The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Governor shuts door on NDFB
- Ajai Singh contradicts Dispur policy on key issues

Guwahati/Kokrajhar, Jan. 25: Assam governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh today described the militant National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) as a 'defunct organisation' with whom the government was unlikely to start peace talks in a hurry, contradicting the ruling Congress' stand on the issue.

'What is the NDFB' What is there to talk with it' the governor asked while speaking to the media during a tea party at Raj Bhavan on the eve of Republic Day.

He said the Bodo issue had been resolved ' through the accord with the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers ' and the NDFB should fall in line without further delay.

Singh, however, said a dialogue with the NDFB could be held if it surrendered all its weapons.

On the possibility of the government starting peace talks with the Ulfa, the governor said the outfit did not appear to be interested in any such process.

'It has become weak and whenever a militant group becomes weak it tries to buy time by making noises about beginning a dialogue and also impose such preconditions that will give it more time,' he said.

The Ulfa remains recalcitrant, but the NDFB eased its stand after the chief minister offered to declare a truce if it did so.

The outfit declared a unilateral ceasefire with effect from October 15 and expressed its willingness to start a dialogue with the government.

But just over three months after the ceasefire began, the NDFB has allegedly resumed extortion in Kokrajhar district.

In Serfanguri, extortion has forced taxis off the road. A bank has downed shutters for the same reason.

Sources said each taxi driver has been asked to pay Rs 30,000 to the NDFB. Pragjyotish Gaonliya Bank, whose branch has been closed since Wednesday, has yet to issue a statement on demands from the militant group.

A senior employee of the Pragjyotish Gaonliya Bank branch at Serfanguri admitted to receiving 'terrible threats' from the NDFB.

'We had no option but to shut down the branch. We are here to serve the people, not any militant group. If the threats continue, shutting down the branch permanently will be the only option left to us, though it may be unfortunate for the people.'

A taxi driver echoed the bank employee's concern. 'How can we pay such a huge amount' Many of us have stopped plying taxis,' he said.

Serfanguri police said they had received complaints from bank officials about extortion attempts, but not from the owner or driver of any taxi. 'Many people still do not consider the option of going to the police,' an official said.

The United Commercial Bank branch at Patgaon and the State Bank of India branch at Runikhata had downed shutters at the height of the Bodo agitation a decade ago.

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