Talk Tamasha: What Next?

The ULFA came in to the fry with the Peoples’ Consultative Group (PCG) saying the group was entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the groundworks for the show. The Government which has been traditionally making clarion call to the insurgent outfits too came for talks in three rounds with the group. That too was kickstarted by Prime Minister Dr Singh.

The Centre evinced keen interest to talk to the ULFA leaders directly and indicated that it would release five top ULFA heavyweights to clear the decks for the show, who have been languishing in judicial custody.

The entire drama reached its climax on August 13,2006 when the Centre decided to suspend the Army operation against the ULFA to clear the road to happiness. The ULFA took nearly 48 hours to do the same. However, it was purely a political decision and not a security-related one.

Inaugurated by the Prime Minister and his office, later the show was shifted to the home ministry where lots of objections came up one after another but with a method. The bureacrates sought a confimation from the ULFA in a letter containing the date of direct talk and the would be participants before releasing the five top guns from jails. The ULFA said it’s heavyweights in the jails were required to take a decision. The home ministry has been leery of releasing them fearing the ‘92 blunder in the Hiteswar Saikia regime. The ULFA said the letter of interest was addressed to the Prime Minister through Dr Indira Goswami last year and they had no fresh letter. The home ministry did not proceed further and the ULFA too remained unchanged. Thus the entire process halted haflway only because of a letter.

The ultimate blow to spoil the show came as soon as ULFA killed a tea garden manager in Dibrugarh for failing to meet the extortion demand. Even, in an e-mail in a section of media, the ULFA served extortion notice to the non Assamese people living in the state. Thus the peace process, in the pink was reduced to a farce for the ULFA-Government competition of insincerity.

Marked by a series of blamegame, the one and a half month long talk tamasha finally came to a grinding halt. But it is heartening to note that the traditional mud slinging fail to capture considerable space in media.

Whatever remains to be understood is the sincerity of the Centre’s traditional clarion calls to the youths with arms to come for talks and to go for solutions. May we ask the government if a confirmation was necessary from ULFA why the home ministry officials forgot to demand the same in the three rounds of talks in Delhi with the PCG?. If these very issues were left untouched , did the home ministry officials and PCG members talk of weather in the name of three rounds of meetings? Why the Centre said these ULFA leaders would be released to ensure an early talk. Is it more a tamasha and less a show of sincerity. They talked favourably but found words butter no parsnips.

And ULFA! if Bhimkanta Buragohain, Pradeep Gogoi et al were needed to take a decision on talk then can they answer us: how they remained ready to drop the demand of sovereignty in the direct talk? How they decided came up with the Peoples’ Consultative Group (PCG)? Also how and who decided to carry out bombings which left thousands of innocent people dead along with some securityman in the name of struggle for an independent Asom? Actually, who planted bombs at the flag hoisting site of Dhemaji which killed as many as fifteen people most of whom are children? The presence of these top cadres was not required while these were decided?

One more thing strikes in our minds which can be interpreted by ULFA themselves and a few PCG members: when ceasefire was there, killings and extortion went pari passu. Why ULFA killed the tea garden manager in Dibrugarh during the period of ceasefire, why ULFA served taxing notice in a section of media and that too while the ceasefire was there? We are not unaware of the fact that the ceasefire was suspended as soon as these incidents were reported. Then is it right to blame the Centre only for resumption of Army crackdown against the ULFA?

But the role of PCG members? Less said is better. They blame it all on Dispur and Delhi for the end of the show only to shy away from the question of their efficiency. They remain silent on continued extortion, killing and taxing during the ceasefire period. They could have made ULFA bound to abstain from these activities in question, they could have cleared a fresh letter from ULFA if it was helpful for ensuring talk for the greater interest of Asom. Even a member tried to sandbag the insurgent outfit saying these would not have been happened if the government released the ULFA top cadres to ensure talks. Now they are vocal against the Governments both in Delhi and Dispur because it is very easy to criticise the power-that-be (even for bad weather).

Strange are their ways. While ULFA cannot escape the responsiblity for the logjam, the PCG people have resorted to traditional and shameful games including road blockade, hunger strike, Asom bandh et al which have been responsible for the state’s sagging economic scenario.

Measured by any standard, it stands clear that the logjam is attributable to lack of sincerity both of ULFA and the Centre and PCG’s failure to handle the task efficiently.

Of late, both the parties are in a mode to resume the show albeit it runs through hamshackle ramshackle as a circle is working in the process who leave no stone unturned to stoke the dying embers of insurgency to keep the fire alive purely for their personal aggrandisement. But we do not need any repeat of the show.

The Centre’s unwillingness is a known fact most particularly, in the North East--Centre’s Achillies’ heels. But of late, it has some reasons to glean a few score of points to cover up its inchoate sense of love for the seven sister. Firstly, it announced a ceasefire as a step in right direction as a confidence building measure. Secondly, it announced its readiness to talk with the ULFA even outside the country in the line of NSCN-IM. The erstwhile NDA government strongly sought any talk with ULFA within the country and made it clear that sovereignty would not come up for negotiation.

Thirdly and notably, the UPA Government goes somehow soft saying it will discuss all issues to be raised by the ULFA but adding that the word sovereignty will not be there due to some technical problems.

As a result, the controversy on a decade old controversy on sovereignty has died down. These have further helped both sides come come close to each other.

There is no denying the fact that the process received a new dimension while it was at the political level but it freezed as soon as it shifted to the home ministry which is confined only to the age old carrot and stick policy citing law and order problem while the North East has to demand even something legitimate.

We think an all party meeting will be a step in right direction in this crucial juncture to sort out the problems confronting the episode. The strong forum consisting of politicians, and intellectuals should come out to a)exhert pressure on ULFA and Centre for ensuring a fruitful negotiation as both Centre and ULFA categorically express their willingness for talks. Let these prominent people draw the strategies of talk to be raised in the peace negotiation.

Lots of bloods have been shed at the height of insurgency and these failed to champion for the cause of our dumb millions. At a time when the state is embroiled in insurgency, the Assamese grind the stone while another section takes the bird. Stop these at an earlier date as every chapter of murder and mayhem has a silver lining. But will the prisoners of conscience awake? Over to Centre and ULFA.

- Contributed by Prasanta Baruah/ Dibyajyoti Chayengia