The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PCG spurns Singh offer of safe passage

Guwahati, Dec. 24: The Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group (PCG) has dismissed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer of “safe passage” to top Ulfa leaders as a political gimmick.

The PCG, which backed out of negotiations with Delhi for allegedly not addressing key issues, said it would have made more sense had the government agreed to free the jailed Ulfa leaders instead.

Although Ulfa has yet to react formally to the safe-passage offer conveyed through chief minister Tarun Gogoi in New Delhi on Friday, PCG member Lachit Bordoloi today said it was “highly unlikely” that anything would come of it. He said the government lacked the political will to take decisions that would make a difference to the almost derailed peace process.

The PCG functionary said the only way to revive the peace process initiated by writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami was to release the jailed Ulfa leaders whose presence is required in the outfit’s highest decision-making body to respond to the offer of direct talks.

Bordoloi pointed out that the peace process has been bogged down by Ulfa’s demand for the release of its jailed leaders and “not because the leaders who are free want safe passage”. He also objected to the Centre’s insistence on a formal letter from the outfit that it is willing to sit for talks before the jailed leaders are freed.

“What’s new or fresh or fruitful in the offer' It is a gimmick. Instead of offering safe passage, which has been turned down in the past, the authorities should seriously consider releasing the jailed leaders to resume the process. The jailed leaders can get bail through the normal judicial process, but since the Ulfa problem is a political problem, the government has to make a political statement by releasing them to take the process forward,” he said.

The peace process ran into rough weather after a six-week cessation of hostilities by the Centre. Last month, the militant group called for a boycott of the National Games that will be hosted by Assam from February 9 to 18.

The new organising secretary for the 33rd National Games, Mukut Medhi, today appealed to both the state and central governments to ensure the revival of the peace process with Ulfa in the interest of the Games.

Medhi, who is also the general secretary of the Assam Olympic Association, said a state-level sports meet with all disciplines of the National Games would be held after January 15 at the newly-built stadia and called Asom Krira Mahotsav.

Ulfa had demanded that the National Games itself be rechristened Asom Krira Mahotsav.

“We propose to name the meet Asom Krira Mahotsav. It will be a test for the infrastructure we have developed and a dress rehearsal for the mega event,” Medhi said.

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