In Touch With ULFA-I Leader Paresh Barua But Immediate Talks Unlikely, Says Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Monday said that he is in touch with the Paresh Barua-led faction of ULFA(I) but negotiations with the outfit is unlikely in the immediate future. It is not easy for Barua to give up the issue of sovereignty but he must realise that the people of Assam do not want it anymore, Sarma said during an interaction with mediapersons here.

‘As the political head of Assam, I will continue to reach out to Baruah. I usually talk to him every three or six months and I plan to talk to him again soon. But I don’t expect him to come for talks immediately,” the chief minister said. ‘We have kept open the channels for discussions, but we do not see the talks happening in the near future. This is a long-drawn process and we hope that he will come for talks some day,’ he added.

The chief minister claimed that Barua will himself change the ULFA charter of demands which was drawn up several decades ago if he comes and stays in Assam for 15 days as the state is now a land of peace and tranquility. ‘He is fighting for the people of the state but they want development and not an independent Assam,” Sarma said.

Asserting that there should be constant conversations, discussions and Barua should be made aware of the changing reality of the state, he said “I encourage my ministers to talk to members of United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) so that they are aware of the development that is taking place. I have even told intelligence officials not to track people who are in touch with them’.

At the same time Army and police operations will continue if grenades are lobbed by members of the outfit. “We cannot stop that,” the chief minister quipped. On the tripartite agreement with the pro-talk faction of the ULFA, Sarma said that it has in one stroke established the political and land rights of the state’s indigenous people which cannot be disturbed for a long time to come.

‘The delimitation exercise in the state ensured that 96 assembly constituencies in Brahmaputra Valley and nine in Barak Valley will be secure for the indigenous people of these areas. The ULFA accord has made sure that the principle followed in this delimitation exercise will be maintained,’ he said. According to the December 29 agreement none can encroach on government forest land and enter their names in the voters list of that area. A voter cannot move their names from one constituency to another. Their voting rights will not be cancelled but will be listed in their original constituency, Sarma said.

A person has to acquire permanent residency of a particular area by either purchasing land or have other substantial interests like holding a government job, he added. ‘The two major outcomes of the agreement with the ULFA is that the principle of delimitation will be maintained in the future and ordinarily a person living in one area cannot become a voter of another area by encroaching land. This is the final solution within the constitutional limits to protect the rights of the indigenous people,’ he said.

Besides, it will ensure that the political power of the indigenous people cannot be disturbed for a long time as the political representatives in more than 100 of the total 126 constituencies of the state will be from descendants of people who are living in the state for the last 200 to 300 years, Sarma said. The agreement has also ensured that no people from outside can purchase land in the radius of any ‘namghar’ (Vaishnav prayer halls) or temples.

‘The leaders of the pro-talk faction were not in public life for the last 14 years after they came overground. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah consciously activated the peace process and we created this accord as an instrument to secure the future of the people of Assam,’ the chief minister said.

Regarding the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is now in force in four districts of the state, Sarma said, ‘We wanted its total withdrawal but the Centre wanted to be cautious, particularly in the border districts with the neighbouring states. Maybe in the next round of review, it will be brought down to two districts’.

On the implementation of the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA), Sarma said that it is already a rule of law but the people of Assam have gone to the Supreme Court, which will take the decision. The cut off year for Hindu Bengalis for getting citizenship is 2014 and according to the National Register of Citizens three to four lakh of them have been identified. The political rights of the indigenous population have been secured by the delimitation exercise and the agreement with the ULFA irrespective of the CAA, he added.

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