People defy boycott call to celebrate R-Day in northeast

January 26th, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Jan 26 (IANS) People in the northeastern states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur defied a 17-hour general strike called by separatist rebels to boycott Monday’s Republic Day by joining the celebrations, officials said.”Despite a boycott call by militants it is heartening to find people coming to attend the Republic Day functions across the region,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said in the state’s main city of Guwahati.

Four separatist groups in Assam, Manipur and Tripura have announced a 17-hour general strike from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to enforce the boycott call and warned of action if people violated their diktat.

The militant groups that called for a boycott of the Republic Day celebrations include the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), fighting for a separate homeland comprising parts of Assam and West Bengal, the Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF), an umbrella group of several Manipuri rebel groups, and the Tripura People’s Democratic Front (TPDF).

“I appeal to all militant groups to shun the path of violence and join the mainstream by holding negotiations to settle their grievances,” Assam Governor Shiv Charan Mathur said in his Republic Day speech in Guwahati.

“People in large numbers across Tripura and Manipur also participated in the celebrations defying the rebel boycott call,” an official said.

The run up to the Republic Day was peaceful compared to previous years, with an estimated 50,000 security personnel deployed in the three northeastern states to foil any terror attacks. Regional heads in the insurgency-hit states of Manipur and Tripura also appealed to rebel groups to come for peace talks with the government.

“Our doors for talks with militant groups are open. Problems can be resolved through negotiations and not through the barrel of the gun,” Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said.

Militant groups in the northeast have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi’s rule over the oil and timber-rich region.

There are some 30 rebel groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

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