Modi government is not interested in ULFA talks: Tarun Gogoi (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Assam is at peace now but more needs to be done to bring investments, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said, alleging that the BJP-led central government had failed to bring logical end to the ongoing talks with ULFA militants.

In an interview to IANS, Gogoi said that while the peace talks with the moderate faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) were on “it appears that the (central) government is not making as much efforts” to bring a desired conclusion to the process in the larger interest of the state as well as the country. The effort, he added, was required for overall peace and development of the border state ravaged by decades of violence.

“Sooner it (the Assam issue) is resolved, the better it is for the state,” Gogoi told IANS.

Gogoi, 81, has been heading the Congress government in Assam for the last 15 years. It was at the start of his third term as the chief minister that a faction of the ULFA militant group signed an agreement in September 2011 to suspend its violent activities and start peace negotiations with the state and central governments.

P.C. Haldar, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, has been brokering peace talks with the ULFA faction led by Arabindo Rajkhowa. The then ULFA chairman was earlier arrested with the help of the Bangladesh government in November 2009.

However, little has been achieved in a series of peace talks with the ULFA that began in February 2011. The hardline ULFA faction led by Paresh Baruah, an elusive rebel commander, has been opposing the talks and is reluctant to give up its demand for a sovereign Assam.

Gogoi said that any negotiation with the Baruah-led faction was impossible till it “gives up the path of violence and demand for a separate state”.

He said with Baruah “There is no chance. I have my doubts. Even if he comes for talks, he is most welcome. Definitely, we want to (talk to him). But, he has to shun the violence first.”

Gogoi counted “peace” in Assam as one of his biggest achievements during his 15-year rule.

“Peace has returned in Assam. Without peace no development can take place. A sense of security has also arrived. When there is security, people will invest. And when investments come, the economy will pick up. Restoration of peace has been the most significant event that has happened in Assam.”

Gogoi has also penned an autobiography: “Turnaround — Leading Assam from the Front”, published by Harper Collins, chronicling his journey through his three consecutive terms — from 2001 to 2016 — and how the Assam story has changed from “headlines about brutal killing to a state that is building smart villages and inviting investments for industrial and social development.”

Assam went to polls on April 4 and 11 to elected a new government. The results will be out on May 19. Gogoi is expecting to return to power for a fourth term.

(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at sidhartha.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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