Noted Gandhian peace activist and President of the Ekta Parishad PV Rajgopal has claimed that the Union government is dithering on talking to a faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) that has announced a unilateral ceasefire pending unconditional talks since June 2008.
The failure to engage in talks could make the faction go back on its offer and be counter productive for peace in the North East, he says. Rajgopal and another Gandhian, Hem Bhai have been authorized by the faction to intercede on their behalf.
The A and C Companies of the 28th Battalion of the ULFA had in June 2008 declared a unilateral ceasefire. The faction has authorized President of the Ekta Parishad PV Rajgopal who is also the Vice President of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, a body working for peaceful resolutions of conflicts and Hem Dutta of the Shanti Sadhna Ashram, Guwahati, another Gandhian body to act as mediators in talks with the Government of India. However, the Union Government has surprisingly not engaged the faction in talks.
The Hindustan Times has a copy of the letter authorizing PV Rajgopal and Hem Bhai to mediate on behalf of the ULFA faction.
PV Rajgopal told Hindustan Times that he had met then Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal last year and informed him of the authorization. The Minister asked him to also involve the Assam Governor in the talks. However, the issue was put on the backburner as the country went for Lok Sabha polls and the efforts were not revived after the new government was sworn in. The ULFA has 7 companies, 2 out of which have come forward for talks, says Rajgopal.
“I feel that the armed forces are telling the government that they can compel the remaining factions of the ULFA to also come to the negotiating table and hence there is no point in holding talks,” said PV Rajgopal. “ But if the government does
not act fast, the faction in favour of talks and a peaceful solution could also go back to fighting, he said, adding,
“They are under pressure from the other faction to abandon the peace offer,” he added.
Sri Prakash Jaiswal who is presently Union Minister for Coal was unavailable for comment.
Rajgopal, citing the containment of dacoity in the Chambal through peaceful means under JP said that governments should realize the efficacy of the peaceful option for resolution of conflicts. “ If the talks with the faction is successful,
the remaining factions will also come forward. I know for certain they want peace,” he said.
The Ekta Parishad has been working with Gandhian groups in Assam on issues like construction of big dams, industries and displacement of population.