All militant groups welcome for talks, says Assam Chief Minister

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday discussed with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi the strategy to check Maoists in Assam and the alleged game plan of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to involve itself in such activities.

Emerging from a review meeting, Mr. Gogoi told journalists that the ISI was trying to involve itself as Maoists were expanding their activities to some districts and forging links with insurgent groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

Asked if any operation against Maoists would be launched, the Chief Minister said they would adopt some measures to curb Maoists' expansion.

The two leaders also discussed about the insurgent groups of Assam and other north-eastern States still having their bases in Myanmar and about the dialogue between with that country to jointly address the problem. Mr. Gogoi said that the north-east insurgent groups had their bases in some areas of Myanmar where that government still did not have control. These areas were controlled by Myanmar rebel groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

On the issue of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Mr. Gogoi backed the Centre. “We need cooperation not just between the Centre and the States within the country at the national level to deal with the problem of terrorism. We also need cooperation at the international level.”

Issues such as the rehabilitation of surrendered militants, ongoing peace process with ULFA, with both factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland, both factions of the Dima Halam Daogah and the Karbi Longri N.C. Hills Liberation Front also formed part of the agenda of the review meeting. “We have kept the door of negotiations open to all groups, including Paresh Barua-led faction of ULFA,” Mr. Gogoi said.

The Chief Minister urged Mr. Chidambaram to resend the Central paramilitary forces deployed from Assam for Assembly elections in five States. However, the Home Ministry feels that as the number of insurgent-related incidents had declined and the situation improved the State does not need these companies now.

PTI reports:

In Meghalaya, Mr. Chidambaram reviewed the progress of work on the international boundary.

“We have taken a decision to accelerate the process and we want to complete it as much as possible before monsoon sets in,” he told journalists at Shillong.

He said Phase II of laying of roads and provision of floodlighting would begin.

The Minister met members of the Coordination Committee on Border Fencing, a conglomeration of NGOs opposing border fencing.

While the Centre wants to construct the fence 150 yards inside and away from the zero line, the Committee has been pressing for fencing at the actual line to prevent loss of agricultural land.

The Committee is also against the Indo-Bangladesh land pact signed by both countries in September last. They said the border survey conducted by the Joint Boundary Working Group was done without consulting land owners, the traditional bodies and the Committee.

On December 9, the Centre agreed to a suggestion made by the Meghalaya government to undertake single-row fencing along the zero line in those areas on the Indo-Bangladesh border, where people are opposing the 150-yard buffer.

Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, parts of which are still unfenced and plagued with bad terrain and infiltration.

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