|Headlines Vol. 2 Issue 39-40||Mar. 22- Apr. 7, 2000|
Stage set for peaceful talks:Centre suspends operations against BLT in Assam
The hope for return of peace in the northern bank of river Brahmaputra has been considerably brightened as the Union Government formally announced suspension of all operations against the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT).
In a statement in both the Houses of Parliament, Union Home Minister L. K. Advani said that the Government of India was committed to the restoration of peace. The government has also extended an invitation to all militant groups of the NE to come forward for talks within the parameters of the Constitution.
In pursuance of the offer, the BLT has suspended its operations against the Army and security forces. The group has also agreed to completely abjure the path of violence in both letter and spirit and not indulge in any violence, in case the government announces suspension of operations against it, the Union Home Minister informs the Parliament.
Efforts are also on to persuade other militant groups in the North-East to suspend their violent and unlawful activities and come to the negotiating table, Mr. Advani said.
Prior to the Union Home Ministers announcement, the BLT in a statement admitted to have had a series of dialogues with the Government of India. Jwngblao Kochary, a cabinet member of the BLT, said that the political problems of the Bodos could only be solved through political dialogue. Ever since the Government of India has made initiation with the organisation, the BLT had been maintaining peace without getting involved in any unlawful activity, the release said.
In the release the BLT pointed out that after a series of discussions, additional secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India P. D. Shenoy declared on January 10 last that the BLT was no longer a banned outfit and suspension of operation would be formally declared by the Centre very soon as agreed upon in the discussion held in New Delhi where representatives of the Government and leaders of the BLT were present.
However, the BLT, referring to the death of Sachin Basumatary, alleged in the same release that the Centre had failed to abide by the terms and conditions as agreed upon in the meeting between the two sides and asserted that Sachin was not killed in any encounter as he did not have any weapon with him at the time when he was killed.
The Union Home Ministers statement on the BLT preceded a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on insurgency in the North-East, during the Question Hour. During the discussion members cutting across the party lines expressed their concern at the unabated violence in the region and the role of the neighbouring countries Bangladesh and Bhutan in sheltering the militants and involvement of Pakistans ISI.
However, Mr. Advani made it clear that the Centre was not contemplating to hold unconditional negotiations with the ULFA, asserting that any negotiations with the militants has to be within the four corners of the Constitution.
"We will not discuss sovereignty and there is no point in giving illusions by inviting the militants for talks, thereby giving them some respectability," Mr. Advani said, when members urged to first invite ULFA for talks and then reject their demands.
In reply to a question, the Union Home Minister said that despite offer for talks from the Centre including that from the the Prime Minister, there had been no response from the ULFA, though talks with several outfits in Nagaland were continuing. He observed that the ULFA had been losing public support and the process of the militants coming back to mainstream had started. The Union Home Minister, also indicated the tacit support of the Centre to the process of surrendering of the militants, though he admitted that creation of SULFA had led to several problems. But these things have both merits and demerits, he added.
Participating in the discussion, deputy leader of the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha Pranab Mukherjee said that instead of engaging one militant group at a time in talks, the Union Government should prepare a framework fixing the parameters for discussions. Mr. Mukherjee also stressed on equal importance to security and development, while dealing with insurgency in the region.
Mr. Advani said that a special cell in the Prime Ministers Office and the North East Desk on his ministry were jointly monitoring the implementation of the special packages for economic development, announced by successive prime ministers.
Meanwhile, despite a series of operations by the security forces and surrender of several senior cadres, the other Bodo underground faction the banned National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) has stepped up its activities in various parts of Assam.
According to sources, the militant group has collected huge funds from several parts of lower Assam forcing the security forces to review their ongoing operations.
The outfit has collected Rs 20 lakh from Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar and Barpeta districts during the current year from the businessmen and the people having soft corner towards the organisation, the sources informed.The funds are spent for procuring arms and ammunition and to send new cadres to impart training.
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