The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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House appeals to Ulfa to save Games

Guwahati, Dec. 15: After disagreeing on just about every issue during the course of a five-day Assembly session, Assam’s legislators reached a rare moment of consensus today when everyone joined in an appeal to the banned Ulfa to “review” its call for a boycott of the 33rd National Games.

Assam will be hosting the event, slated for February 9 to 18, for the first time. The Games have already been postponed twice.

The ruling coalition and the Opposition were unanimous in their view of the Games as not only a “prestige issue” but also an opportunity to improve sports infrastructure in the state. Cutting across party lines, the legislators beseeched Ulfa not to take any decision that would dent the pride of the people of Assam.

Ulfa announced a boycott of the event for the same reason that it opposes celebration of Republic Day and Independence Day in Assam.

Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said Assam should not host any event “imposed” by Delhi. For the organisers, what it meant was the possibility of contingents from various states staying away from the Games out of fear.

A few days later, Ulfa modified its stand and promised not to disrupt the event if it was rechristened “Assam Sports Festival”.

Congress legislator Bhupen Bora today moved a zero-hour motion, suggesting that the Assembly should appeal to Ulfa not to disrupt the Games.

He said any untoward incident during the Games would bring the state to disrepute.

Dispur was the first to appeal to the militant group for a “review” of its decision. Industry and power minister Pradyut Bordoloi, also the spokesman for the National Games Organising Committee, said in the same breath that sports associations had nothing to worry about. “Guwahati is as safe as any other city in the country or the world. Subversive activities are going on in all cities, including Mumbai and Delhi. Guwahati is no exception,” he said.

But Ulfa’s stand has already had an impact, with the Indian Olympic Association’s meeting on December 20 being shifted from Guwahati to the Olympic Bhawan in New Delhi.

Sources in the Assam Olympic Association said several national sports federations had asked their representatives in Assam to check out the arrangements for the security of sportspersons who will compete in the Games.

“Some of them have even hinted that if the state government and the Centre fail to appease the rebel organisation, they will pull out of the National Games,” a senior official said.

The chief minister recently made it clear that the release of jailed Ulfa leaders should not be linked to the Games. He was reacting to writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami’s suggestion that the Games could be conducted peacefully if the government released jailed Ulfa leaders.

Watchtowers have been built in the sports complexes at Sarusajai and Tepesia and the Games Village as part of security arrangements.

Fixed police pickets have already been set up at the Sarusajai complex, the hockey stadium at Bhetapara and the Games Village.

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