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09/22/2005: "NSCN (I-M) for firm undertaking"
NSCN (I-M) for firm undertaking Kuknalim.com NEW DELHI, SEPT 20: The NSCN (I-M) has sought a firm assurance from the Centre on the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas before the next round of talks that are likely to begin in October, a top Naga source said. The Nagas have told the Centre that they were willing to engage the governments of Assam and Manipur to find a way out of their opposition to any move to take away Naga-inhabited areas of their states, the source said.
The NSCN (I-M) has also indicated that it would be willing to compromise on other demands. ‘‘Besides integration of Naga-inhabited areas, we have told the government that we are willing to consider an amicable compromise on other points,’’ the source said. NSCN (I-M) general secretary T H Muivah, who is in Bangkok will come to India as soon as the dates are decided, the source said. ‘‘But we want a firm assurance on the integration,’’ the source added. On whether they have considered pulling out of peace process, he said unless the Centre came up with a firm assurance, they would be left with no option but to renew the struggle. The Nagas had last year submitted a 30-point charter to the government. Their key demands include integration of Naga-inhabited areas, raising of a separate Naga force which will work with the Army to protect the border of Nagaland, and a ‘‘special federal relationship’’ with India.
The Naga peace talks that began early this year had hit a major hurdle during the blockade of Manipur by the Naga student organisations. As a result, when the ceasefire between NSCN(I-M) and the Centre came up for renewal on July 31, the Nagas proposed a one-month extension. After negotiations, it was extended by six months, instead of the intended one year. [SUDHI RANJAN SEN, IndianExpress]
NPF suspends former minister Kohima Hindustan Times
September 22, 2005Former Nagaland finance minister and MLA K Therie was officially suspended on Wednesday by the Nagaland People Front (NPF) "for an indefinite period".
Senior NPF leaders said that the suspension was announced on the basis of the disciplinary action committee (DAC) report submitted on Wednesday. Therie, a former finance minister, had been issued a show-cause notice by DAC in June. His reply to the notice was however "quite unsatisfactory", the leaders said.There was however a window of opportunity for the expelled legislator. "The ball is now in Therie's court," his party leaders said. "If he is willing to come back, and gives us an assurance that he will not indulge in such anti-party activities again, his suspension may be revoked". On the other hand, the party has also held out the threat that the suspension could, if the situation demanded, be followed by an expulsion order. (By arrangement with Newsfile)
Manipur ambush greets Pranab on N-E visit RAJAT PANDIT TIMES NEWS NETWORK [
DIMAPUR: In his first-ever visit to the simmering cauldron that is the North-East, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee received the news that at least eight Army soldiers had been killed in an ambush in Churachandpur area of Manipur on Monday night (an agency report put the toll at 14). That set the tone for his visit across Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh over the next three days. But Mukherjee, who received a detailed briefing on the internal security situation in the entire region at the Eastern Command HQ in Kolkata earlier in the day, was optimistic that negotiations with some insurgent groups, and operations against the others, were on track.
One area of focus during his visit, of course, is the 54-year-old Naga separatist problem. After 12 rounds of talks earlier this year, the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) was extended for only six months, a departure from the usual one-year extensions since 1997. Holding that there had been "no tangible progress" in the talks, Naga leaders are reiterating their demand for "Greater Nagaland", which involves integration of Naga-inhabited regions of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal. But these states, Manipur in particular, are totally against any such move by the Centre. "Yes, the ceasefire has been extended by only six months but that does not mean it will not be extended after six months. Some progress has been made in the talks but the issue is very complex and so naturally it will take time to resolve," said Mukherjee. "We are engaged in dialogue. That itself is a positive development. There is a groundswell for peace and development for some sort of settlement," he said, adding that no timeframe could be set for the process.
The minister admitted the situation in Manipur was "bad". But, he said, "We are trying to normalise the situation but there are various groups and their interests are divergent". The Army, incidentally, has launched a drive to exterminate militant strongholds in Manipur along the Indo-Myanmar border. There are 20 underground outfits active in the state alone like the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, United National Liberation Front and People's Liberation Army.
Robbers nabbed The Imphal Free Press
IMPHAL, Sep 21: Two highway robbers looting and extorting money from inter-state passenger bus services along national highway-39 were nabbed by the Nagaland police from a place between Vishwema and Khuzuma under Khuzuma police station, an official report from Kohima said.
