Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asked the Paresh Barua faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) to wake up to ground realities while stopping short of calling it a paper tiger.
Singh’s advice to Barua followed the rebel leader’s threat via email to resort to an “armed struggle” against the “arrogant” policies of the ruling Congress. But more importantly, his message came from close to the Ulfa’s birthplace – Sivasagar, 56 km east of this central Assam town.
He did proceed to Sivasagar to lay the foundation stone of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology. Both institutes would be the second of their kinds in India.
“Those who are now issuing such threats sitting away from India are not aware of the ground realities,” the Prime Minister said after laying the foundation stone of the National Institute of Design in Jorhat, 308 km east of Assam capital Guwahati.
Singh also played down the Ulfa threat.
“I don’t think they would do what they have threatened to. Necessary steps and precautions will be taken if they (Barua faction) if they vitiate the peace process in Assam,” he said.
Hours after the Prime Minister landed in Assam, Barua shot off an email blaming the Congress for trying to divide the Ulfa. The rebel leader was referring to the group led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa that initiated the peace process in New Delhi on February 10 without him.
“The Congress has never given any importance to the legitimate democratic struggles of the indigenous Assamese people to protect their land and identity, nor has it initiated any steps to resolve the various issues of the state," Barua said, urging the people to boycott the Congress in poll-bound Assam.
Singh scotched this allegation.“We have always respected the legitimate rights and aspirations of various ethnic groups in India,” he said while insisting statehood wasn’t the only way to fulfilling their aspirations.
On the talks with the Rajkhowa-led Ulfa, the Prime Minister said it “has good future.”