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Modi govt drags feet on NE rebel talks

New Delhi, July 9: The Narendra Modi government appears to be going slow on negotiations with some rebel outfits and resolution of problems in the Northeast.

A one-man expert committee headed by former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai to look into the demand of Bodoland has not taken off. Another pending decision that the Modi government is shy of taking is the appointment of an interlocutor to negotiate a settlement with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah).

Apparently, decisions taken during the UPA government’s last two years are just short of being overturned. Changing some of the old decisions could be attributed to the changing dynamics of politics in the Northeast while others, sources said, could be attributed to the lack of a strong will to resolve old political problems.

In February this year, the Pillai committee was to consult all sections of society on the viability of a separate state of Bodoland and submit a report within nine months. However, Pillai is yet to visit the area and possibly may not do so at all. Sources said the government was considering the option to discontinue the committee.

The sources said one of the reasons for the government’s change of mind could be the political result of the general elections in Bodoland. A non-Bodo — former Ulfa leader Naba Kumar Sarania — won the Kokrajhar seat as the vote got split among four Bodo candidates.

The result delivered a blow to the demand for a separate state while raising fears of a backlash if the government did not negotiate with various groups, including students. The agitation for Bodoland, launched by several organisations, had intensified after the UPA government’s decided to create Telangana last year.

The NDA government’s resolve to solve the problems of the Northeast, apparent when Rajnath Singh took over as the Union home minister, seems to be petering out.

The NSCN (I-M) talks are stalled with the government in no hurry to appoint an interlocutor.

Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Ajit Lal is holding the post temporarily but no one has been named to take over from him on his retirement at end of this month.

“Nothing may be done for the next three or four months,” a senior government official said.

Pillai and former interlocutor and Nagaland chief secretary R.S. Pandey are understood to be contenders for the post.

Pandey had quit the post after he joined the BJP last December but may return to complete the job.

However, sources said the Union home minister is in no mood to hurry on any of these decisions.

The NSCN talks have been in progress for 17 years and Pandey is understood to have submitted a roadmap last year on how to reach a settlement.

NSCN leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah are to begin negotiations with the new government.

At present, former Intelligence Bureau chief P.C. Haldar is holding talks with Ulfa, A’chik National Volunteers Council and two factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland.

Members of the pro-talks Ulfa group, headed by Arabinda Rajkhowa, arrived in Delhi this week to hold talks with Haldar.


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