09/23/2005: "Ousted Therie blames it on Rio Suspended NDF leader calls Naga chief minister a failure"
Ousted Therie blames it on Rio Suspended NDF leader calls Naga chief minister a failure OUR CORRESPONDENT The Telegraph
Kohima, Sept. 22: First ousted from the ministry and then dropped by his party like a hot potato, former Nagaland finance minister K. Therie today played the martyr and labelled friend-turned-foe Neiphiu Rio a failure as chief minister. Therie, who was suspended from the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) yesterday, said the state’s financial position was poor and Rio would have to accept the blame for it. “The certificate will be given by the public. By claiming that ‘I am doing well’, one cannot prove anything,” he said over the phone from Dimapur. As an afterthought, Therie said he had nothing “personal” against the chief minister. He claimed to have appealed to his “sympathisers and supporters” within the NPF to take his suspension “sportingly”. On reports that party members had called for a resolution to move Delhi for funds during the central executive committee’s meeting, Therie said: “This shows the dearth of funds,”
The implication was that Nagaland’s financial position had not improved since Rio had wrested the finance portfolio from him. The suspended NPF legislator said he had not met Rio for a one-to-one since May. The NPF’s disciplinary committee recommended his suspension on May 16. Before that, there was considerable pressure on Rio from the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) to drop Therie, whom the insurgent group perceives to be sympathetic towards the rival Naga National Council (Adinno). Therie said the government’s policy of “equi-closeness” to all groups should be implemented “in letter and spirit”.
Both he and Rio were ambitious young Turks in the erstwhile Congress government, headed by S.C. Jamir. Both quit the Congress and played the lead roles in forming the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland in March 2003. The friends fell out after assuming power. Therie said it was ironical that the NPF spoke of intra-party democracy, but chose to unduly punish him for speaking “within the four walls” of the house. This, he said, amounted to infringing on an elected member’s liberty to speak. Therie’s ouster from the NPF comes at a time when the Congress is trying hard to return to power in Nagaland. Some Congress leaders from the state are in New Delhi to lobby for help to corner the Rio government, sources said
Rio misleading the Nagas: Hokheto Oken Jeet Sandham Neps
Kohima, Sept 22 (NEPS): The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) lambasted the DAN Chief Minister for misleading the people of Nagaland by deliberately misconstruing his controversial policy of “equi-closeness” during the NPF’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting yesterday. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio while addressing the NPF’s CEC Meeting yesterday here at his Banquet Hall said the DAN’s “equi-closeness” was not in support or against any group but it was in support of the peace process.
“This is nothing but a volte face of Rio, because he himself had on number of occasions explained about their policy of equi-closeness that it was the policy of closing to underground group,” Hokheto Sumi, President of the NPCC told this writer over phone from Dimapur today. Therefore, his statement on the equi-closeness during NPF’s CEC meeting yesterday was aimed at misleading the people of Nagaland, because at no point of time had he (Rio) mentioned the equi-closeness was for supporting the peace process, he said. Ridiculing NPF President Dr Shurhozelie’s remark that the present DAN Government has outdone the 10 years record of Congress rule within a period of two and half years with regard to development in the State, the NPCC Chief challenged the NPF President to come out with any specific development or program they had initiated during their two and half years rule in the State. There was nothing to prove except for their completion of works that were left unfinished by the previous Congress regime. In fact, they were busy inaugurating to those works left unfinished by the Congress in their first one year of ruling and after that no activity was seen so far, the NPCC Chief stated.
