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North East

Urged Centre to finish parleys with pro-talks faction before starting dialogue with ULFA(I): Himanta


Duliajan (Assam), January 4: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said that he has requested the Centre to complete the ongoing peace parleys with the pro-talks faction of ULFA before beginning dialogue with Paresh Barua-led ULFA (Independent).
He again made peace overtures to ULFA(I) and appealed to the militant outfit to not call for bandh on the forthcoming Republic Day.
“The Assam government is not dealing with the pro-talks faction of ULFA. The Centre is directly in touch with them. But I have put an informal request with the Union government to complete parleys with that faction before beginning dialogue with ULFA(I).
“If there are too many factions of the same outfit in talks, like in Nagaland, it becomes too complex,” Sarma told reporters at the end of a two-day conference of superintendents of police here.
The chief minister’s statement comes a day after the leaders of the ULFA pro-talks faction alleged that the Centre was insincere in resolving their issues.
The pro-talks faction alleged that there has been “not much progress” in the peace talks with it since the Narendra Modi government came to power, though the negotiations had reached the final stages during former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure.
On peace parleys with ULFA(I), Sarma said that communication channels are open.
“The ULFA issue is a complex one which has extended over a long period of time and caused many casualties. Both sides have compulsions which is delaying a resolution to it,” he said.
Appreciating the ULFA(I) for not calling a bandh on Independence Day last year, in a departure from the norm, and being in a ceasefire since May, Sarma also appealed to the outfit to refrain from calling a bandh on Republic Day also.
The chief minister, after taking oath on May 10, had appealed to the ULFA(I) to come forward for peace talks and resolve the 42-year old insurgency in the state.
The hardliner faction of the outfit had responded with a declaration of unilateral ceasefire the same month for three months, which it has been extending since.
While terming the unilateral ceasefire a “positive step”, Sarma said the government has also reciprocated the gesture by not engaging in any “direct conflict” with the outfit in the last eight months.
On the demand for withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state, Sarma said, “There will be some rationalising in its enforcement when it comes for review. But we cannot expect a complete withdrawal at once. This debate will come to an end very soon,” he said.
The current term of the AFSPA in Assam will end on February 28.
The AFSPA has often been branded as “draconian” by political parties of the Northeast because of the special powers it grants to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas” and its withdrawal has been demanded by civil society groups and rights activists. It was imposed in Assam in November 1990 and has been extended every six months since then after a review by the state government.
The demand for repeal of AFSPA from the Northeast gained strength in December last year after 13 civilians were gunned down by the Army in a botched anti-insurgency operation in Nagaland and another person was killed in subsequent violence. The demand was made to the Centre even by the chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya.
The Act is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area), Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam, and is extended every six months after review. (PTI)