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Assam's hopes for peace dashed in 2006
K Anurag in Guwahati | December 23, 2006 22:17 IST
What started with a bang late last year and ended in a whimper this year has been the peace process in Assam. The much hyped initiative in Assam ended midway in a deadlock, dashing hopes of those who aspired to see an end to the prolonged spell of violence and unrest in the state.
2006 had dawned in Assam, raising hopes that the peace overtures that were started late last year would mature to a stage where top leaders of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom and representatives of the government of India would see eye-to-eye in their negotiations. Unfortunately, both sides could not achieve this and ultimately, people continued to suffer from violence.
The peace initiative hit an apparently irresolvable stalemate, thanks to adamant postures adopted by both the ULFA and the government of India.
The peace initiative began after the banned ULFA nominated its group of negotiators, the People's Consultative Group in September-end last year to prepare the ground for direct ULFA-government negotiations in future.
It was big news in a state that was reeling under insurgency since 1979. The peace initiative was an instant hit with the media all over. The hype raised lots of hopes for peace to come back to the blood-splattered Brahmaputra valley.
The government of India, too, was enthused as reflected by the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the first round of talks with the PCG in New Delhi in early October last year.
Subsequently, the Union government held two rounds of talks with the PCG in February and June this year. However, the initiative gradually started losing steam once the ULFA asked for release five of its senior leaders from jail through the PCG as a sort of pre-condition to direct talks with the government.
In response, the union government sent message to the ULFA that it expected the militant group to give a written commitment to hold direct negotiations and asked it to fix a date and venue for direct negotiation. The ULFA did not give a favourable response.
To give ULFA a last chance, the government of India declared a unilateral halt to Army operations against the militant group from August 14 to September 23. As ULFA failed to respond, the Army was asked to re-launched its operation to prevent ULFA from regrouping and replenishing its coffer through extortion taking advantage of the peace initiative.
The clock was turned back and as a result, killings and counter-killings by ULFA militants and security forces resumed, dashing a million hopes for peace.