The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ulfa wives drag kids into protest

Guwahati, March 28: Wives of Ulfa militants who went missing during the 2003 military offensive by Bhutan have threatened to push their children into the hungerstrike routine tomorrow, hoping it would elicit a more sympathetic response from the government than their fast-unto-death has done.

The Tarun Gogoi government today appealed to the women not to subject themselves to such physical strain, only to be rebuffed.

After remaining almost silent for a week — the campaign began on March 21 — the government sent three ministers to the protest scene to mount a damage-control exercise. The trio of Bhumidhar Barman, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ripun Bora was, however, unsuccessful in persuading the women to end their hungerstrike.

What came later left the government in a bigger dilemma. The women declared that their children would join them in the fast-unto-death.

Apart from information about the whereabouts of their husbands, the group of women is demanding resumption of the peace process with Ulfa. They are planning to take the campaign to New Delhi if the government continues to withhold information. A case pertaining to the same issue is pending in Gauhati High Court. The court has asked both Delhi and Dispur to make detailed submissions on Friday.

In the Assembly, the government had a difficult time fending off questions on the continuing hungerstrike by the militants’ wives. Parliamentary affairs minister Bharat Narah said the three-member ministerial team spoke to the fasting women for over half-an-hour and apprised them of steps taken by Delhi and the state government to revive the peace process with Ulfa.

On whether the women would have to remain in the dark about the fate of their husbands — some of them were allegedly captured by Bhutan and handed over to India — Narah said the Congress-led government was doing everything in its power to ascertain their whereabouts. The minister argued that it was not possible for the state government to get all the information the women were asking for because Operation All Clear was held in a foreign country.

On the other hand, the fasting women told the media that the ministerial team offered to take them to the chief minister for a discussion, which they rejected immediately. They insisted that the chief minister visit them. “Only then will we reconsider our decision to continue our fast,” one of them said. Activists of the women’s wing of the Asom Gana Parishad (Pragatisheel) fasted for six hours in a show of solidarity with the militants’ wives.

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