Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday dropped hints that the government might respond to the demands for release of jailed leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom(ULFA) to facilitate peace talks and said that the government would talk to them with dignity if and when the militant outfit agrees to talk.
“Unless we get a formal communication [expressing willingness to talk], we cannot say anything. But when they [agree to] talk, we will talk with dignity,” replied Mr. Gogoi when journalists asked him if his government would free the jailed ULFA leaders as they had said that talks were not possible with the outfit leaders in jail.
There are eight top ULFA leaders currently lodged in Guwahati and Tezpur jails. Of them seven leaders including the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa are lodged in Central Jail, Guwahati here while ULFA ideologue Bhimkanta Buragohain is lodged in Tezpur jail.
Initiation of dialogue
Mr. Gogoi said that an attempt was made to initiate dialogue with the ULFA and there were some positive developments and positive signals.
The Chief Minister ruled out dialogue on the sovereignty issue demanded by the ULFA. “There was no point wasting time on discussing a demand which had been rejected by the people of Assam several times by overwhelmingly participating and exercising their voting rights in successive elections,” he added.
He reiterated his earlier stand if the self-styled Commander-in-Chief of ULFA Paresh Barua comes forward for peace talks it would be good and even if he did not come forward the government could still hold talks with other leaders and Barua’s followers.
Mr. Gogoi claimed rank and file of insurgent outfits in the State were demoralised now and they have started returning to the mainstream as they had realised the futility of insurgency. The fear of psychosis that gripped the people had gone, he claimed and added that the positive mindset of the people had helped his government to push through the development agenda.
Demand for separate State
Asked to comment on the demand for separate State raised by various organisation of the Bodos, Koch-Rajbangshis, Karbis, Dimasas and if the government considered that the revived statehood movements were fall out of shortcomings in provisions of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule, Mr. Gogoi said that there was always scope for giving more autonomy if they seek more power and more autonomy.
When his attention was drawn to agitation programmes like indefinite blockade of railway line and national highway started by the Separate State Demand Committee for separate Kamatapur State and the possibility of such programmes disrupting supplies of essential commodities to the entire northeast region, the Chief Minister said government had been trying to persuade the movement leaders give up the statehood demand and under no circumstances the government would allow them to disrupt the supplies and transport system.