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Fresh deadline for surrender

Naharkatia, Feb. 5: Claiming an “overwhelming response” to his government’s amnesty offer to militants who surrender, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said Dispur would set a fresh deadline to help more insurgents join the mainstream.

“We will announce a new deadline soon so that more militants get a chance to surrender and join the mainstream,” Gogoi said at a function to inaugurate a “self-help group mela” at Naharkatia playground in Tinsukia district.

Gogoi’s statement came five days after the expiry of the earlier deadline on January 31, set by the government for rebels to surrender and avail of general amnesty. The offer was announced soon after the launch of military operations by the Bhutan government to flush out Ulfa, NDFB and KLO rebels from their bases in the Himalayan kingdom.

Gogoi said nearly 400 militants from various outfits had given up arms and come overground after his announcement of general amnesty.

The chief minister’s announcement came a day after army chief Gen. .C. Vij said in Calcutta that camps of Ulfa and the NDFB in Assam would be neutralised in the next two months.

Addressing the rebels as “brothers and sisters” who have chosen the wrong path, Gogoi reiterated his appeal to the militant groups to shun violence and come forward for negotiations. “If Naga militants can find their way of peace through dialogue, why not those from Assam'” Gogoi asked.

However, both the Ulfa and the NDFB have ridiculed the amnesty offer saying it was “an insult to our freedom-fighters”. NDFB president Ranjan Daimary had said, “The solution does not lie in surrender, general amnesty or in joining the mainstream or the small stream but only in sincere and meaningful dialogue.” Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, too, had dismissed the amnesty offer, vowing to carry on the struggle despite the reverses in Bhutan.

The chief minister found an ally in state PCC chief Paban Singh Ghatowar who, in his speech, came down heavily on the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre for overlooking the state while doling out the peace bonus.

“Strong and good governance by Tarun Gogoi since he became chief minister had improved law and order of the state immensely, paving the way for peace and prosperity. But the Centre, which does not want peace to prevail in our state, had intentionally deprived us by not declaring any peace bonus as it had in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh,” Ghatowar said. He said the state would not tolerate the Centre’s step-motherly attitude any more.

Ghatowar also warned the Centre by quoting Gogoi’s words at a Delhi meeting that “India cannot shine without the Northeast.”

Earlier, the chief minister visited Namfakial village, 55 km from Dibrugarh where erosion from the Buridihing is causing havoc.

Gogoi laid the foundation stone for a Rs 3.16-crore anti-erosion scheme under the Calamity Relief Fund for a 1.2 km portion of Buridihing’s bank. The scheme is expected to benefit 50,000 people.

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