The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Desperate Ulfa wives plan fast
- Hungerstrike for information & talks

Guwahati, March 20: Frustrated by the government’s reluctance to divulge information about their husbands, wives of Ulfa militants who went missing from Bhutan after the flushout operation three years ago will begin a fast-unto-death in Guwahati tomorrow.

Sources close to the families said the hungerstrike was meant to pressure the government into not only divulging information about the missing Ulfa members, but also resuming the peace process with the militant group.

It is no coincidence that a “national convention” organised by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam will begin on Thursday to discuss ways to resume the process of negotiations between Ulfa and Delhi.

The derailed peace process had begun with Ulfa constituting a team, the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), to put across its views to Delhi. The beginning of a fresh Ulfa offensive and consequent army operations, however, led to the process being all but abandoned in September.

The objective of the convention is to evolve a strategy to put the process back on track. The list of participants includes representatives of militant groups that are at least in ceasefire with the government, if not engaged in peace talks.

The proposed hungerstrike by wives of Ulfa militants missing since Operation All Clear in Bhutan will be another way of pressuring the government to revisit the issue. They have already petitioned Gauhati High Court for information about their husbands’ whereabouts.

Delhi and Dispur are expected to make detailed submissions when the case comes up for hearing again on March 30.

A source said the wives of these Ulfa members were tired of waiting for the impasse to end. “They believe that resumption of the peace process is the only way out. It will be a fast for peace, a fast to convey the message that the outfit is sincere in its quest for a political solution to the problem. This impasse is taking a toll on all of us.”

Apart from Ulfa members, several militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland have been “missing” since the December 2003 operation in Bhutan.

The senior Ulfa functionaries in the list include Benning Rava, Asanta Bagphukan and Robin Neog. Their wives are understood to be at the forefront of the fast-unto-death campaign.

Rava’s wife and two more women married to Ulfa militants — Nilu Chakravorty and Abhijit Deka — had organised a news conference last year and sought the media’s help to draw the government’s attention to their plight. The trio said the government should provide information about their husbands for the sake of their children.

The issue was also a bone of contention between the PCG and Delhi when preliminary negotiations were under way. The pressure group also tried to take it up with Bhutan, but got no response.

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