The government will talk peace with terrorist groups only if they abjure violence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday after touring areas of Assam where Hindi-speaking people were recently targeted.
Sixty-nine people, mostly migrants from Bihar, were killed in the attacks, believed to have been carried out by separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
Singh told reporters in Dibrugarh: “The message I have for Assam is that the Centre is firm in its resolve to work with the people and the state government to ensure that terrorists groups do not succeed in their despicable designs.”
Condemning the killings, Singh said violence would not be tolerated. “The government has a duty to protect the lives of its law-abiding citizens, particularly those who are vulnerable,” he said. “We will ensure the safety of our citizens using all the resources at our command.”
On pursuing peace, the prime minister said the doors for dialogue were open to all groups including ULFA, provided they gave up violence. He said the government had taken the initiative to discuss peace with ULFA which, however, had thrown a spanner in the works by renewing violent attacks. Singh made it clear that the government’s willingness to talk should not be mistaken “as a sign of weakness”.
The prime minister said he had faith in talks. “I am sure that if we persist with the process of dialogue, a solution can be found in Assam,” he said, and referred to problems in other states which were sorted out through talks. Earlier, Singh announced a rehabilitation package for those affected by the recent violence.