June 25: In his strongest statement yet against the banned Ulfa, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today called the group’s commander-in-chief Paresh Barua a liar and vowed to crush the “subversive” movement he leads.
Before the day ended, another militant organisation added to the chief minister’s anger and frustration, injuring seven in a grenade attack in Karbi Anglong district. The incident is suspected to be the handiwork of the anti-talks faction of the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), a Karbi group.
Gogoi said during his visit to Sivasagar district (where a blast inside a minibus killed seven persons yesterday), that the Ulfa chief could no longer fool the people with claims about not targeting innocents. He said the bus explosion and the one at a marketplace in Tinsukia a few days earlier had proved that “Barua is a liar”.
Accompanied by cabinet colleague Sarat Barkotoky and senior officials, including chief secretary Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa and director-general of police P.V. Sumant, the chief minister reached the blast site at Mathurapur on a helicopter at 11.15 am.
He told the media that the incident had the unmistakeable Ulfa stamp. “Whenever innocents are killed, they say they are not involved, but we all know that this kind of heavy explosives are used only by militant groups such as the Ulfa to create panic. Therefore, we have no doubt that the Ulfa was behind the blast and similar incidents in Upper Assam over the past few weeks.”
Minister of state for home Rockybul Hussain made a similar statement yesterday and announced an all-out offensive against the Ulfa.
The chief minister visited the house of one of the identified blast victims, Probin Gogoi. He said the families of each of the victims would get Rs 3 lakh, Rs 2 lakh more than the compensation announced immediately after the incident.
Gogoi said the government would bear the medical expenses of the injured passengers who were undergoing treatment at Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh.
On whether the government would suspend its initiative for a dialogue with the Ulfa, the chief minister said there was no question of going back on its commitment. “Our doors are always open. We have said we are ready for talks in a foreign country, if necessary, but the Ulfa must call a halt to violence first.”
Gogoi said he had formally petitioned the Manmohan Singh government to expedite the process of starting a dialogue.
The chief minister later went to Dibrugarh, where he said the conclave of deputy commissioners and superintendents of police in Guwahati devised new strategies to check militant activity. “We will come down hard on those subverting peace. We decided to adopt different strategies for different districts. We have to effectively tackle the (militant) menace at any cost.”
In Karbi Anglong district, UPDS militants lobbed a grenade from a speeding vehicle on a group of football players resting after a game.
Of the seven injured, two were reported to be in a critical condition. They were rushed from the area, Sariahjan, to a hospital in nearby Dimapur town of Nagaland. The incident occurred around 6.30 pm.