Sumi however lauded the DAN Government for outdoing the 10 years’ accumulated deficit of Rs 260 crore of the Congress regimes by creating a record of over Rs 400 crore deficit in its (DAN) two and half year rule. On Shurhozelie’s statement that the NPF was the only viable regional political party in Nagaland after disappearance of all other regional parties, Sumi informed those disappeared were the breeds of the NPF and therefore they (NPF) would also disappear one day like its breeds. On Rio’s regionalism concept that it was only through the regional party that their traditions, rich culture and heritage and unique history could be preserved and protected, the NPCC asked, “Does it mean that the national political parties like BJP and JD (U), components of his DAN Government, are against our traditions, rich culture and heritage and unique history.” The NPCC chief said by compulsion, the NPF roped in national parties, BJP and JD (U), as they needed help from the BJP-led NDA Government at the Center at that point of time. Now the DAN Chief Minister was talking like NPF Chief Minister. Sumi said the installation of DAN Government was by compulsion and not out of necessity and further called Rio and his cohorts in regional NPF as “opportunists.”
Border: Naga, Assam officials meet today From our Correspondent The Sentinel
JORHAT, Sept 22: A commissioner-level parley will be held between the governments of Assam and Nagaland at Numaligarh tomorrow with regard to the ongoing inter-state border row. The upper Assam Commissioner along with the deputy commissioners of all districts of upper Assam, the superintendents of police of these districts and Forest Department officials will meet top officials of Nagaland to review the latest developments along the border areas. A well-placed source told The Sentinel that recurrent incidents of encroachment, extortion and attack leading to simmering tension would hold centrestage in the talks tomorrow. It may be mentioned here that in a commissioner-level talk held earlier here, a decision was taken to depute a joint team of border magistrates and Forest officials of both States to examine the various allegations which had soured relations between the two neighbours. However, the Nagaland Government has apparently bypassed this agreement as reports of excesses committed by the residents of that State continue to pour in. In recent days, the establishment of Naga villages in reserve forest areas belonging to Assam and the alleged harassment of Assamese residents have further queered the pitch for a resolution of the long-standing border stalemate between the two States.
IM condemns Ngarian attack The Imphal Free Press
Dimapur, Sep 21: The NSCN-IM, Zeliangrong Region has strongly condemned the attack on Indian security forces at Ngarian village by a UG outfit on the night of September 19.
"The Zeliangrong Region,NSCN-IM strongly condemned the brutal attack of the Imphal valley based UG outfit on the Indian security forces right in the middle of Ngarian Zeliangrong village on which many unaware Indian jawans succumbed to injuries while many had been hospitalised in serious conditions," said the Zeliangrong Region of the NSCN-IM in a press statement. The statement then termed the incident as unfortunate by saying, "the proclaimed revolutionary outfit resorted to such unbecoming action within the periphery human habitation causing unnecessary apprehension harrasments mentally and physically."
It then said that "the Gurkha Regiment stationed there attached in the incident is learnt to have restrained from taking retaliatory action and harrasment on the innocent public of Ngarian and surrounding villages."
The statement of the NSCN-IM said that the Gurkha Regiment deserved appreciation, gratitude and applauds from all quarters. The statement then warned any outfit from "intruding into the Zeliangrong Region, Nagalim and converting it into battlefields in the backdrop of the ongoing Indo-Naga cease-fire". The statement of the NSCN-IM, Zeliangrong Region then expressed condolences to the killed and injured Indian security forces "in Jesus Christ."
NPF legislator K Therie denies suspension Dimapur, September 22, 2005 Denying receipt of any formal order of suspension from the Nagaland People's Front (NPF), former state finance minister and NPF legislator K Therie on Thursday described his reported suspension from the NPF as "political stunt".
In a statement, Therie appealed to all his sympathizers and well-wishers to take the matter "sportingly". The NPF in a meeting on Wednesday had "officially" suspended Therie for anti-party activities. Therie said inner party democracy had guaranteed freedom of expression which is also the fundamental right of a citizen. "Expressing our thoughts within the four corners of the party forum for the improvement of the functioning of the party and government is the right of any party member," the former finance minister said. In a democracy, it is for the majority to either accept or reject suggestions, he said, pledging his support to the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government's common minimum programme. Therie, however, said the "certificate" of his performance "could come only from the electorate". (By arrangement with Newsfile)
NPF Central Executive Committee adopts resolutions Morung Express News September 22
Kohima: The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Nagaland People’s Front, in its meeting held on September 21 at Kohima, adopted a total of 13 resolutions. The CEC, while congratulating Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio under whose leadership the Government has completed two and a half years, lauded NPF ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries for their contributions. It also expressed appreciation to the DAN alliance for effectively playing the role of a facilitator to the on-going peace process and further urged upon the Government of India to pursue the peace process with utmost sincerity ‘as the present trend falls short of the expectations of the people.’
