Explosion in Assam, people defy I-day boycott call

August 15th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Aug 15 (IANS) A bomb exploded in Assam’s Chirang district early Friday even as people in the northeastern region defied a shutdown called by separatists to protest the celebration of India’s Independence Day. A police spokesman said the blast took place near Kajal Gaon village, about 120 km from the state’s main city Guwahati.

“There were no casualties as the blast took place in the early hours when there were no people around although the explosion occurred near the venue of an Independence Day parade,” a police official said.

“It is heartening to see people attending Independence Day functions despite calls by some militant groups to boycott the celebrations,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

At least six outlawed rebel groups, including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), called a 17-hour shutdown from 1 a.m. Friday in the states of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura.

“There is an open defiance to the boycott call in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur. People are coming in large numbers to participate in the celebrations,” an official said.

“Violence is not an answer to any of the problems. We once again appeal to groups like ULFA to come for peace talks,” Gogoi said in his Independence Day speech in Guwahati.

Chief ministers in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura 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 seven northeastern states 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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