Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed confidence on Saturday that insurgent outfits that were yet to open talks would respond to the initiatives of the UPA government at the Centre and the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam to redress their grievances.

Speaking at a public meeting organised to mark the completion of the first year of the Congress-led government's third consecutive term, Ms. Gandhi said most insurgent outfits, having realised the futility of violence, entered into talks with the governments.

People in large numbers turned up for the meeting at Sarusajai Stadium, amid a 12-hour State-wide bandh called by the Paresh Barua faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) against Ms. Gandhi's visit. The bandh affected normal life.

Lauding the Congress-Bodoland People's Front (BPF) government for making rapid strides in development, Ms. Gandhi said Assam was the first State to bring every high school student under a computer literacy programme. Four bridges would be constructed across the Brahmaputra, the State's lifeline. Assam farmers scripted history through a record production of rice and vegetables.

All these came after the precarious situation that prevailed when the Congress formed the government 11 years ago. “The treasury was empty, there was no money even to pay salaries to employees, development works came to a standstill, there was no sign of any rural development, roads were in dilapidated condition, people did not dare to venture out of their homes after dusk, and there was a flight of business…”

Mr. Gogoi said doors were still open for the Paresh Barua faction to join the talks, but at the same time, his government would not let the faction or any other outfit to perpetrate violence.

Hagrama Mahilari, chief executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and BPF president, expressed the hope that talks would be started soon with the Ranjan Daimary-led faction of the National Democratic Front for Bodoland (NDFB) to ensure permanent peace in the Bodoland areas, as negotiations had already been under way with the NDFB Progressive. He was upset at attempts in some quarters to bandy a story that non-Bodos in the BTC areas were deprived of the benefits of development; the fruits of development had been enjoyed by both the Bodos and the non-Bodos.

Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region Paban Singh Ghatowar and Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhubanesar Kalita spoke.