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Govt, ULFA have divergent views on sovereignty but process to initiate talks on: Assam CM


Guwahati, Nov 24: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said there has been "progress in the process of initiating talks" with the ULFA, though the banned outfit and the government have a divergent stand on the issue of sovereignty.

Sarma said he has talked to his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu over the issue of exchange of fire between forest department personnel and some people from the neighbouring state along the border, and asserted that the matter will be resolved. Talking to reporters after holding a review meeting with the Assam Police, the chief minister said, "The ULFA demands sovereignty and we cannot give it. But progress (on talks) has been made and this is evident from the extension of ceasefire by the outfit every three months."

The process is on and will continue but it will "be away from the eyes of the media", he added. Asked about recent reports that some youths have joined the ULFA, Sarma urged parents to cooperate with the police by bringing it to their notice and they can be counselled accordingly.

Regarding the exchange of fire along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, the chief minister said that he has talked to Khandu on the issue.

"This is just a passing phase and it will be resolved through dialogue between both sides. The border issues with most of the North-eastern states are heading towards a solution," he said.

A group of people, suspected to be illegal tree fellers from Arunachal Pradesh, and forest officers of Assam exchanged fire along the inter-state boundary in Lakhimpur district on Tuesday. However, no casualty was reported.

Referring to the threats by some organisations to launch an agitation demanding repeal of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) following the Prime Minister's announcement to withdraw the three contentious farm laws, Sarma claimed that those who talk about agitations during the Covid-19 pandemic are not sensitive to the needs of the people.

"During Covid times, people will not come out to agitate when they are struggling to live and earn their livelihoods," he added.

The CM said several major issues were discussed during the meeting with police officials and these include disposal of cases, recruitment in the police force and handing over reports of post-mortem examination, loss of property and others to the affected people at the earliest.

There are more than 40,000 cases pending with the Guwahati city police and of them, 16,000 case diaries cannot be traced.

"I have directed that the help of retired police officials be taken to reconstruct these and submit the charge sheet or the final report to courts at the earliest. The city police has been directed to dispose of more than the number of cases filed every month," he said.

Sarma also reviewed the issue of pending cases with Range DIGs and SPs and they were directed to dispose of all old cases by March 31 next year.

He said a decision was also taken that cases will be registered only after completion of preliminary inquiry in accordance with Supreme Court directives.

It was decided that advertisements for appointment to 6000 vacancies in the police department will be announced within a week, the chief minister said.

"The state government had decided to give appointments to one lakh youths by May 10 next year when the government completes a year in office, and out of these, 16,000 were allotted for the police department. During the meeting today, Assam police pointed out that it will be possible to give appointments to 12,000 to 13,000 persons by then," he added.

Passport verification must be completed within 30 days, Sarma said. Maintenance of law and order, border issues, drug trafficking, cattle smuggling and other issues were also discussed in the meeting. All these issues will be further discussed at the second two-day conference of the Superintendent of Police from December 8, Sarma added.

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