The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi hails talks push

Guwahati, Oct. 21: Fuelling hopes of a fresh lease of life for the stalled peace process, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today welcomed the National Security Council’s decision yesterday to hold direct talks with Ulfa.

Seeking cooperation from all sections, Gogoi said a dialogue between the Centre and the Ulfa would pave the way for peace and prosperity in the state. He also urged the Ulfa leadership to abjure the path of violence.

The appeal assumed significance as it came a day after the state was paralysed by a 10-hour Assam bandh called by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives of Assam (PCPIA), a pressure group which has been mobilising public opinion for direct Ulfa-Centre talks, suspension of army operations and release of five jailed Ulfa leaders. Several PCPIA activists were rounded up after they burnt tyres and threw stones at police in Guwahati yesterday.

The Centre had earlier suspended army operations against Ulfa but withdrew the suspension after a few weeks following escalation in violence sparked by Ulfa.

Sources, both in and outside the government, felt that unless clear-cut roadmap was unveiled, there would be no progress. “It is a very good sign but something more than an appeal will be required,” a source in Dispur said.

In New Delhi, the Telugu Desam Party, Samajwadi Party and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) also urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday to start a dialogue with Ulfa. Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said they had urged the Prime Minister to resume the talks.

The Assam Public Works, an organisation comprising the family members of Ulfa cadres, too, alleged that the PCPIA was serving the cause of Ulfa by calling a bandh on the eve of Diwali in the run-up to Id.

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