As per the report, the two persons identified as Thongngam Raising, 38, self style major of NSCN (IM) son of Longar of Poi village of Ukhrul district and Soju Paomei, 21, son of late Paotei Paomei of Pasul village of Senapati district were nabbed on September 17 last with the money they had looted from two or three vehicles on the national highway in the last few days.
The Kohima police have registered a case and investigation is on, the report added.
Conflicting voices over NH-53 development Source: The Sangai Express
Imphal, September 19: Even as the Highway Development Council has announced its plans to tour NH-53 from September 21 and mobilise the village chiefs and villagers living along the route to develop the highway, the Zeliangrong Youth Front, (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland) has urged the village elders, headmen/chiefs to abstain from enrolling themselves as members or office bearers of any organisation/associations floated under the name of developing the highway. In a statement, the Highway Development Council said that as per the decision taken on September 11, a meeting was held today wherein it was decided that a team comprising of representatives from different social organisations will tour the highway and see the development work being taken up there. The team will inspect the infrastructure such as the retaining wall, side drain, culvert etc and present a picture to the Government on their return. Discussions to develop the highway will be held with the village chiefs of villages lying along the highway as well as with civil societies of the area.
All willing persons who have submitted their names for the tour have been informed to gather in front of Hotel Excellency at 7 am of September 21 and to bring with them blankets, mosquito nets, plates etc. On the other hand, the Zeliangrong Youth Front has issued a statement stating that it has been the demand of the people to develop NH-53 for long. The main factor hampering the development of the route was the frequent interference from armed groups operating along the highway, said the statement and added that two bull dozers and a JCB were burnt down as the BRTF refused to cough up Rs 2 crores demanded by the armed groups. Engineers and staff of BRTF were also kidnapped often.All this while, the people who are shouting for the development of NH-53 now were nowhere in sight, charged the ZYF and said that the people will extend their cooperation to the BRTF and the Govt to carry out the pending work. Others should not interfere, it warned.
NPMHR rejects verdict of Ato Longphang Addie Chiphang
UKHRUL, Sep 21: Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Ukhrul Unit and other prominent women’s organisations have rejected the verdict issued by the Ato Longphang (a customary court of Northern Tangkhuls) and Tangkhul Region, GPRN/NSCN, in a rare case where a minor girl has been accused of stealing 8016 carats of gold. In a joint statement, Ukhrul Unit of NPMHR, president of Kamphason Shanao Long, advisor of Tangkhul Shanao Long other social organisations of Ukhrul district charged that the justice dispensed by Ato Longphang and Tangkhul Region of GRPN/NSCN was fraught with discrepancies. A minor orphan girl identified as P Kahaowon of Hango Kaphung was accused of stealing a camera, coins, 10 pieces of gold over and above 8016 carats of gold by one K Yarchipem of Phungreitang, the master of the house where she stayed as a helper last year. The case was initially handled by Tangkhul Region of GRPN/NSCN but later referred to the customary court. The statement jointly released by the rights group and the women’s organsiations charged the Ato Longphang with trying to penalise the helpless orphan girl solely on the basis of the charges levelled against her by the complainant without investigating and verifying the facts. Pointing out the alleged discrepancies in the proceeding of the case, the statement said that the girl was summoned by the chief judge of the customary court in his letterhead even before the case was actually filed by the complainant. The deputy chief judge also imposed fine to two other relatives of the girl for not attending the courts, when the fact is that they were not given any summon letter. The rights body and the women’s organsiations asserted that the relevant court documents were never given to the accused girl, contravening in the actual practice of serving it to both the parties and dictating the girl to plead guilty. Without mincing words, the joint statement also charged the Tangkhul Region GPRN/NSCN with detention of the minor girls for 47 days illegally and taking statement under duress, thus again contravening the universal practice of trying by juvenile court. The statement further alleged that the girl was subjected to physical and mental torture, while in detention and threat to life by the house owner, which is an offence in the eye of the law. The rights body and the women’s organisations also questioned the legality of keeping 8016 carats of gold (16 kgs) by an individual. The rights body and the women’s organisations categorically that the statement has been issued jointly as ‘ they were unable to bear the discrimination meted out to the poor orphan girl by the justice dispensing authorities’ and appealed for referring the case to a competent law court.
