The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi smells another ploy

New Delhi, Sept. 17: Delhi has dismissed Ulfa’s claim about it being indifferent to overtures by the outfit for peace talks as yet another ploy to buy time.

The government is taking Ulfa’s latest statement of intent — that commander-in-chief Paresh Barua or chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa would readily sit for talks, conditions permitting — with more than a pinch of salt since it comes within weeks of its activists killing more Hindi-speaking labourers.

The government, while weighing options on how to restore peace in Assam, is sceptical of Ulfa’s claim that either Rajkhowa or Barua would have engaged in negotiations by now had Delhi been more responsive.

Several attempts to bring Ulfa leaders to the negotiating table for “direct talks” with Delhi have failed in the past year.

In last week’s edition of its bulletin, Freedom, Ulfa complained that Delhi was not addressing the causes of the stalemate in the negotiations. Again, in the latest edition, it said the government was harping on old issues instead of addressing the causes of the stalemate.

“Look at the history of Ulfa and observe that whenever it suffers losses, it twists its statements and evinces readiness for talks,” said a home ministry source. Home ministry officials said the Centre had walked the extra mile for peace; it was Ulfa itself which has not responded, and had instead slaughtered innocent civilians.

The outfit’s track record indicates that Delhi’s scepticism is not without justification. Over the past seven months, the outfit has suffered at the hands of the army and paramilitary forces, not to mention Assam police.

Last year, when the going became tough for the outfit, it agreed to negotiations. However, it gained time while spelling out conditions for the talks, and its cadre was able to regroup.

Many in the government see Ulfa’s move to be a response to pressure from Bangladesh on the outfit. The pressure has built up after talks between India and Bangladesh were held at the home secretary level.

At these discussions, Dhaka conceded for the first time that Ulfa leaders were indeed in that country and that its government would crack down on all terrorist groups.

In Dibrugarh today, Bhawani Phukan, aged 35, was shot dead by suspected Ulfa militants at Pakhorijonia village in the Tengakhat police station area around 8pm on Monday.

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