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Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi questions Mamoni role

Guwahati, June 16: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today raised uncomfortable questions about Mamoni Raisom Goswami’s role in the peace talks with Ulfa, to the extent of casting aspersions on the neutrality of her approach.

Gogoi asked why the litterateur has not made any attempt to meet the Ulfa top brass and convince it to revive the stalled peace process instead of always requesting Delhi to make the first move.

Gogoi made these observations during an interaction with mediapersons this afternoon. Referring to the recent initiative by the Nagrik Shanti Manch — of which the writer is a leading light — to revive the peace process, he asked why Goswami has never tried to establish direct contact with either Paresh Barua or Arabinda Rajkhowa and persuade the outfit’s two top leaders to sit down for parleys.

“She always meets the Prime Minister or other central leaders, urging them to initiate peace talks. But there has been no attempt on her part to meet the Ulfa top brass. She should meet them and persuade them to sit for negotiations. If required, we will provide all necessary help,” Gogoi asserted.

On Monday, the forum had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to revive the process. Though Delhi is keen on talks, it is not taking any chances. It has remained firm in its resolve not to release the five jailed Ulfa leaders, as sought by the outfit.

Delhi also wants direct communication from the Ulfa top brass confirming its willingness to sit for talks without any conditions.

Asserting that no section of Assam was siding with Ulfa, Gogoi said he would recommend “safe passage” for the outfit’s leaders if they wanted to visit the state.

“By staying in Bangladesh they (Ulfa leaders) cannot feel the pulse of the people here. I am inviting them to come and stay here for a year, or even a month, to do so. I will definitely recommend their safe passage to the Centre,” he said.

Referring to the Ulfa demand for an independent Ass-am, the chief minister stated: “What purpose it will serve we don’t know. We will again come under some big power.”

While taking pot shots at Ulfa, Gogoi went to the extent of questioning Goswami’s credentials as a mediator. “I don’t think Goswami has influence over Arabinda Rajkhowa and Paresh Barua, to convince them to come for talks, or knows their views,” he said.

Going a step further, he asked why the writer never condemned acts of violence perpetrated by the banned outfit. “I don’t see any condemnation coming from her, even for the recent Hajo blast. This is sad. If we are doing anything wrong, condemn us,” Gogoi said, subtly hinting that Goswami needs to adopt a balanced approach.

Gogoi added that it has been confirmed that Ulfa was behind Wednesday’s Hajo blast, which killed two and injured nearly 40. He also dismissed demands by AGP-P leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, AUDF legislator Badruddin Ajmal and some BJP-backed “unscrupulous” businessmen for President’s rule in Assam.

Bir Chilarai Award: Gogoi conferred the Bir Chilarai Award 2006 posthumously on former state chief minister late Sarat Chandra Sinha at Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts this evening. The award, comprising Rs 1 lakh in cash and a citation, was received by Sinha’s widow Labanya Sinha.

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