Indian Government Cautioned Over Corruption in Social Security Scheme Rahul Kumar OneWorld South Asia 21 September 2005
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (OneWorld South Asia) - India's ambitious project to eradicate rural poverty – the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) – has come in for criticism from experts for its potential to invite corruption that can bring down the project. Experts point out that the Indian government should modify the massive scheme before it is implemented. At a discussion organized by a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) - South Asia Partnership-India (SAP-India) – in New Delhi, experts said though it had the potential to re-activate rural areas, the government will have to tread with caution because of the failure of similar schemes earlier. Another suggestion that came up was that the government could merge the existing rural development schemes for improved efficacy and better monitoring. India's first guaranteed social security scheme, which was announced by the government last year, has led to heated political, economic and rural-urban discussions across the country. The NREGA seeks to provide a legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment for the rural poor. It plans to do this through infrastructure-creating programs under which minimum wages will be provided to at least one able-bodied person in every rural household. Currently, minimum wages differ widely in different states in India. These vary from Rs 25 (US $0.65 ) in Nagaland to Rs 134 (US $3) in Kerala for a day's manual work. The scheme provides an unemployment allowance if the government is unable to provide the job.
Both the houses of the Indian Parliament approved the scheme in August 2005 but the debate rages. Speaking at the discussion, former editor and advisor to the government Prem Shankar Jha said the Act does not generate employment but seems to provide unemployment doles to the people. He said: "Currently the government plans to spend around Rs 60,000 crore (US $13.70) on the project, and this is a huge amount of money. It could have conducted a pilot project in one village in each state to test the efficacy of the project. This would help the government erase drawbacks in the scheme. It also has not done a cost-benefit analysis of the project to see whether this scheme will provide the desired benefits to the poor and the marginalised." The project has been under fire from many quarters including economists who says that the government has not yet spelt out how to generate the money for this project. Jha also took up the argument and said: "The government simply says that the money can be arranged because the Indian economy is growing at a rate of seven percent. But experience has shown us that the GDP and such development schemes cannot be linked."
Rebutting the claim about the money, the director general of CAPART, an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Rural Development, Kamal Tauri said: "We have to respect the intentions of the government as it wants to revive Indian villages and provide security to the rural poor. Money will not be a problem for a country the size of India therefore we should try to come out of the 'where is the money syndrome' and instead try to improve upon the Act." Defending the act, Tauri said: "We cannot stop globalization, liberalization and the opening up of the economy and its effect on the people. But by strengthening the rural base we can empower people in rural areas. Enterprises cannot create employment and remove poverty in villages but entrepreneurship can remove poverty and that is what this program can do. Also, the government does not plan to impose new taxes for this scheme."
Tauri added that nearly 29 departments are presently engaged in rural development in India and the new scheme should not create yet another department as it would add to red tapism and corruption. Recalling the words of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Jha said: "Earlier it was estimated that nearly 85 percent of the money meant for the poor would end up in corruption. Now the Planning Commission of India says that 95 percent of this money goes in corruption. We have to be careful in implementing this scheme so that only the poor and the marginalized are benefited." Experts point out that the scheme has not taken ground realities into consideration because the states have to implement the scheme while the federal government has to generate the funds for it. This will create a diarchy which is not going to work. Defending the government's stand, the Union Minister of State for Planning, MV Rajashekharan said: "There is always a scope for improvement in developmental planning. This scheme aims to benefit the poorest of the poor and is the first of its kind to provide them with much needed guaranteed social security. We should also not see this initiative in isolation but in conjunction with other schemes like the Health Mission, the Horticulture Mission, Rural Electrification and Bharat Nirman Yojna – all of which are for the overall development of rural India."
Plebiscite not possible, territorial army battalion for state: Pranab The Imphal Free Press
IMPHAL,Sep 21: In what could be termed as a negative response to the proposal of the underground United National Liberation Front, the Union defence minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that the matter of holding a plebiscite towards bringing an end to the decades old insurgency in Manipur will not be possible if the intent is to disintegrate the country. The defence minister was addressing mediapersons at Leimakhong Army headquarters during his brief one-day visit to the state today with a purpose to interact with troops of the Indian Army. He also asserted that any dialogue to end insurgency in Manipur or in other parts of the country should be done within the framework of the Indian Constitution. About eight different underground groups operating in Manipur have offered for holding dialogue and the government has agreed to suspend operations against them, Pranab Mukherjee said adding that it was done after consultation with the state government and at the moment both the Central and the state governments are discussing the conditions of the dialogue to end the insurgency problem. But the question of holding a plebiscite in Manipur is not possible as we all belong to India and live within the territory of India, Mukherjee said. On the Naga issue, the defence minister said that the government of India has been holding dialogue with NSCN(IM) to bring a solution but could not make speedy progress due to the complexity of the problem.
