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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Himanta Biswa Sarma skirts talks, wants KLO chief to sip tea

CM said that government has constituted the Kamtapur Autonomous Council in Assam for socio-economic development of Rajbanshis

Our Correspondent Siliguri Published 24.01.23, 04:28 AM
Himanta Biswa Sarma

Himanta Biswa Sarma File picture

Differences of opinion between Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and the team of Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) mediators over the proposed peace talks and the KLO’s demand for statehood have tumbled out in the open in the last couple of days amid questions on the future of negotiations between the militant group and the Centre.

Biswa Sarma, while speaking to newspersons a couple of days back, confirmed that self-styled KLO chief Jiban Singha was currently in Assam, but categorically stressed that his government had not held any talks with the outfit.

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“It is good that he (Singha) has reached here. He should stay, sip tea and relax. We didn’t have any talks with them. Also, no missive was sent from his side to our government, I have checked it with the chief secretary,” said the Assam chief minister, distancing himself from the proposed peace talks, which many believe were engineered by him.

Representatives of the mediators’ group, however, differed from his remarks and made their displeasure public. Biswa Sarma had said that his government has constituted the Kamtapur Autonomous Council (KAC) in Assam for socio-economic development of Rajbanshis who stay in Assam.

“We have formed the KAC. As far as their demand is concerned, remarks from certain quarters have led to repercussions and the Rava and Bodo communities have reacted to it. We want peace in Assam to expedite development,” said Biswa Sarma.

He also said that in due course, Singha might hold talks with the Centre. But the ambivalent statement didn’t go down well with the mediators.

“In that case, everybody will know if an agreement is signed with the central government. No one asked me about the issue (of Kamtapur state) and thus, there is no question of us taking any stand,” Biswa Sarma remarked, triggering surprise in the mediators’ group.

In December 2021, Biswa Sarma invited proscribed militant outfit KLO to join in peace talks and return to the mainstream. Based on his call, negotiations were carried out by a five-member committee of mediators formed by Singha.

Finally, Singha and eight cadres of his outfit entered India from Myanmar to reach Assam and are suspected to be in the custody of security forces.

Biswajit Roy, a member of Koch Rajbanshi Jatiya Parishad, said on Sunday that during their talks with Singha, the KLO leader has made it clear that he would not budge from his principal demand of Kamtapur state.

“If somebody speaks of the KAC now to undermine the demand, we believe he doesn’t know history. We have held informal talks with representatives of the Assam government and the Centre a number of times. It is because of these discussions that Jiban Singha has reached India,” said Roy.

Roy said that soon, the KLO would announce a ceasefire after which formal talks would be held between the militant group and the Centre.

“The process to sort out certain technical issues is on. The chief ministers of Assam and Bengal should cooperate with the Centre that has taken a proactive approach to resolve the demand,” Roy added.

Differences between the Assam chief minister and the mediator group — the group was appreciative of Biswa Sarma even a few days back for being the principal mediator — hints at Biswa Sarma’s political compulsions, opined observers.

They pointed out that unlike in some cases, when peace accords were signed with militant groups and their demands could be met by forming autonomous councils, in the case of the KLO’s demand,the demand is to carve a new state or Union territory by taking away some districts of Assam and Bengal.

“The Bengal government is vehemently against it. Now, the Assam chief minister seems to have understood that such a move can trigger large-scale protests in his state. Many communities and political parties have already raised their voice. That is why it seems he is trying to distance himself from the issue,” said an observer.

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