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PCG keeps talks hope afloat
- A matter of opinion

Guwahati, Sept. 26: The People’s Consultative Group (PCG), constituted by Ulfa to pave the way for direct talks with the Centre, today decided to take fresh steps to bring the battered peace process back on track.

The state is under the shadow of violence, with the army amassing troops as part of its campaign against Ulfa.

Senior PCG member Lachit Bordoloi today told The Telegraph that the group would meet to discuss ways to revive the peace process. It had received a setback follo-wing the Centre’s refusal to extend temporary cessation of hostilities against the outfit.

“The peace process has indeed received a setback. But we are optimistic of bringing it back on track. It may take some time, but we are optimistic,” Bordoloi said.

Blaming Dispur for the stalemate, Bordoloi alleged that the state has failed to properly discharge its role as a facilitator.

“Various statements and the feedback given to the Centre by the state made a negative impact on the peace process,” he added.

The Peoples’ Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam, a civil society initiative for peace, today held dharnas in various parts of the state demanding the withdrawal of armed forces.

The society also demanded the release of jailed Ulfa leaders to facilitate direct talks with the outfit.

The PCG’s fresh initiative coincided with the army’s decision to spread to new areas in a bid to encircle Ulfa militants, particularly in areas bordering Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Army sources said its prime target now would be the dreaded 28 battalion of the outfit, which is active in Upper Assam.

Three Ulfa militants and four of their linkmen were arrested today from Rangshi village in Goalpara district during a joint operation by the Assam police and army.

Preliminary interrogation revealed that the trio, identified as Mridul Rava, Ajit Rava and Sunil Rava, was on their way to Bangladesh for training. They are now lodged in Goalpara police station.

Two militants have already been killed in the ongoing operation, while two others were arrested with arms and ammunition.

The army in the two Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh has been instructed to go hard against the 28 battalion of the outfit.

Seven army units under the Dinjan-based 2 Mountain Division is at present conducting counter-insurgency operations against the outfit in the two districts.

In Dibrugarh, the 11 Guards Regiment had been engaged in the operations, while 2 Bihar Regiment, 6 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, 7/11 Gorkha Rifles, 11 Sikh Light Infantry, 42 Field Regiment, 19 Kumaon Regiment have been deployed in Tinsukia.

The 28 battalion, which has its battalion headquarters in the jungles of Myanmar, has a strength of roughly 1,000 cadres and is led by self-styled commanding officer Prabal Neog.

At a meeting in Sivasagar today, the security scenario of the district was reviewed in the wake of resumption of operations against Ulfa. Security of top ONGC officers and tea garden executives were discussed at the meeting.

Sources said several district Congress leaders and tea garden executives have received extortion notes from the outfit. The meeting decided to provide adequate security to all those who have received extortion notes.

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