Answering queries by the mediapersons on the Manorama killing episode, Mukherjee said the Army Court of Enquiry which was set up to look into the killing of Thangjam Manorama had already completed its findings, but the portion of allegation of rape in the enquiry is still pending as civil authorities have failed to submit the semen stained clothing worn by Manorama. All the involved Army personnel in that operation are ready for DNA test and the delay of the enquiry reports was due to the lack of evidences and materials which are still in the hands of the civil authority, Mukherjee added. To yet another query, the defence minister said there is no question of intrusion in the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur territory, and there has been no dispute over the bridge at Moreh connecting with Myanmar. If there be any dispute, the matter will be solved immediately through dialogue between the two countries, he stated. The defence minister also announced that four territorial army battalions will be raised, one each in Manipur, Nagalnd, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. He also said that the government is actively considering to allow Manipuri women to enter the said battalion as the women of the state have extraordinary courage, strength and will power.
The defence minister further clarified that his visit is not related to political and civil administration but with the purpose of interacting with troops operating in the state. Detailing the role to be played by the media the minister said the media should impart right information to the public so as to create positive atmosphere for maintenance of peace and tranquility and towards bringing development. Encouraging the efforts being made by the Army in maintaining peace in the state, the defence minister said the Army is not only involved in the counter insurgency operations but also in protecting the borders. He also sought cooperation from the people for bringing peace and normalcy in the state.
The defence minister was accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen JJ Singh and several national mediapersons. After having a formal interaction with the troops at Leimakhong Army Headquarter this afternoon, the defence minister left for Tejpur in Assam canceling his proposed visit to Aizwal due to bad weather.
UNLF throws plebiscite challenge: Is India bold enough to let people of Manipur decide their future, asks Meghen Nitin Gokhale in Hong Kong
“Is India, the world’s largest democracy bold enough to let people of Manipur decide their own future?” This is the question that RK Meghen alias Sana Yaima, leader of the oldest rebel group in the North East has asked Government of India. “Is New Delhi prepared to go beyond the usual approach of offering talks within the ambit of Indian Constitution in dealing with the demand for Manipur’s independence,” Sana Yaima, Chairman of the banned United National Liberation Front (UNLF), queried in an exclusive interview with Tehelka last week. Sana Yaima who slipped out of Manipur and met Tehelka at Hong Kong, said his outfit is willing to discuss peace with Government of India if New Delhi accepts that only people of Manipur can decide their future.
“India is world’s largest democracy and if its leaders believe in democracy, they should let the people decide which way they want to go,” Sana Yaima told Tehelka, the only Indian publication that he granted access to during a short, secretive trip to Hong Kong.
“Plebiscite under UN supervision is the only correct approach to seek resolution to this conflict,” Sana Yaima, who has been underground for 30 years, said. “We have adopted a new approach asking for UN mediation and plebiscite since our earlier demand to recognise our right to sovereignty was not acceptable to New Delhi. Without a UN-supervised plebiscite, talks cannot be trustworthy,” he said, citing example of the Indo-Naga talks which have gone on for eight years without any substantial progress. The four-point formula that UNLF has mooted includes:
A plebiscite under United Nations (UN) supervision to elicit the opinion of the people of the State on the core issue of restoration of Manipur’s independence. Deployment of a UN peace- keeping force in Manipur to ensure the process is free and fair. Surrender of arms by the UNLF to the UN force, matched with the withdrawal of Indian troops. Handing over of political power by the UN in accordance with the results of the plebiscite. When pointed out that the Government is bound to reject these conditions outright, Sana Yaima, whose outfit has been fighting nearly 50,000 Indian troops in the jungles of Manipur for the past six months, said he is willing to go to any reasonable length to explore the possibility of peace with India.
“If New Delhi even accepts in principle that the 4-point proposal that we have mooted can be discussed to begin with, we are willing to come a step forward,” Sana Yaima said. “Ultimately, we are a democratic organisation and only people’s will will be our final arbitrator,” the UNLF chief said.
