Violence means are never a justification for supposedly peaceful ends. Yet, the United Liberation Front of Asom has unleashed a fresh round of violence on the perverted logic that this will force the government to initiate talks with it. It has become a warped ritual for the ULFA to go on a killing spree to mark some occasion or the other on its secessionist calendar. Sunday’s killings at Goalpara on its sainik divas came barely 10 days after the blast at the Indian Oil refinery at Digboi. In fact, such senseless brutality can drive both it and the government farther from the prospects of talks. But the militant outfit strangely believes that such bloody shows of strength will not only take it closer to talks but also force the government to negotiate with it on its terms. The group, which was born in 1979, should have known by now that this strategy has caused much bloodshed but no change in the government’s policy. Even if the government accepts that the problem of militancy needs a political solution, it cannot submit to this blackmail. The deputy prime minister, Mr L.K. Advani, had rightly made this clear after the blast at the refinery.
This is not to suggest, however, that New Delhi should rule out the option of a dialogue. The Assam government wants the Centre to take the initiatve in starting the peace process. If the talks with Naga and Bodo militants have borne fruit, there is no reason why the doors of dialogue should be shut on the ULFA. Even the ULFA’s terms should not prove an insurmountable problem. For many years, New Delhi brushed aside the Naga militants’ suggestion to hold peace talks outside India and its demand for the “sovereignty” of the Naga “nation”. The negotiations with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim led by Mr Isak Swu and Mr Thuingaleng Muivah should help the Centre deal with similar demands by the ULFA. Differences on any subject can be narrowed down if the two sides are motivated by a genuine desire for reaching a solution. But for any peace intiative to start, the secessionist guns have to fall silent first.