The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi toughens Ulfa stand

Guwahati, June 28: Reacting sharply to the series of attacks by the Ulfa in the Upper Assam districts over the past fortnight, the Centre today said attempts to start a peace process cannot be one-sided.

“We are not making any fuss on the venue for talks, which can be held even in a third country. But let them (the Ulfa) give a clear indication that they want peace,” Union minister of state for defence Bijoy Krishna Handique said here today on the sidelines of a meet organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) on defence procurements.

Handique ruled out the possibility of a unilateral ceasefire by the Union government. “How do you know that they want peace'” he asked.

There were telltale signs in the curt one-liner that the Centre and the state government were running out of patience after the series of Ulfa attacks, which have left nearly a dozen dead and twice as many injured.

Handique said there were some feelers from the outfit expressing its willingness to sit for talks, but not enough for the Centre to initiate any move for a peace process. “The banned outfit must talk in a united voice. We don’t want any ambiguity on this issue.”

Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa has raised hopes over the past few weeks that the outfit could be finally looking for a negotiated settlement. Dispur even picked up Rajkhowa’s statement as a “sign of willingness for talks”, though the recent blasts have put the problem back at where it was.

The Union minister claimed that the morale of the state government was high despite the recent attacks in Upper Assam, and Delhi and Dispur would continue to explore the possibilities of a negotiated settlement.

Handique’s comments came a day after he met the GOCs of the 3 Corps and 4 Corps and sought a status report from them on the law and order in Assam and the neighbouring states. The meeting has been described as a brainstorming session between the Union minister and the GOCs of the Tezpur-based 4 Corp, A.S. Jamwal, and the Rangapahar-based 3 Corp, Daljit Singh, for swiftly and effectively tackling the situation in Upper Assam.

The Union minister toured the affected areas after suspected Ulfa militants detonated a powerful bomb inside a minibus at Mathurapur in Sivasagar district on June 24. Seven passengers, including the courier of the bomb, died in the blast.

On Friday, chief minister Tarun Gogoi talked tough against the Ulfa describing the outfit’s commander-in-chief Paresh Barua a “liar” for targeting innocent civilians.

The Ulfa activities have been the most well-orchestrated in the past fortnight after the outfit suffered serious setbacks during the operations launched by the Royal Bhutan Army on its camps inside the Himalayan kingdom.

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