The Naga Hoho and other civil societies were also commended for organizing the Naga Integration rally. The CEC further expressed anguish and anxiety on the unabated prevalence of factional clashes while urging upon the warring groups to cease fratricidal killings. Acknowledgement was expressed upon all law enforcing agencies and the DAN for its ‘unique war-footing initiative’ in development activities on all fronts. While going into raptures over the Government’s various achievements, the CEC expressed regret for the delay in disbursement of post-matric scholarship due to slackness on the part of Tribal Affairs Ministry, Delhi.
Minister for Agriculture Kuzholuzo (Azo) Nienu (Middle), Parliamentary Secretary R Khing (Right) during the first Central Executive Committee meeting of the Nagaland People’s Front at State Banquet Hall. Kohima onSeptember 21 (MExPix)
Life in the jungles: The switch over from Meghen to Sanayaima Source: The Sangai Express
Imphal, September 22: Very few outside his trusted band of guerrillas have seen Sana Yaima, the most elusive of Manipuri militant leaders. Nitin A Gokhale met the legendary rebel deep in the jungles on the India-Myanmar border a couple of years ago and now again in Hong Kong last week. Sana Yaima’s tale has grown in the dense, cruel jungles of North East India and Myanmar for 30 years. er since Rajkumar Meghen assumed the Meitei name Sama Yaima, picked up a gun and vanished into the forest three decades ago, hardly anyone has seen him.
He has rarely met the media or talked about the underground United Liberation Front of Manipur (UNLF), of which he is the leader for the last 20 years. But for his olive green fatigues, you would think he is an academician. He speaks like a university don, utterly convincing in his arguments, sure of his facts—far removed from the image of a gun-toting rebel. By the time he went to Kolkata’s Jadavpur University in the late 1960s to pursue higher education, his mind was set on becoming a rebel. Those were the early days of the Naxalite uprising and the charged political atmosphere influenced him deeply.
Sana Yaima says living in the tough jungles all over the North East—be it eastern Nagaland, Myanmar’s Kachin area or south-western Manipur—has become a way of life. “I will perhaps feel suffocated if I have to live in an urban setting”.
Except for brief forays to Geneva to represent the UNLF at the UN Sub-commission on Indigenous People and perhaps an occasional trip to South-East Asian countries, Yaima stays with his 2000-strong ‘army’, that includes around a 100 women. Sana Yaima’s wife and their two sons have taken his absence in their stride.
“My wife keeps herself busy in teaching in a mission school. My elder son has done his PhD in remote sensing from Manipur University and the younger is a graduate in computer science,” the UNLF leader says with pride. The distance hurts—he can only meet them in hiding— but “if this is my calling, so be it,” he says. In his early underground days, security forces used to routinely harass his family, barging into the house every night, looking for him. “By now they seem to have given up,” he says. His cadres look up to him as a role model.
nd why not. He is 59 years old, but still treks the tough terrain and prefers to stay with the younger militants.
“In the jungles he is like one of us, not asking for any undue privileges. Even at this age, he lives like we do and endures all the hardships that come with it,” says Chinglen, a ‘staff officer’ at the outfit’s base camp. But the man himself says, “I don’t believe in personality cults”. He points out that though the UNLF is older than most insurgent outfits in the North East, (established on November 24, 1964) “very little is known about us in the media.
This low profile is deliberate,” he says, “We are acutely aware that the media can put you on a pedestal but it can also bring you crashing down faster than you can imagine.