However, he made it clear that the Government of India’s response has to be substantive and needs to be stated publicly. Sana Yaima, appearing quite different from his usual imposing figure in battle dress, feels that the Government of India’s policy towards insurgent organisations in the North East is dominated by a militaristic attitude and hence it cannot break away from the mentality of treating the issues in the region purely from a law and order point of view.
“Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a sincere man, even his promise of reviewing the AFPSA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) has not been kept. After he himself had admitted that the Act is repressive, military commanders continue to defy him and say that the military cannot work without the AFPSA. Isn’t that contradictory?” he asks.
The UNLF chief asserted that the military considerations continue to dictate Government of India’s policy towards groups fighting for self-determination in the North East. “How else does one explain the fact that India is dealing one by one with different groups? NSCN (IM) has been rendered ineffective with pro- longed talks. They are now trying the same tactics with ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom). Even in Manipur, Prime Minister Singh’s assurance that the AFPSA would be reviewed in six months has been utilised by the Indian Army to launch an operation against us. As many as seven brigades are engaged in an offensive against us for the past six months. And yet, they have not been able to reach our base camp,” Sana Yaima said. He admitted that UNLF is not fighting a conventional battle against the Indian Army. But Sana Yaima insisted the UNLF, which he said had around 2,000 armed cadres, was not on the run. “We are not fighting pitched battles against the invading Indian forces, but that doesn’t mean we are running away. If at all we are running away then they should be able to come to our base headquarters. So far they haven’t done that,” he said.
The UNLF chief called upon the Indian leaders to think beyond clichés. “Ours is a human problem, not a law and order problem. In the past year, the people of Manipur have shown that their voice cannot be suppressed. The agitation against AFPSA was in fact the manifestation of a deeper resentment against Indian occupation. There is a qualitative change in people’s mindset that now sees all Indian promises as empty gestures. When earlier we had set a condition that sovereignty of Manipur should be the core issue for any discussion, we were told it was not acceptable. That is why we have mooted the new four-point proposal. If New Delhi is serious about resolution of the Manipur problem, it has to show boldness and res-pond to us. If it does not, we will understand that Government of India is not interested in any solution,” Sana Yaima said.
“There is no middle point where we can meet with India because we were a sovereign independent country before India annexed Manipur in 1949 and we just want to regain that sovereign independence,” he said. Manipuris, he said boast of two thousand years of history as an independent kingdom until the Maharaja was forced to agree to the State’s accession to India in 1949.
Sana Yaima made it clear that neither he nor UNLF as an organisation is tired of the ‘liberation struggle.’ “If necessary, we will continue our struggle for another hundred years because it is the very fundamental right that we are fighting for, the national right that we are fighting for, so we cannot afford to get tired,” he said. He however made it clear that the UNLF’s fight is against the Indian Government and not again-st the people of India. “We have much to learn and benefit from the people of India but they must be made aware about our problems and our concerns. The families of all Indian soldiers who die in a fight against us must start asking question of the Government why they die as they do,” he said. Sana Yaima, a liberal at heart also admitted that the current ethnic divide in Manipur does not augur well for the future of the State.
A product of Calcutta’s Jadavpur University, Sana Yaima says: “As a majority community, the Meities must be prepared to accept their past mistakes and be ready to make sacrifices in the future. There is no denying the fact that injustice was done to the smaller enthnic communities during feudal times. There are more than 40 different communities living in the present geographical area of Manipur. Our future is inter-link- ed. That is why, the policy of ‘ethno-exclusivity’ adopted by NSCN(IM) is dangerous for Manipur and we oppose it totally.” He lauded the people in the Imphal valley for refusing to get provoked by what he called the NSCN(IM) tactics of pitching Nagas against Meiteis by backing measures like economic blockade. “The NSCN (IM) is taking political advantage of the artificially created divisions among different communities. But it will not serve their cause. In-stead all ethnic communities of today’s Manipur must unite even while recognising each other’s right of self-detrmination. If necessary, a new name can be given to this entity. But we are so intertwined with each other that new demarcations are not possible. Both the government of India and the NSCN (IM) must understand this. If they don’t, there would be unprecedented developnets in the region,” Sana Yaima predicts sending a clear signal that just talking to one group may not resolve the issues in the northeast. (Courtesy Tehelka)
PM assures speedy industrial development of NE Assam Tribune
SHILLONG, Sept 21 – Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has assured a delegation of the Confederation of Industries of Meghalaya (CIM), who called on him in New Delhi recently, that he would sympathetically consider several issues raised by the Confederation for the speedy industrial development of the north-eastern states, according to a PIB press release. The various demands raised in a memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister included issues such as the extension of the NE region Industrial Policy beyond March 31, 2007, so as to attract further investment. There was a need to amend the existing policy by extending the Transport Subsidy Scheme, Interest Subsidy Scheme and the Capital Investment Subsidy Scheme till March 2007, the memorandum pleaded.
