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Gogoi puts ball in Ulfa court

Guwahati/Shillong, July 13: Unfazed by howls of protest from two influential groups over six Ulfa casualties in army and police operations this week, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today ruled out cessation of operations against the banned outfit till it “directly” communicated to the government its intention to start a dialogue.

Winding up discussions on the budget, which he tabled on Monday, Gogoi said in the Assembly that the government would declare a ceasefire and release jailed Ulfa leaders as soon as it received a communiqu' from the outfit.

The Congress-led coalition separately issued a statement clarifying that the army offensive against Ulfa would not derail the peace process. It came after leader of the Opposition Brindaban Goswami and his AGP colleague Keshab Mahanta raised questions about the policy of continuing army operations together with the peace process.

Four Ulfa militants were killed in an encounter with the army in the East Garo Hills of Meghalaya on Tuesday night. Two other members of the outfit died in a shootout with the police in Baksa district of Assam the same day.

The militants killed in Me-ghalaya included Rubul Ali, a “lieutenant” in Ulfa’s 109 Battalion. The other three casualties were identified as “sergeant” Prabal Dutta and “corporals” Dulu Dutta and Rudra Kalita. Three rebels ' “corporal” Bubul Ali, Chandan Kalita and Hitesh Kalita ' were arrested. Two of them, both injured in the encounter, were shifted to Tura Civil Hospital from Mendipathar last night.

While Dispur played down the twin encounters, the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group (PCG) warned that it would be constrained to declare the peace process as a “meaningless”exercise if members of the militant group continued to be targets of security forces.

Another group, the People’s Committee for Peace Intitiatives in Assam, has called a 12-hour bandh tomorrow and a road and rail blockade on July 17.

A PCG team met the chief minister this evening and submitted a memorandum. The mediators, handpicked by Ulfa to prepare the ground for peace talks, accused a section of police officials of trying to sabotage the peace process.

Lachit Bordoloi, a PCG member, said the delegation also apprised the chief minister of the allegedly negative stand of the army and Governor Ajai Singh since the peace process began.

 

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