We therefore avoid too much publicity”.
Sana Yaima however believes that the UNLF is now ready to let the world know what it is all about.
“As an organisation our effort has been to first do solid groundwork and then talk about it,” he says. Between 1964 and 1990 UNLF was a social organisation. It took up arms only in 1990 and now has an armed wing called the Manipur Peoples Army (MPA). Because of its roots in social work, UNLF is regarded as a responsible outfit among a surfeit of insurgent groups in Manipur. In fact EN Rammohan, former Director General of the Border Security Force and ex-adviser to the Governor of Manipur, wrote in a strategic affairs journal a couple of years ago: “Of the five major (Imphal) valley underground groups, the UNLF’s ideology is by and large intact. The senior leadership is well educated and has good organisational control. The UNLF took to arms only in the late 1980s. The self-styled chief of this group, Sana Yaima, has royal lineage”.
The legend of Sana Yaima has only become bigger since then. (Courtesy-Tehelka)
Subsidised chopper services in Northeast to continue Newind Friday September 23 2005 00:00 IST
NEW DELHI: The government, on Thursday, approved the continuation of subsidised helicopter services in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Tripura. A meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cleared the move whereby the amount of subsidy, based on the actual cost of helicopter services minus recoveries from passenger fares, would be met in the 75:25 ratio. The synopsis of the meeting was delivered by Information and Broadcasting Minister S Jaipal Reddy said after the meeting.
The Home Ministry would meet 75 percent of the costs while the rest would be borne by the state governments, he said. However, the cabinet set the ceiling of flying hours every month at a maximum of 100 hours. In the case of Dauphin helicopters, the ceiling would be 100 hours. For the MI-17 helicopters, the ceiling would be 80 hours in Arunchal Pradesh, 60 hours in Meghalaya, 50 hours in Sikkim and 40 hours in Tripura. Assam and Nagaland are the only two of the eight northeastern states with rail links. Connectivity to the region is hampered by limited air services and even the frequency of the available services is low.
Governor visits Ukhrul John K Kaping Kangla
Ukhrul, Sep 22 : As a part his programme to physically inspect development activities being undertaken in the hill districts of the state, the Governor Dr SS Sidhu today paid a visit to Ukhrul district by road to oversee all-round development in the district. This is his second visit to a hill district of the state, the earlier one being to Senapati recently. During his visit, the Governor was accompanied by state health minister L Nandakumar and several government and district level officials.
The Governor was accorded a warm welcome at Ukhrul district headquarter by several leaders of civil society organisations, NGOs and district level officers of the government. The Governor, while interacting with the people and public leaders explained that he came to the district to get first hand knowledge of the problems being faced by the people of the district, particularly in the areas of education, water supply, health, road communication networks among others. The Governor noted down the problems being faced by the Ukhrul public in the field of education like lack of teaching staff at Tolloi higher secondary school which has been running without its principal since the year it was upgraded to higher secondary from junior school level.
When apprised about poor power supply in the district, the Governor advised officers of concerned departments to examine the matter. He also inspected the district hospital at Ukhrul with state health minister L Nandakumar. The Governor was much concerned about the increasing number of HIV/AIDS infected persons in the district and advised associated local NGOs working in the field to provide necessary infrastructures. He further instructed the health minister to start construction work of the new 50 bedded district hospital at the earliest. On the way to Ukhrul district headquarters, the Governor distributed relief materials to the physically handicapped and orphans donated by the Indian Red Cross Society, Manipur branch and also inspected the health camp organized by the directorate of health services, government of Manipur at Lambui village.
Pranab to ULFA: Back gesture with substance, the Indian Exprss
Bad weather today prevented Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee from flying to the forward areas of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh along the China border. But he said he was returning to Delhi convinced that border disputes with Beijing were being resolved in an atmosphere of bonhomie.
