GUWAHATI, Jan 26 (IANS) People in North-east India defied calls by separatist rebels to boycott Republic Day and joined the celebrations across the region amid a strike called by the militants Wednesday, officials said.
"It is heartening to find people coming to attend the Republic Day functions across the region despite calls by some militants to boycott the celebrations," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said here.
At least six outlawed rebel groups, including the powerful United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), called a 17-hour general strike from 1 a.m. to protest the celebrations marking India's transition to a Republic in 1950.
Militant groups in Assam, Manipur and Tripura called the boycott.
There were sporadic incidents of violence in the run up to Republic Day. Militants in Assam Tuesday bombed a goods train and attacked a passenger bus wounding three people.
"Violence is not an answer to resolve any of the problems and we hope the militant groups join the mainstream and stop all forms of killings and bloodshed," Assam Governor J.B. Patnaik said in his Republic Day speech here.
Regional heads in the insurgency-hit northeastern states of Manipur and Tripura appealed to rebel groups to come for peace talks with the government.
"Our doors for talks with militant groups are open. Problems can be resolved through negotiations and not through the barrel of the gun," Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh told journalists in Imphal.
Militant groups in the seven northeast states have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi's rule over the oil and timber-rich region.
There are some 30 rebel groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.