Guwahati, June 15: Award-winning filmmaker Jahnu Barua today offered to mediate between the government and the Ulfa, saying both sides wanted to break the ice but could do with some prodding and assistance.
Releasing an appeal for peace talks signed by him and three more personalities from different fields — writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami, journalist Sanjoy Hazarika and NRI Atul Sarma — Barua said the dialogue should begin at the earliest, “and in a third country, if necessary”.
The director of such classics as Halodhiya Choraye Baodhan Khai, Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door and Firingoti said: “I am ready to mediate only if both sides so desire in the greater interest of Assam. Today, I am here to issue a plea for talks to begin at the earliest. I am a creative person and am hurt easily. To overcome my hurt, I explore avenues. This appeal for peace is also an attempt to overcome the hurt inflicted on Assam over the years.”
Barua claimed he and his fellow signatories had received positive signals from Delhi and the Ulfa leadership on the possibility of starting a dialogue.
Minister of state for defence Bijoy Krishna Handique said recently that Delhi had no objection to starting peace talks abroad. Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa welcomed the announcement in a statement to some language dailies, but asked whether the Centre would also consider his organisation’s demand for “sovereignty”.
Intelligence reports indicate Rajkhowa has since been exploring ways to start a dialogue.
On whether the Ulfa’s demand should be included in the agenda for talks, Barua said: “Let the talks begin first with an open mind, free of conditions. The Constitution is not the Bible. It has been changed over the years to resolve problems. There can be discussions on all issues.”
The filmmaker said previous initiatives failed because those were “half-baked, half-hearted attempts” to solve a serious problem. “This time, there is a ray of hope as there is a realisation on both sides that peace needs to be given a chance. How much the talks will achieve should not prevent talks from getting under way.”
The signed appeal echoed his sentiments. “Assam and the Northeast are weary of violence. We need peace, stability and freedom from fear. It is time to work together for a strong, stable and developed Assam using the natural advantages, resources and skills of its people,” it added.