But he didn’t sound so hopeful on another front in the North-East—the proposed ULFA talks with the Centre through a People’s Consultative Group. He said ground rules for the talks were not laid out and that there could be no dialogue if ULFA’s ‘‘gesture is not backed by substance’’.
‘‘It is difficult to predict what these ground rules may be, since everything is still only at the informative level. Who will talk terms and conditions? The ULFA has made no indications of this and unless it does, the Government cannot respond,’’ Mukherjee said. On the Sino-Indian front, he indicated that the soon-to-be officialised Nathu La trade route was one of the most reassuring signs that the ‘‘massive expansion in trade’’ would enhance the will to solve existing border and security issues. ‘‘There are three important indications of improving security relations. One, both sides have agreed to resolve all outstanding issues. Two, the joint statement signed in April emphasises our new strategic partnership. And three, the massive expansion of trade,’’ he said.
Operations to continue against ULFA: Mukherjee Newmai News Network Guwahati: Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has put aside any possibility of the Army going soft against the proscribed ULFA in view of the nascent peace initiative undertaken on behalf of the outfit by some individuals. Talking to media persons at the Rangiya Army base today in Assam, the Defence Minister said that the on-going Army operation in Assam was in tune with the counter-insurgency strategy of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Army, operating under the Defence Ministry is only a tool to execute it and that the Army could not stop because of pressure from some group of individuals."
The minister referred to the pressure mounted by the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), which was formed by the ULFA to prepare ground for possible negotiation with the Government of India (GOI) , to stop the on-going Army operation especially the one inside Dibru-Saikhowa National Park along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in Tinsukia district of the state.The Army has laid a siege to the national park suspecting that many of the top Ulfa leaders has been taking shelter inside the Park. This has forced Ulfa to mobilize its sympathizers associated with the PCG to launch a public campaign against the Army operations. Mukherjee , however, appreciated the ‘individualistic’ peace initiative to broker talks between the Ulfa and the GOI while disclosing that the effort was yet to acquire an official status. Refering to the 11-member PCG formed by the Ulfa , he said "I have read about the PCG only in newspapers. It is yet to be taken up at the level of the government or the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA).
Many businesses, offices shut down due to exhorbitant UG demands The Imphal Free Press
Imphal, Sep 22: Even as a good number of central security forces together with the state`s own constabularies are engaged in countering the insurgent organisations operating in the state, and despite non stop counter insurgency operations by them, the activities of the undergrounds seem to be on the increase in the last few months. After the closing down of the transport agencies ferrying goods from outside the state and the closure of Dharmasala at Thangal bazar due to heavy monetary demands by underground groups, it is now the turn of the shops at Gambhir Singh shopping arcade to pull down shutters. Beginning today, the arcade has virtually shut. Many other small business establishments and educational centres at Thangal bazar are also reportedly being harassed with heavy monetary demands.
According to reliable reports the closure of the shops is related with the inability of the shopkeepers to meet these monetary demands. It may be recalled, the state taxation department office located at the Kabo Leikai PDA complex on the southern side to the 2nd MR has been shut because of mass earned leave taken by the staff of the office since August 25 again over monetary demands by underground organisations. The office employees were constantly troubled by telephonic warnings to raise the amount that had been demanded. In the Kangpokpi area of the Sardar hills a particular underground organisation operating actively in the area has imposed public curfew since the last nearly one week in the night time starting from 8 pm. According to a reliable source from the area, cadres of the outfit responsible for the imposition of curfew also conduct regular patrolling in the area, even at the Kangpokpi bazar during the curfew hours, and threaten those who violate the curfew. Some residents of the area also said that simultaneous patrolling in some areas was also being conducted by the security forces deployed there with an apparent understanding with the armed organisation.
People of the area remain confined inside their homes after dusk for fear of the brutal consequences of violating the curfew. Yet another report said that the taxation office at Bijang, Churchandpur had also shut down due to monetary demands by a particular underground group operating in the area. A reliable source said that the amount that the particular outfit is demanding from the office is Rs. 70 lakhs. The district forest office at Churchandpur has also closed down for similar reasons. Agencies dealing in domestic cooking gas located in Imphal have also shut down businesses from yesterday due to reported heavy demands from underground organisations.
