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October 15, 1997


Offensive against funding of insurgents to continue: Mahanta

The Assam government is determined to continue the ongoing offensive against illegal funding of insurgents by big business houses, Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has said.

Immediately after his return from New Delhi to Guwahati, he said there had been no political pressure or interference from any quarter regarding the ongoing probe into such fundings.

''We do not want or intend to have a political fight on this most sensitive issue of the state. We will fight it in the court only with hard evidence,'' Mahanta said, adding that he had been given a free hand by the prime minister in this regard.

The state government had a "watertight" case as far as funding was concerned. "We are confident that justice will prevail and the truth will come out," the chief minister said, insisting that law should take its own course and ''anybody, whoever he might be, should be dealt with firmly.''

Mahanta admitted there was a difference of perception with the Union home ministry regarding the entire case but indicated that there were some coordination lapses in the home ministry.

Mahanta was convinced that if funding by the big business houses could be stopped "then more than half of our problems were over in tackling the militants of the state." He also blamed the industrial houses for making exortion a flourishing business for the ultras.

Asked whether he had met Prime Minister I K Gujral to apprise him of the developments, the chief minister said, "It was not on the agenda. We will be sticking to the court only," he said.

Reacting to industrialist Nusli Wadia's charge that thought various other tea companies were also paying, the Tatas were only singled out, mahanta said remarked, "If the Tatas know the name of those companies, they can very well inform us. We have already started investigations against those tea companies having nexus with the ultras. We have acted only on documents and hard evidence. The Tatas cannot complain of being singled out."

He termed as baseless the allegation of involvement of his ministers with the banned organisation. "The truth is that many people do not want us to be a part of the United Front government. The Congress especially is extremely annoyed over this fact. Our presence in the UF has stopped them from indulging in dirty politics. These allegations are basically a part of the Congress' ongoing attempt for a backdoor entry."

Mahanta was confident that the ongoing offensive against the erring industrial houses would not hamper the party's relationship with the other constituents of the UF. "Besides the Left parties, the Samajwadi Party too have supported our stance," he said.

Asked about the probability of setting up a judicial commission to go into the account of extortion in all spheres, the chief minister replied in the negative. "This will be an eyewash, serving no purpose. Besides, people will not come out to testify due to lack of hard evidence".

About the "links" between him and Indian Hotels Company former chairman Ajit Kerkar in the phone tapping controversy, he said, "Why on earth should I be dragged into the Tata-Kerkar issue. Yes, it is true that I wrote a letter recommending a private bank to be set up by his son in Assam. The state badly needs investment and I am ready to write ten more such letters and even to Ratan Tata too if he comes forward for investing in the state."

Mahanta denied that the Union home ministry had informed him about the Bangkok meeting between United Liberation Frout of Asom and Tata Tea.

He was confident that the recent offensive against those involved in illegal funding of the militants would not harm the future investment in the state. "I do not forsee any drastic change. This is a criminal case," Mahanta said.

"There are no hiccups on our way but still we are deliberately proceeding slowly so that we do not make any mistake in this investigation. We want to put a full stop," he added.


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