Pro-talks ULFA leaders mobilise masses for peace

July 9th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, July 9 (IANS) Leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) who favour talks with the government are mobilizing people in their quest for peace in Assam, defying the group’s elusive top brass that has asked the Assamese not to be ’swayed’ by them. Leaders of the ULFA’s crack ‘28th battalion’, who a fortnight back announced a ceasefire, are gearing up for a massive public rally in the state’s far-eastern town of Sadiya Thursday where they would explain their reasons to call a truce.

A similar rally held by the pro-talks leaders Tuesday at Kakopathar, in eastern Tinsukhia district, was attended by over 5,000 people who gathered to listen to the rebel commanders, ignoring a call by the ULFA leadership to boycott the meeting.

“Our decision to call a truce with the authorities is not meant to split the ULFA. The writing on the wall is for peace and our central leaders need to know the mood of the people. We are trying to facilitate a direct dialogue between our leaders and the government,” Jiten Dutta, a pro-talks commander of the ‘28th battalion’ told IANS from an undisclosed location.

The fact that a large number of local people had attended the meeting at Kakopathar Tuesday and the enthusiasm among the masses for the meeting at Sadiya Thursday indicates that people want an end to violence, experts on the Assam situation said.

“The people have actually defied the ULFA by attending the rally called by the pro-talk group. Now, if the ULFA leadership fails to respond according to the mood of the people, which is for peace, they may be totally isolated soon,” said Topon Lal Baruah, president of the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies, a think-tank.

The ULFA top leaders, who live in self-exile in Bangladesh, reiterated their belligerent posture this week by expelling three pro-talks leaders from the outfit.

“We have decided to expel Mrinal Hazarika, Jiten Dutta and Jun Bhuyan with immediate effect for violating the ULFA constitution and for breaking rules by announcing a truce with the authorities without approval,” the group’s elusive chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said in a statement e-mailed to journalists Monday.

The position taken by the pro-talks group has actually put the ULFA in sort of a spot, say experts.

Firstly, the pro-talks leaders are still maintaining that they have not triggered a split in ULFA. Secondly, by taking the issue to the masses, they are threatening to take the lead in the search for peace, a move that could well isolate the ULFA’s top leadership.

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