As per reports available, the agencies had decided to stop distributing refilled cooking gas cylinders in the face of fresh monetary demands from various underground organisations. They are likely to remain shut till an agreement is reached between the UGs and the agencies. Even as there were the reports of such closures of various establishment in the state out of which in some cases the police registered cases, still there was no apparent action taken up by the state government.
Army operations to continue: Pranab From Anujata D Talukdar Assam Tribune
RANGIYA, Sept 22 – Making it absolutely clear that there would be no immediate scaling down of Army operations against the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in the state, Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today that the Army would complete the task of wiping out insurgency in the state. He said that there is no question of a ceasefire by the Army unless the latest peace process takes a more concrete shape and a formal ceasefire agreement is inked. Mukherjee, who today winded up his three-day visit to the region, said during a press conference here that there is no question of a unilateral ceasefire by the Army “unless the ground rules are determined and both sides agree to a ceasefire.” Making it clear that the Army would not call off its campaign against the ULFA militants in the Dibru-Saikhowa reserve forest in upper Assam, he said that the Army would complete the job assigned to it. “It is not possible,” he said.
“No decision has been taken in respect of any ceasefire between the ULFA and the security forces. Somebody simply may make a proposal that we would like to talk. That does not mean that automatically ceasefire would be restored. Ground rules have to be prepared. Who will talk, what would be the terms and conditions of talks. Unless all these ground rules are laid down it is just not possible for the government to respond to it,” Mukherjee stated. “The Army is not deployed on their own. They are brought in when the civil administration and the Central paramilitary forces fail to control the situation. Once the Army is given a definite task, it has to complete it,” he asserted.
He said that while the latest initiative to bring about peace in the state is welcome, there is no positive action by the ULFA. “Gesture I welcome. But gesture must be backed by substance.” He, however, refused to spell out what the substance would be. The government has not even formally discussed the ULFA terms for talks. “It has never been discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS),” he disclosed. A member of the CCS, he said he is not aware of the status of ULFA’s talks offer. “Some negotiations have been initiated and we always welcome these individual initiatives. It is not that I do not want it. Unless ground rules are determined and both sides agree to have some sort of ceasefire, ceasefire cannot be implemented in that fashion.” He said that where militant groups have entered into peace agreements with the Centre, the Army has suspended operations in those areas. “Problems are still there and it is not my claim that we have been able to eliminate them totally. But in many areas we are in the process and somewhere we have been able to enter into arrangements with some groups who have agreed, through negotiations, to surrender, to give up violence, lay down arms and in those areas we have also suspended operations.” Referring to reports of problems being faced by the civilians in the Dibru-Saikhowa operation, Mukherjee said that such inconveniences could not be wished away. “This is the tragic part of it. Unfortunately, it cannot be avoided. But we will try to reduce the inconvenience of the people as much as possible,” he said.
“I have no problem if we find some way out, some solution. But it has to be credible and there must be some sort of ground rules. Some group has been appointed by somebody and they will dictate the terms without government having any knowledge, how can it be possible,” he asked about the ULFA-appointed People’s Consultative Group (PCG) demanding a halt to operations in Dibru-Saikhowa.
