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Gogoi wants ULFA to come for talks

Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday urged the ULFA to respond to the government's peace initiatives.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2006 18:42 IST

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday urged the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to respond to the government's peace initiatives.

"The doors for peace talks are still wide open and New Delhi is ready to hold direct negotiations if the ULFA responds positively," Gogoi told in Guwahati.

The Indian Army is engaged in a massive military operation against the ULFA after New Delhi in September called off a six-week ceasefire blaming the outfit for stepping up attacks and extortions.

The talks were deadlocked with ULFA demanding the release of five of their jailed leaders as a precondition for holding direct talks with the government.

Indian negotiators wanted a commitment in writing that the ULFA leadership would come for negotiations if their jailed comrades were released.

The group refused to give a written commitment. "I still believe the peace process is not completely derailed and hope the ULFA respects the wishes of the people of Assam to come for talks and solve the problem," Gogoi said.

Talks between ULFA representatives and the Indian government formally broke last month after the People's Consultative Group (PCG), a civil society team appointed by the rebels to mediate for talks, pulled out of the peace process blaming New Delhi for calling off the truce.

There were three rounds of talks between the ULFA-chosen PCG and the Indian government.

The chief minister said his government's objective of ushering in development for the welfare of the people was very much similar to that of ULFA.

"My government's objective and that of ULFA is very much the same so far as the overall development of the state is concerned," Gogoi said at the inaugural ceremony of a two-day meet of security heads of the northeast, West Bengal and Sikkim to work out a joint strategy to combat insurgency and Islamist terrorism.

"The only difference is the means through which this goal can be achieved. While ULFA is adopting violent means, my government is trying to develop the state through democratic means," he said.

Gogoi said the ULFA's support base in Assam was on the downslide in recent years, with people clamouring for peace and an end to all forms of violence.

"This is a good sign with the mass support base of ULFA now eroding. People in general are against all forms of bloodshed and want to see Assam develop economically," he said.

He cautioned security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Assam not to harass civilians in the name of tackling militancy.

"Dignity of individuals should be respected and security forces should always try to be sensitive not to indulge in excesses," Gogoi said.

First Published: Nov 01, 2006 18:42 IST