Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Assam: ULFA - And a right to be heard


'The ULFA is fighting for 25 years on the issue of sovereignty. We just cannot ignore it. We have to listen to this aspect at the negotiating table and find out why they are fighting. Whether they get sovereignty or not is a different matter, the whole process must be transparent and we must hold talks with an open mind,'... 'Violence cannot be tolerated. Insurgency must come to an end in Assam and for this talks must begin,' Dr Goswami said. She had recently announced that some top ULFA leaders, including the banned outfit's commander-in-chief Paresh Barua had contacted her and expressed the desire that she should take the initiative to get the process of dialogue started.
Discussions on sovereignty issue a must for ULFA talks

Guwahati Oct 25: Jnanpith winner, Dr Indira Goswami, popularly called Mamoni Raisom Goswami, today said sovereignty must form a part of the core discussions with the banned United Liberation Front of Asom for lasting peace in Assam.Dr Goswami, who will submit an appeal to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh soon on initiating talks with the ULFA, told PTI over telephone from New Delhi that the issue of sovereignty must be heard during the talks process to find out a permanent solution to the problem of insurgency.

'The ULFA is fighting for 25 years on the issue of sovereignty. We just cannot ignore it. We have to listen to this aspect at the negotiating table and find out why they are fighting. Whether they get sovereignty or not is a different matter, the whole process must be transparent and we must hold talks with an open mind,' Dr Goswami said.

'Violence cannot be tolerated. Insurgency must come to an end in Assam and for this talks must begin,' she said.

Asked when she would submit the report to the Prime Minister and what would be its content, Dr Goswami said, 'We are trying to fix up an appointment with him and I will announce the contents only after I submit the appeal to him.'

Asked whether she is willing to be a mediator for talks with the outfit, she said, 'Only if the ULFA wants it. But from my side I cannot say anything at the moment.'

Dr Goswami said she had witnessed from very close quarters the devastating effect of insurgency which has halted the education, development and progress of the state.

'Every year thousands of students flock to Delhi for education from Assam and they face a lot of hardship. Insurgency in the state has adversely affected education and this reflected in the overall progress of the state,' she said.

Moreover, the roads are bad and there is practically no development. The people have suffered due to insurgency which must be resolved as early as possible, the noted literatteur said.

She had recently announced that some top ULFA leaders, including the banned outfit's commander-in-chief Paresh Barua had contacted her and expressed the desire that she should take the initiative to get the process of dialogue started.

The Chief Minister, Mr Tarun Gogoi said today Dr Goswami had telephoned him and conveyed the outfit's desire for talks and that there was no problem from the government's side for talks. 'But it will be very good if she could bring them to the negotiating table.'

He, however, made it clear that the government's desire for negotiations with the outfit does not mean softening its stand against insurgency. 'We will not spare anybody indulging in violence.'

Mr Gogoi said he has written to National Democratic Front of Bodoland chairman, D R Nabla to select its representative for possible tripartite talks involving the outfit, Centre and the state government.

Mr Gogoi told reporters here that he has sent a letter today to the NDFB chairman and after they convey their decision, the state government will decide on its representatives.

'I am happy with the outcome of my discussion with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil who has given us the green signal to go ahead with the peace process with the NDFB,' he said.

The Chief Minister said the state government has not asked any mediator for such negotiations and ruled out that the issue of sovereignty will be discussed in the parleys.

Asked about the possible venue of the talks, Mr Gogoi said it could be New Delhi or anywhere else that the NDFB would like to discuss.

About the modalities of the talks, the Chief Minister said these have not been chalked out. 'Let the talks first start, then we will see'.

PTI 26/10/2004