The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Peace conclave gives govt Hobson’s choice

Guwahati, March 23: The “national convention” on the Ulfa-Delhi deadlock today gave the government a teaser of a choice between discussing “Assam’s sovereignty” with the militant group and conducting a plebiscite on the issue.

If the first day of the convention was about unanimously advocating the need to eschew conditions for a dialogue, the final session saw some of the participants testing the government. Going by Delhi’s stand so far, neither of the two options is likely to be even considered.

The moderate voices during the debate were those of the Asam Sahitya Sabha and the All Assam Students’ Union. Both organisations insisted on unconditional dialogue, echoing the suggestion made by Dimasa militant leader Dilip Nunisa yesterday.

Nunisa is the chief of the Dima Halam Daogah, which is in ceasefire with Delhi.

Sahitya sabha president Kanak Sen Deka went to the extent of suggesting that Ulfa should participate in the democratic process of elections if it wanted to raise issues of relevance to Assam. Sankar Prasad Roy, president of the AASU, said categorically that his organisation did not subscribe to the very idea of “sovereignty”.

He said “unconditional, direct talks” between both sides was the only way out of the morass.

The convention was organised by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam.

Participants in the discussion asked Delhi and Dispur to release jailed Ulfa leaders and halt army operations.

And their advice to Ulfa' “Reciprocate if the Centre takes a positive step.”

The NDFB did not send any representative to the convention, but its general secretary Govinda Basumatary said in a message that there would not be “permanent peace” in the region until “respectable solutions” were found to all armed conflicts.

The convention had its share of drama, too. The sahitya sabha president had threatened to walk out midway through his speech when a section of the participants objected to his remark on AASU’s recent claim that Assam would have a Bangladeshi chief minister in 10 years’ time. Deka said “anybody and everybody” should not be branded a Bangladeshi.

“A Bangladeshi can never be Assam’s chief minister because only an Indian citizen can occupy the chair,” he said.

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