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Govt apathy complicating scenario

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept15 � Peace activists, militant leaders, academics and journalists today observed that the Government�s delay in taking the peace process forward with insurgent groups who are on a ceasefire, as well as not addressing the core issues raised by major groups like the ULFA, has complicated the conflict scenario in Assam and made the problems multi-dimensional.

At a �round table� titled �Policy on Peace Talks� organized by the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies, the speakers noted that the Government needed to keep its doors open for negotiations with all major insurgent groups but must take care to ensure that dialogue was pursued with groups who enjoyed a certain amount of legitimacy. The round table was moderated by Prashanta Rajguru, executive editor of Amar Asom and a governing body member of CDPS.

On whether the Government should call a moratorium on peace talks with splinter groups of major rebel outfits or newer militant groups, pro-talk ULFA leader Mrinal Hazarika said, �We must first see whether a splinter (rebel) group has been created by the State or whether it has emerged because of internal squabble within that outfit.�

Hazarika said that unless the Government came forward to address key issues raised by the ULFA, militant leaders like Paresh Barua (ULFA�s military chief) would continue to call the shots and emerge stronger.

�The ULFA has certainly committed errors but the question is whether anyone can actually reject the issues raised by it,� Hazarika noted. The Government, he said, must create a situation that can help guarantee the fact that talks would be held if leaders like Paresh Barua come forward to join the rest of the ULFA leaders who are ready to join the peace process.

DHD leader Dilip Nunisa said that the Government must analyse if it was correct to give more importance to those factions of a rebel group who have killed more people or who had been able to demonstrate its military might.

�If the Government comes to encourage splinter groups, the problems will get more complicated,� Nunisa observed.

Initiating the discussion at the round table, Dr Udayan Misra, National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, said that the Government�s failure to have an inclusive approach at peace-making was leading to the emergence of splinter groups of rebels on the scene.

�Lot of the conflict we are faced with today will ease out if the Government is able to provide distributive justice and ensure the rule of law,� Dr Misra said. �Peace accords and peace process are two different things. Peace accords are ad-hoc arrangements while peace process is something that cannot be limited to negotiations,� he added.

Giving a different perspective, former Assam police chief, GM Srivastava, currently security adviser to the state Government, said, �There is need for alternative voices in society. But today, dissent appears to be just a search for political space by few individuals. Dialogue is, of course, the best way to resolve conflicts in a region like the North-east.�

While academics like Dr Noni Gopal Mahanta of Gauhati University said the Government cannot close its doors to negotiations with any militant group, others like Col. Manoranjan Goswami, a former Army officer, said the Government cannot keep on holding peace talks with each and every splinter group or new rebel groups that would emerge on the scene. �The Government must identify the main (insurgent) groups and hold peace talks with only such groups,� he said.

Earlier, Dr Monirul Hussain, Head of the Department of Political Science and Sociology, Gauhati University, released the book �Peace Tools and Conflict Nuances in India�s Northeast� edited by CDPS director Wasbir Hussain and published by Wordweaves India, a Guwahati-based publishing house. The book is a collection of essays that includes commentaries on whether Political Science as a discipline can be used to understand and resolve conflicts in a conflict-ridden area like the North-east.

CDPS president Arun Sarma, a noted playwright, welcomed the participants and stressed on the need for the Government to formulate a comprehensive policy on peace talks. Among those who participated at the round table include columnist and former ULFA leader Sunil Nath, Kanak Sen Deka, editor, Dainik Agradoot, writer Nitya Bora, peace activist Dilip Patgiri, Gandhian Natwar Thakkar, actor and activist Akashitora Dutta, and IIT Guwahati professor Abu Nasser Ahmed.

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