The trigger: Tourism minister K. Chiranjeevi and other Andhra MPs and MLAs protest in support of a united Andhra Pradesh in New Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Prem Singh See Metro
Guwahati/New Delhi, Aug. 13: The Centre has agreed to talk to groups agitating for statehood in Assam.
Bharat Chandra Narah, press adviser to chief minister Tarun Gogoi, told The Telegraph that the decision was arrived at during Gogoi’s meeting with acting home minister P. Chidambaram late this afternoon.
“Talks will be held with Karbi, Bodo, Koch and Dimasa groups very soon. The process for negotiations will start soon,” Narah, quoting Gogoi, said late this evening.
Gogoi met Chidambaram at 4pm after a news meet.
Narah said the Gogoi government appealed to all statehood supporters to put off their agitations, as negotiations would start very soon.
However, no date was announced for the talks.
Gogoi is returning from Delhi tomorrow afternoon. He had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home secretary Anil Goswami on the matter of statehood yesterday. Before leaving for Delhi, he had met several agitating groups and assured them that he would act as facilitator for talks between them and the Centre as it was Delhi, which would have to take a call on the demand for separate states.
Earlier, during the press conference, Gogoi said he had impressed upon central leaders the need to start tripartite talks with groups demanding new states. He had made some suggestions but the Centre has to agree to it and decide what to do.
Gogoi said he was hopeful, confident and positive about dealing with the situation but the ball was in the Centre’s court.
He refused to divulge what suggestions he had made, but a “strategy” has been worked out to deal with the agitation, The Telegraph has learnt.
Sources said after Independence Day, the joint secretary (Northeast) in the ministry of home affairs, Shambhu Singh, is expected to visit Guwahati and meet Gogoi to finalise the modalities for talks. Various groups may then be invited to New Delhi for negotiations.
To the protesters, the chief minister said the procedure of talking to the Centre and resultant action would take time.
“Don’t give a deadline,” he told reporters, sending a message to the All Bodo Students’ Union (Absu). He asked the student body to give a reasonable time-frame of at least a fortnight for a schedule to be fixed for tripartite talks.
The Absu and the Bodo National Conference had met Gogoi last week where the chief minister is believed to have assured Absu that a date would be announced today.
Referring to the statehood agitations that singed the state, Gogoi said, “The situation had deteriorated to the extent that we had to fire thrice and call the army,” he said, adding that 40 people had been injured in the process.
Gogoi refused to take a stand on suggestions of a second State Reorganisation Commission. He said there were two views on it: one in favour and the other suggesting that it would open a Pandora’s box.
The Northeast has demands for several new states, including Bodoland, Kamtapur, Barak Valley and also in Nagaland and Manipur. While the demands existed, these have been revived following the Telangana declaration.
The Absu met in Kokrajhar this evening to discuss its next course of action to press for a separate state. Its president Promode Boro said, “We will make the decision public tomorrow.”
The union had set today as the deadline for announcing tripratite talks on “Bodoland”.
Boro accused the state government of trying to destabilise the movement by using forces and appealed to it to ask the security forces to exercise restraint.
The Centre has sent additional 25 companies of paramilitary forces for deployment in Bodoland Territorial Areas District and Karbi Anglong.
Boro said when Bodofa Upendranath Brahma launched the separate state movement in 1987 in a peaceful, democratic way, the state government allegedly killed many Bodos. But the unprovoked violence did not deter them. He said the Bodos have reached the end of their patience.
It urged the government to resolve the issue on the basis of legitimacy, geographical convenience and administrative convenience, as the region includes the 32 tribal belts and blocks on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra.
In another development, Gauhati High Court today asked governor J.B. Patnaik to examine the demand made by residents of 39 villages in Baksa and Udalguri districts for exclusion from the BTAD.
The court passed the order after hearing a petition filed by the villagers seeking exclusion of the villages from the BTAD on the ground that a majority of the population in these villages were non-tribal.
The governor has been asked to inform the court about his decision within four months.
The high court had passed a similar order on August 8 in connection with another petition seeking exclusion of 100 villages in Baksa district from the BTAD on the ground that 90 per cent of the population in the villages were non-tribal.