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‘Without ULFA (I) Participation Talks Meaningless’

Oppn Parties, Civil Society Sceptical On Proposed ULFA Accord, Terms It As BJP’s ‘Election Agenda’

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GUWAHATI, Dec 28: Opposition parties and civil society in Assam are sceptical about the relevance of the proposed accord with the ULFA pro-talks faction.


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The accord is set to be signed in New Delhi on December 29, but there are concerns that it will not bring peace to the state as long as the ULFA (Independent) does not participate in discussions. Critics argue that this accord is simply an election agenda of the ruling BJP at both the central and state levels.


Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Debabrata Saikia told PTI that a permanent solution to the long-standing issue ‘will be possible only when all sections of the outfit come for talks. I request chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to ensure that ULFA(I) led by Paresh Barua is also brought to the discussion table’.


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“We welcome discussions and hope for a solution to the long-standing dispute. This is nothing new as this initiative was taken in 2011 during the Congress regime but after the BJP came to power in 2014, they did nothing to take the peace process forward,” he said.


“The timing of the signing of the accord, therefore, has created doubts in the mind of the people of Assam. We suspect that it may be just an election gimmick before the Lok Sabha polls in 2024,” the opposition leader said.


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Saikia urged both the Central and state governments not to ‘hoodwink the people of Assam and take them for a ride but ensure that peaceful negotiations are held with both factions of ULFA so that permanent peace can be achieved in the state’.


He alleged that on one side, innocent civilians are being arrested and injured in encounters by branding them as militants and on the other, peace talks are being held in New Delhi and ‘it is doubtful that in such a situation, permanent peace can be realised’.


Raijor Dal head and MLA Akhil Gogoi told PTI that the peace talks and an accord can be welcomed only ‘if more power or special status is conferred to the state under the Constitution, resulting in the state having more control over the natural resources along with economic and political rights’.


“The accord, however, will not be meaningful for the people of Assam if it only results in an economic package and resettlement of the overground ULFA cadres. Moreover, it is irrelevant to hold talks with those who are not currently involved in the struggle. Discussions with the ULFA(I) are of utmost importance for permanent peace or solution of the long-standing issues of the state,” he said.


Gogoi demanded that the Centre should hold talks with ULFA(I) at the earliest to settle the issue if they want ‘permanent peace in Assam and India’.


Assam Jatiya Parishad’s general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan said there have been many accords signed in the past, but their implementation remains incomplete.


“We extend our best wishes for the proposed accord but hope it will include a clause that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will not be included in the state at any cost. It should also ensure that the economic, cultural, social and political rights of the indigenous people of the state are safeguarded,” he said.


The AJP leader hoped that the ULFA leadership will be alert and ensure that the discussions and signing of the accord will not just be a ‘political agenda’ of the ruling party but will protect the rights of the people of the state.


Civil society organisation Asom Nagarik Samaj’s general secretary Paresh Malakar said the BJP governments at the Centre and the state have kept the people in the dark regarding the outcome of discussions with the ULFA leadership and the clauses to be included in the accord.


“Even the ULFA leadership who had submitted a 12-point charter of demands claimed that they were not aware of the clauses. Ideally, the Paresh Barua-led ULFA(I) faction should also have been a part of the discussion but as they are yet to come for talks,” he added.


“We feel the accord will be more for the politicians of the ruling party who will highlight it during the forthcoming election campaign,” Malakar added.


A 16-member delegation of ULFA pro-talks faction, led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and general secretary Anup Chetia, are currently in New Delhi to hold discussions with the Union home ministry officials before the proposed signing of a tripartite peace accord with the central and the state governments on December 29.


The accord is expected to be signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.


The ULFA was formed in 1979 at the historic Rang Ghar, the Ahom era ampitheatre, in Sivasagar and was banned in 1990 when it started an armed conflict against the state.


The outfit split into two factions in 2011 when the pro-talks faction led by Rajkhowa decided to return to the state from abroad and participate in peace talks while the other group, ULFA (Independent), led by its commander Paresh Barua, was opposed to negotiations unless the ‘sovereignty’ clause was included.


The chief minister on assuming office in 2021 had sent out an olive branch to the ULFA(I) for talks with the latter announcing a ceasefire of operations but recently it carried out three blasts in Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Jorhat which they claimed was in response to the ‘arrogant’ attitude of director general of police GP Singh.


The police retaliated by injuring five persons, two suspected ULFA(I) linkmen and three youth, who were allegedly on their way to join the outfit, in shoot-outs. (PTI)


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