Assamese living in the national capital have hailed the announcement by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to halt their guerrilla campaign and hope it would usher in much-needed peace and development in the trouble-torn state.
Noted writer Indira Goswami, who has been spearheading efforts to bring the ULFA to the negotiating table, is a happy woman. "At least my (individual) efforts during the past two-and-a-half years have borne fruit. Now let us hope for the best," Goswami, a Delhi University professor said.
The ULFA had last year named a group of 11 civil society leaders - called the People's Consultative Group (PCG) and headed by Goswami - to mediate for talks with New Delhi. "There are still some hurdles for us and we hope that they will be overcome soon. The modalities for direct government-ULFA talks are also to be sorted out," she said.
The ULFA announced a truce in response to the central government's decision August 14 to suspend military operations against it for 10 days.
Manoj Kumar Das, general secretary of Assam Association in Delhi, said this was really a positive step. "This is a great step and efforts should be made for an amicable solution to the insurgency problem at the earliest," he said.
"We have seen that army operation cannot be a solution. If talks can solve big disputes across the globe why can't it happen in India?"
Said Aroopam Bhuyan, a software professional said,"Assam needs peace and it is good that the ULFA has reciprocated to the ceasefire (of 10 days) declared by the government." He said the government should be honest and understand the problems faced by the people of Assam.
"If the ULFA really thinks that they represent the Assamese, then this is their best opportunity to realise the cause they had been fighting for so long - for a peaceful, prosperous and a developed Assam," Bhuyan said.
"It's a historic step not just because of the ceasefire announcement but in the context of everything that is happening perhaps for the first time in Assam - the gas cracker project, Infosys mentor Narayan Murthy's visit, the PCG and various reforms," said Amlan Borgohain, a corporate executive.
"If both the parties grasp this moment to arrive at a lasting solution for peace, Assam will surely regain its lost glory. At present, this can surely be termed a positive step but both the sides must show sincerity during further deliberations," said Sanjeeb Baruah, who works in a wildlife agency.
Simanta Talukdar, an employee with an advertising company, said,"Talks with the ULFA is not, however, an end to the root cause of the problem. The Central Government must chalk out a comprehensive policy for the Northeast. At times we feel alienated. This step-motherly attitude has to go."
The ULFA has been fighting for a separate Assamese homeland since it was formed in 1979. This is the first time the group has called for a ceasefire.