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Since 1st March, 1999
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Truce ball in people’s court

Guwahati, July 10: The fractured peace process with Ulfa has prompted Gauhati University to seek the people’s opinion on the all-important issue.

Students of the Peace and Conflict Studies stream, a UGC-sponsored two-year post-graduate (PG) diploma course under the political science department, will organise a civil society round table dialogue this month. The exact name will be fixed when the dates will be finalised.

The aim is to build a consensus and mobilise public opinion over the ceasefire declaration by Ulfa’s 28 battalion.

The department will bring people from all walks of life — from intellectuals to leaders of militant outfits — on a single platform to build a consensus on the need for peace in Assam.

The leaders of Ulfa’s 28 battalion, too, are expected to participate in the event.

The observations of the conclave will be forwarded to the state government for follow-up action.

Nani Gopal Mahanta, a reader in the political science department and co-ordinator of the course, said the fractured verdict on peace had left the people confused.

The round table was aimed at seeking the people’s opinion on the burning issue, he said.

“The recent declaration of unilateral ceasefire by two companies of the 28 battalion of Ulfa has sparked widespread reactions in different quarters. Different individuals and organisations are speaking differently about the ceasefire.

“This is a very crucial moment for a state which has the worst experience of insurgency and violence. The round table dialogue will try to build a consensus and seek suggestions and recommendations,” Mahanta said.

The date of the conclave will be fixed as soon as the organisers get the confirmation of participation from different groups and individuals.

Though the Ulfa has expelled the leaders involved in the peace process, many believe that they enjoy the backing of a large section of the people if the positive response from the masses is any indication. Mahanta said the organisers were very optimistic about the outcome of the round table dialogue.

“The very idea of launching the UGC-sponsored course last year was to promote knowledge of alternative democratic, non-violent ways of solving conflict. We prefer to work for an alternative mode of dispute resolution by involving civil society groups, NGOs and the state apparatus.”

The course, open to all, aims at encouraging everybody, particularly the youth, to acquire intellectual and practical skills of conflict analysis and peacemaking.

Mahanta said the department would also make some critical intellectual intervention, a term generally used to mean involvement of the intelligentsia in conflict management, on such issues as ethnic unrest and insurgency through a series of dialogue in places like Karbi Anglong, Bodoland and the state of Nagaland.

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