PCG wants peace process to resume in Assam

June 3rd, 2008 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) Days after Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that militant groups, especially the United Liberation Front Of Assam (ULFA), would have to “surrender their arms and shun violence” as a pre-requisite for talks, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, mediator of the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), is all set to appeal to both the government and ULFA to restart the stalled peace talks. “Within a week the PCG will formally appeal to both ULFA and the government to restart the peace process which has hit a roadblock,” Goswami told IANS on phone from Guwahati.

“Both the parties are currently maintaining silence with respect to the peace process. The PCG strongly wants the talks to restart once again. Unless both the parties agree to listen to each other, there seems to be no end to the almost three-decades-long insurgency in Assam.”

In September 2006, ULFA declared the formation of 11-member group PCG as an initiative to hold negotiations with the Indian government.

Two rounds of talks were held between the PCG and the government that began in October 2005.

The third round of talks, scheduled for May 2006, failed to take place as mistrust prevailed between both the groups over ULFA’s contentious demand of sovereignty for Assam.

The noted litterateur is miffed that the government has put up preconditions for the talks to go forward.

“The central government has deviated from its initial position of discussing all the core issues that include the demand for sovereignty of Assam by ULFA. Both the parties have to sit at the negotiating table with an open mind to carry the peace process ahead,” Goswami said.

Sources in the chief minister’s office maintained that Gogoi was ready for talks with ULFA, provided the group shunned violence and carried forward the talks within the parameters of the constitution.

After the Unified Command Structure (UCS) meeting held at Dispur last week Gogoi said that the talks with ULFA would resume only after the militant group dropped the idea of demand of sovereignty.

“We want to make it clear to all rebel groups of the state that peace talks can be held only within the framework of the Constitution,” Gogoi said.

“Till the time militant groups shun violence, the question of cessation of army operations doesn’t arise. Army operations are always there and will continue.”

At the first meeting between the PCG and the government, the group put forward six demands as conditions for talks including the demand for a sovereign and independent Assam. But with the two sides not being able to meet each other even half way, the talks as well as the ceasefire agreement broke down.

“ULFA continued with unleashing violence in a series of bomb blasts during the Republic Day celebrations in 2006. With it the peace process hit a roadblock,” said an intelligence official.

As the peace process derailed without any results, the validity of the PCG was also put under scanner.

“Achieving peace is our mission and we’re continuing with our effort. After last year’s appeal in September, we are going to appeal to them again soon,” Goswami said.

According to government records, over 10,000 people have died in rebel violence in the state since 1979.

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