Shillong/Guwahati, July 12: The army shot dead four Ulfa militants in the East Garo Hills of Meghalaya last night, prompting an indignant People’s Consultative Group (PCG) to take a “long, hard look” at the peace process and another group to announce a bandh on Friday and a road and rail blockade on July 17.
An army source said the militants were killed during a cordon-and-search operation at Thingba village, about 90 km from Williamnagar. “They (the militants) were shifting from here to there for food and shelter,” the officer said.
The army admittedly knew about the presence of Ulfa militants in the area for quite some time, but took a while to mount the operation because of the hostile terrain.
The officer said there was “no ceasefire in place” as far as the army was concerned and there could be no bar on operations against Ulfa militants until a truce was signed.
The slain militants included Rubul Ali, a “lieutenant” in Ulfa’s 109 Battalion.
While the army hailed the encounter as a major success in counter-insurgency operations, PCG member Dilip Patgiri said the killings and arrests were detrimental to the peace process. He and his colleagues in the mediating team went into a huddle late in the evening to take stock of the situation.
The People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam echoed the PCG in its reaction to the encounter. It said the offensive against Ulfa had exposed the government’s “insincerity and double standards”.
Writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami joined the chorus. “ I strongly condemn this act by the army at a time when the peace process is yielding positive signs. I wrote to Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa only today, asking him to expedite the peace process.”