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Govt open to talks with ULFA

Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal says the Govt welcomes ULFA and all other militant groups for open talks.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2007 22:07 IST

The government on Sunday offered to hold peace talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the rebel group blamed for a wave of attacks that killed 48 Hindi-speaking people in Assam this week.

"The ULFA should shun the path of violence and come forward to resolve their demands through negotiations with the government. Our doors for peace talks are open for the ULFA and all other militant groups in the country," Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters.

"The militants can resolve their demands through talks, but issues like sovereignty of the country cannot be compromised under any circumstances," he added.

The minister made the offer of talks at the end of a day-long visit to the state to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation after the ULFA killed migrant workers in at least a dozen separate raids for two straight days beginning Friday in eastern Assam.

"The killings are nothing but acts of desperation," the minister said.

Jaiswal earlier held a high-level security meeting at Tinsukia in eastern Assam with top Army commanders, paramilitary, police and civil officials.

"We shall do our best to ensure security for the common people and assure to send additional paramilitary reinforcements," the minister said at the meet.

He hinted at a joint offensive against the ULFA by security forces of both Assam and adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, where the outfit has set up bases to carry out hit-and-run guerrilla strikes.

"The home minister talked about a joint security offensive involving both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to flush out the ULFA. It is a fact that the militants sneak back to their bases in Arunachal when there are offensives in Assam," said an Army commander who wished not to be identified.

The Assam government had sought 78 paramilitary companies (about 7,800 troopers) from New Delhi for effective anti-insurgency operations.

Earlier, Jaiswal, accompanied by a team of top home ministry officials, arrived in Dibrugarh by a special flight and headed for the small industrial township Doomdooma to visit family members and injured victims of one of the massacres.

Meanwhile, streets in eastern Assam wore a deserted look with an indefinite curfew and a shoot-on-sight order issued since late Saturday.

Most of the victims were from the eastern state of Bihar who had made Assam their home for decades and were doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishing, and as daily wage earners.

In 2000, ULFA militants killed at least 100 Hindi-speaking people in Assam in a series of well-planned attacks after the rebel group vowed to free the state of all 'non-Assamese migrant workers'.

The ULFA is yet to claim responsibility for the recent attacks.

Meanwhile, three ministers from Bihar visited violence-torn eastern Assam and appealed to the Hindi-speaking community to exercise restraint.