged the youth to participate in and embrace politics so that people from different backgrounds are seen.

“Only one percent of you will think of going into politics,” he said.

On breaking-up states

Sangma suggested breaking up large states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh into smaller states to ease administration. He however acknowledged that it might lead to an endless cycle of creating fractions.

“Once given a separate state, from that state another voice will emerge that distribution of development is not equitable, then you keep breaking that state,” he said.

On Transgender rights

Sangma considers the issue of transgender rights close to his heart. However, he said that legislation was not possible at the state level and had to come through the parliament.

Sangma also holds the portfolios of law, power, food civil supplies and consumer affairs, besides home.

Democracy Wall is a free-speech campus initiative, the sixth edition of which was held at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Sangma , rapper Kehko Thiamkho, actor Nimrat Kaur, constitutor Meghnad, comedian Abhineet Mishra, Founder of Youth Ki Awaaz, Anshul Tewari, and Patricia Mukhim, Editor of Shillong Times were speakers at the event.

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