Peace still remains elusive in Assam
Peace and stability in Assam remain elusive, even though people in the tea and oil-rich state want an end to insurgency through negotiations between the powerful rebels and New Delhi.
The state, once racked by insurgency, appears to be quieter after several top leaders of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were arrested.
These jailed leaders have expressed willingness to hold political negotiations with the government to find a lasting solution to end the three-decades-old conflict.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a delegation of citizens from Assam last week that leaders of the ULFA would be allowed to attend talks with “dignity and not like criminals”.
At the same time, the government has not withdrawn numerous criminal charges, including ‘waging war against the country’, which were slapped against them.
The jailed rebel leaders have been demanding their release before any peace talks could start. But the government has no powers to release them, unless the courts clear them of those charges and set them free.
Also, there is no guarantee these leaders would not escape once they are let off. In the past, they have fled after being released from jail to hold negotiations.
Though bombings at crowded places and attacks on vital installations and government troops have no doubt stopped, widespread collection of money through extortion and kidnapping for ransom by rebels continue across the state.
Peace still remains a far cry in Assam, one of the eight states in India’s revolt-racked northeast, circled by China, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
Security experts have warned the government not to push reclusive rebel leaders who are at large and not interested to negotiate anything short of sovereignty.
Trying to sideline those hardcore leaders could only invite more trouble. Though these leaders may have a smaller number of followers, their striking capability is more potent and could cause maximum damage.
Until the deadlock is broken, peace would remain elusive in Assam.