Besides, all new units set up in the region should continue to enjoy Excise Duty exemption beyond March 31, 2007 and the cut-off date for eligibility for income tax exemption for industrial units be extended up to March 31, 2012, it demanded. The CIM delegation also urged the Central and State Governments to give top priority to the availability of adequate power so that the tempo of industrialisation is maintained. There was a need to attract private investors for setting up of power plants besides expediting the commissioning of power plants. Proper incentives must be given to attract private sector investments. Further, the banks and other financial institutions need to speed up the appraisal and disbursement process and to adopt a more liberal approach to industrial finance in the region, by providing timely and adequate working capital to the units, the memorandum stated. It was also stressed that the Government of India take steps to prevent infiltration and restoration of peace and harmony in the North East.
ULFA demands halt to killing of cadres Assam Tribune By A Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Sept 21 – The Army, in its ongoing operations in the Dibru-Saikhowa reserve forest, killed a top ULFA leader, Achintya Saikia, in an encounter last evening. The killing comes even as Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee insisted that there are no plans to scale down the Army operations in the forest, a demand that has been made by the banned militant outfit. Meanwhile, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, repeated the demand that the Army be withdrawn “immediately” from the area. An Army spokesman who said that the militant was the officiating battalion commander of the ULFA’s 28th Battalion besides being the outfit’s finance secretary confirmed the killing of Achintya Saikia this afternoon. The 28th battalion of the ULFA is the most active unit in upper Assam. A woman militant, identified only by her first name, Jahnavi, was also killed along with Saikia. The killing of the top ULFA member came the very day when the Defence Minister reiterated that there would be no scaling down of operations against the ULFA cadres believed to be holed up inside the Dibru-Saikhowa reserve forest near Tinsukia in upper Assam. Mukherjee, who is touring the North East, told press persons at Dimapur yesterday that the operations against the militants would go on. The ULFA, which has made some peace overtures recently, had demanded that the operations in the forests be called off. Operations in the area started on August 31.
Siakia, the Army spokesman informed, was killed in an encounter near Ajuka village near the forest at about 4 pm. He said that the encounter between soldiers of the 2 Mountain Division and ULFA militants ensued after the troops were fired upon. In the retaliatory fire, the militant commander and the woman cadre were killed. The troops recovered a pistol, two satellite phones and two bags full of incriminating documents from the spot of the encounter. The spokesman described the encounter as an “unprecedented success” and said that it has dealt a blow to the ULFA. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, in an e-mailed statement this evening, repeated the demand to call off the Army operations and said that Saikia and the woman cadre preferred death to surrender. He said that there is no reason why the ULFA should declare a ceasefire. “Asking us to declare a ceasefire is wrong. In 1990, when the ULFA vice president Pradip Gogoi was proceeding to Guwahati in a bid to implement the organisation’s decision to resolve the issues through negotiations, he was arrested and taken to the Nazira Army camp in a gunny bag like a pig. He was given electric shocks there. Hirakjyoti Mahanta was also brutally killed. This time when we are trying to take forward the talks process and have sent Achintya Saikia to ensure discipline among the lower rung cadres, he was pushed towards death,” said Rajkhowa, describing such acts of the Army as inhuman and gross injustice. He demanded immediate halt to all such activities of the Army. Meanwhile, Pranab Mukherjee is expected to discuss the ongoing operations against the ULFA in detail when he meets with the top brass of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps tomorrow. His latest statement has already given a morale booster to the Army that has been much criticised for the alleged harassment of the common people in the 765 sq km reserve forest during the operations. Mukherjee is scheduled to address a press conference at Tezpur at noon tomorrow.