Assam groups push for talks with ULFA

June 20th, 2008 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 20 (IANS) Various political parties and other groups in Assam Friday reiterated their demand for peace talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) even as the state government toughened its stand on the rebels. Those present at a citizens’ meet here unanimously said the government could not hope to resolve the three-decade long insurgency through military means.

“History has recorded enough instances to show that insurgency problems have been resolved through political will and initiative,” said Noni Gopal Mahanta, who heads the Peace and Conflict Studies Centre at Gauhati University.

The citizens’ meet, attended by the representatives of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Asom Gana Parishad, student groups and rights bodies, besides academics, was held after the Assam government hardened its stand on dealing with insurgency in the state of 26 million people.

It was organised by a student group, Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad.

Earlier this week, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said henceforth the government would entertain overtures from rebel groups for peace talks only if they laid down arms. The chief minister also said in no uncertain terms that the talks must be within the ambit of the constitution and not through any intermediaries.

These are seen as tough conditions that may not encourage the rebels to end their violence and resort to a peace dialogue.

“The chief minister does not seem to be interested in resolving the ULFA issue through talks,” said a person who attended the meeting.

M.A. Bora, a leader of the ruling Congress, who was present said the party was keen on reaching a Mizoram type solution to the problem of insurgency in Assam.

“We shall brief the government about the observations in the meeting,” said Bora.

The Mizo insurgency was resolved in 1986 after two decades following a peace accord between the rebel Mizo National Front (MNF) and the central government.

The Assam insurgency has claimed over 10,000 lives in two decades.

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