The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naga model for truce

Guwahati, Sept. 17: Dispur is seeking to take a leaf out of the NSCN book, as it hopes that the current mutual suspension of operations by security forces and the banned Ulfa will transform into a ceasefire.

Planning to draw on the Naga experience in anticipation of a similar deal with Ulfa, the Tarun Gogoi government is considering taking tips from Kohima on the dos and don’ts for a state government during a truce period.

The state government has drawn up its plans close on the heels of Delhi extending the period of suspension of operations against Ulfa till September 20.

Dispur’s optimism stems from the fact that by and large, Ulfa has adhered to the temporary cessation of hostilities — despite the outfit’s tough posturing now and then.

The state government as well as mediators in the peace process are quite hopeful that despite occasional hitches, the ongoing initiative could actually spawn a full-fledged ceasefire.

Official sources in Dispur further explained that the government needed to be ready with its homework without bothering too much about the consequences of the process. “We can’t afford to be caught off-guard. We have to be prepared for any outcome,” an official pointed out.

A truce has been on in Nagaland for the past nine years between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Centre and for seven years with the Khaplang faction.

“Though monitoring the ceasefire will be essentially the Centre’s responsibility, the state government will also have a key role to play,” an official said. He added that while Dispur has had some experience in this regard with the Bodo Liberation Tigers, the National Democratic Front of Boroland and other such outfits, “Ulfa is a different kettle of fish altogether”.

Policing and maintaining law and order during a ceasefire are always complex matters, which require special attention, the official pointed out.

There were other problems inherent in the ceasefire, particularly when activists of the outfit participating in the truce are allowed to retain arms.

“We have seen that in Nagaland, the NSCN (I-M) has significantly extended its influence after the ceasefire and also expanded its extortion base. Its writ runs much wider than before the 1997 ceasefire,” said an official here.

He said Dispur would definitely draw lessons from Kohima’s experiences, both good and bad, in managing the ceasefire in the context of an outfit like Ulfa. The Assam outfit has the potential of utilising the truce to influence civil societies in its favour, as has been done by the NSCN (I-M).

“This thought is definitely doing the rounds. But we are yet to decide on how to go about it. Maybe we will send a team to Nagaland to study the truce there,” said the official.

However, it might yet be wishful thinking on Dispur’s part. Except for reciprocating the cessation of hostilities by the Centre, Ulfa has not yet climbed down from its stand that there would be no direct talks unless its jailed leaders are released.

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