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ULFA-I, Assam govt deadlock over peace talks: Himanta Biswa Sarma

“I never told Paresh Baruah to leave his sovereignty demand for coming to the table of talk. But I said till the time Paresh Baruah keeps on demanding sovereignty, any kind of peace talks with ULFA-I is not possible,” Sarma told reporters.

GUWAHATI:

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on January 3 said both the Assam government and United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) are in a deadlock over the issue of “sovereignty” demand of the outfit to be an agenda of the peace talks.

“I never told Paresh Baruah to leave his sovereignty demand for coming to the table of talk. But I said till the time Paresh Baruah keeps on demanding sovereignty, any kind of peace talks with ULFA-I is not possible,” Sarma told reporters after attending the Jungal Balahu Divas celebration and the bhumipujan ceremony for the development of tourist facilities at the Jungal Balahu Rampart at Raha in Nagaon district.

“I never asked him to leave his demand. It is up to him and his organization,” Sarma also said.

Paresh Baruah, time and again, has been stressing the outfit’s demand for sovereignty.

The ULFA-I, on many occasions, stated that for peace talks to be initiated, the sovereignty issue must be on the agenda.

“Both the government and the ULFA-I are in a deadlock over talks on this very issue. But we all want the development of Assam,” Sarma also said.

Commenting on the protest over the merger of four districts ahead of the delimitation exercise, the chief minister said All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) will have no role to play in any important issues in the state.

“Neither AIUDF nor AMSU had any role in the creation of the district. They have any business commenting on the merger. It was remerged with the Nagaon district from where it was bifurcated, and it will be carved out in due course of time,” Sarma further said.

Hojai along with three other districts were remerged with their original districts by the state government on December 31 to expedite the delimitation exercise in the state.

“I will go to Hojai and talk to the people regarding this merger,” the chief minister said.

Earlier, Sarma attended the Jungal Balahu Divas celebration and the bhumipujan ceremony for the development of tourist facilities at the Jungal Balahu Rampart at Raha in Nagaon district.

Addressing a public meeting, Sarma said the medieval era Tiwa ruler Jungal Balahu had made immense contributions towards the socio-economic and spiritual progress of not his community alone but also that of others inhabiting Assam. His reign can be termed one of the most glorious chapters of Tiwa community’s history,” the chief minister added.

“It is also an important part of Assam’s history, he stated. It is important the saga of valour of a leader and ruler as great as Jungal Balahu should spread far and wide,” the chief minister said, adding it is with this aim in mind that the Assam government decided to develop the area in and around the Jungal Balahu Rampart as a tourist destination with facilities ranging from electric buggy vehicles, floating bridges over the water section, chang ghar, guest house, Tiwa museum, cycle track, conference hall, information centre and cafeteria, among others, for Rs. 50 crores.

The funding for the same would come from National Bank for Agricultural Development’s Infrastructure development assistance programme, the chief minister said.

He further added that the government will also take necessary measures to acquire or purchase additional 10 bighas of land around the tourist facility so that a park/garden depicting Tiwa culture and identity could be developed.

The chief minister further appealed to the members of the public to cooperate with the government in its endeavour to upgrade the connecting road towards Jungal Balahu Rampart into a two-lane road. He also asked the state’s tourism department to look into the possibility of holding a “tourist fair” every year at the Jungal Balahu tourist centre and hosting Jungal Balahu Divas in association with the Tiwa socio-cultural organizations.

The chief minister also appealed to the Tiwa population to remain rooted to their culture and identity and maintain a safe distance from the trend of religious conversion as has been seen in recent times.

He further said an ethnicity cannot thrive for long if it loses touch with its cultural roots.

The event was also attended by water resources minister Pijush Hazarika, tourism minister Jayanta Mallabaruah, health minister Keshab Mahanta, transport minister Parimal Shuklabadya, MLAs Sashikanta Das, Rupak Sarma, Jitu Goswami, Ramakanta Deuri, Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) chairman Rituparna Barua, Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) Chief Executive Member Jiban Chandra Konwar, among others.

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