THE overall ambience in Assam may encourage for a kind of peace talks with the banned United Liberation Front of Asom, but there still remain some factors that deserve immediate attention and resolution.
The meeting between the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the representatives of civil society groups from Assam on June 21 in New Delhi has brought a fresh hope for talks with the ULFA. Listening to the senior citizens of Assam including Dr Hiren Gohain, Dr Nirmal Kumar Choudhuri, Dr Rohini Barua, Hiranya Bhattacharya, Indibar Deuri and Khorshed Alam, the Prime Minister expressed his concern at the prolonged insurgency in Northeast India.
Dr Gohain, who led the delegation to New Delhi, conveyed the message to the Prime Minister that most of the jailed ULFA leaders including their chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa preferred the peace talks and they were not sticking to the demand of sovereignty (of Assam).
Prime Minister Dr Singh, who represents Assam in Rajya Sabha stated that he had no objection to releasing the jailed ULFA leaders such that they can hold their central committee meeting and come out with a consensus decision on peace talks with the government. The delegation consistently advocated for the release of the ULFA leaders highlighting an important resolution of a State level convention held in Guwahati on April 24 last.
The delegation also met the INC president Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and some other political leaders in the capital. While Ms Gandhi was someway supportive to the mission, Chidambaram put hurdles on releasing the jailed ULFA leaders citing that the issue had judicial compulsion.
On the other hand, while the delegation insisted for immediate release of the jailed ULFA leaders, a group of terror victims in Assam demanded that they must not be freed with amnesty. In a press meet at Guwahati Press Club on June 28, the victim families argue that the Constitution (of India) has given every person the right to live. As many ULFA cadres violated this right, they should not be awarded general amnesty. They also insisted that in the name of peace talks, if the jailed ULFA leaders are released without any punishment, it would hardly bring permanent peace in Assam.
“We do not oppose any peace talks with the ULFA, but those cadres involved in heinous crimes must not be given general amnesty. The so-called revolutionary leaders must be punished under the law,” asserted Dhananjay Saikia, whose father Kamala Saikia ( a freedom fighter and a journalist) was killed by ULFA cadres in 1991.
Another victim of ULFA terror Brajen Hazarika, who lost two of his brothers to the cruelty of the militant outfit said, “The ULFA leaders should be punished under the laws of the land.” Hazarika’s two brothers Kumud and Dugdha were killed by the ULFA militants in 1990. He himself was target of the outfit, but some how survived.
Deisy Mani Choudhury Kalita, whose husband Ajay Kalita was killed by the ULFA rebels in 2002, cried in anger while addressing the journalists. She demanded for stringent punishment to those ULFA leaders and asserted that the government should (must) not hurt their sentiments with the release of the ULFA leaders without any exemplary punishment.
Others who addressed the media include Kalema Begum, Pramila Bibi, Jibantara Barman, Basanta Nath, Sabhya Nath, Bhanita Das, Dipali Bhattacharya, Karuna Barman, Pranjit Das, Satyendra Das etc and they were unanimous while asking for justice.