Asked whether the Union Government is contemplating joint operations with countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh against militants, Mukherjee said that it is the prerogative of those countries. Every country is sovereign, he pointed out. Mukherjee said that the Army is taking utmost care to ensure that there are no human rights violations during counter insurgency (CI) operations. “Whenever there have been violations we have taken stringent action,” he said. “But we must keep in view that they (Army) work in extraordinary and unnatural situations.” The armed forces are sensitised on this issue. In his address to the officers and men of the Rangiya-based Red Horns Division earlier, Mukherjee exhorted the Army personnel to take care that there are no rights violations during CI operations.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen JJ Singh, who accompanied the Defence Minister, said that not a single case of human rights violation has been reported this year in the North East or Jammu and Kashmir. In his address to his men, Mukherjee said that the government is well aware of the problems being faced by the soldiers. “We intend to provide better facilities to you,” he promised. He said that relations with China have been improving and the country is striving for good relations with all its neighbours. “We want peace to prevail but should not let down our guard,” he said. “India has no aggressive intentions but we will not tolerate any infringement of our territory,” he told the armymen in chaste Hindi. The Minister said that the government would provide the latest weaponry and equipment to the Army. Modernisation is being given full emphasis. Defence procurement procedures have been streamlined and made transparent. Work on the indigenously designed light combat aircraft (LCA), Tejas, and the advanced light helicopter (ALH) is progressing satisfactorily, he said. A separate department has also been set up under the Defence Ministry to look after the welfare of the ex-servicemen. Some two lakh residential quarters for servicemen are also being built, he said. Mukherjee, who earlier visited Manipur and Nagaland, was scheduled to meet troops deployed in the Kameng sector (Arunachal Pradesh) at Bumla this morning. Bad weather, however, forced the cancellation of this trip. “It is unfortunate but I will go there next time,” he said.
Ground rules must for negotiations with ULFA: Defence Minister Dibru Saikhowa operation will not hamper peace process: Gogoi NET News Network Guwahati, Sept 22:
Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that groun d rules had to be formed before any kind of peace negotiation is initiated between the banned ULFA and the Centre.
"Unless ground rules are laid down, the Centre cannot respond. Somebody has to make a beginning and prepare the ground rules," Mukherjee told reporters at the Army 21 Mountain Division headquarters in Rangiya. Asked to elaborate on the ground rules and who would initiate the process, he said, "It is for the union Home ministry to finalise the details". Stating no decision has been taken with regard to the ceasefire with ULFA so far, Mukherjee said he had "no idea about the ongoing peace process as the matter has never been discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Security." Welcoming any individual initiative to bring the ULFA for peace talks, the Defence minister said, "Unless and until the ground rules are framed and both sides - Centre and ULFA - agree for a ceasefire, negotiations cannot be held".
Referring to the People's Consultative Group (PCG) formed by ULFA to do the spadework for formal talks with the Centre, he said, "this is a group formed by the ULFA but the PCG cannot dictate terms to the government. The gesture must be backed by substance." Regarding ongoing Army operations against the group at Dibrusaikhowa in Tinsukia district, which were severely criticised by ULFA when it had offered to sit for peace talks, the Defence minister said, "the Army is only doing its duty and some inconveniences here and there are bound to happen in any kind of security operation." "The Army is not deployed on its own but has to move in only when the civil police and the paramilitary forces fail", he added. On allegations of human rights violations by the troops, Mukherjee said the Army had been given instructions to apply utmost restraint during its security operations and any individual violation was strictly dealt with and punished. Meanwhile, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said that there was no indication from ULFA that it would declare ceasefire and stop its operations prior to the proposed peace talks with the Centre. "I requested the ULFA a year ago to declare ceasefire but they have not responded. I wanted the ceasefire for the talk process to start", Gogoi told reporters here. "The initiative for talks has already taken place. Our plea is that efforts should continue to the negotiation table. It should not stop", he said. Replying to a question whether he would write to the Centre for also initiating ceasefire as "it has to be from both sides", the chief minister said, "if the ULFA responds to my call for ceasefire, then I will write". "I am quite hopeful we will be able to come to some sort of understanding", he said. To queries if the ongoing Army operations against the ULFA at Dibru Saikhowa in Tinsukia district despite ULFA coming forward for talks would hamper the peace initiatives, Gogoi said he did not think so.
Asked why the state government, which heads the anti- insurgency Unified Command Structure, was not halting Army operations against ULFA under the present circumstances, he said, "we head the policy part of Unified Commnad and the Army is the head of operations".