M A I N   N E W S

Centre ready for talks with Bodos
Asks Assam to initiate peace process
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 21
Expressing its willingness to hold tripartite talks with militant group Nationalist Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Centre today asked Assam Government to begin the peace process with “restrained use of force”.

“The Assam Chief Minister had told me that he had received an offer from the NDFB and wanted to know if the Union Government will participate.....We said carry on with the talks and we will stand by them,” Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil told newspersons after a one-hour meeting with Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi here at North Block.

The NDFB had declared a unilateral ceasefire on October 15.

“If it (the initiative) achieves success, the credit will go to them but if they will have difficulties, we will share them. If not successful then the blame will be ours,” Mr Patil said.

The Home Minister said he had asked the Assam Government to work out the modalities and ground rules for ceasefire and talks with the NDFB and once that was set to the satisfaction of the parties concerned, the Centre would be willing to hold tripartite talks, involving state government and the NDFB.

Besides discussing the way and the manner in which the process should be carried forward, the meeting also deliberated upon the various issues which could be taken up during the talks between the government and the NDFB, he said.

Asked to comment on reports over the willingness of ULFA to hold talks with Centre, Mr Patil said the Centre had not yet received any authentic report in this regard.

The Centre would be happy if all militant groups came to the negotiating table, he said.

Earlier, emerging out of the meeting, Mr Gogoi said “today the government gave me the go-ahead” to start the formal peace process.”

During the meeting, which was the first between Mr Gogoi and Mr Patil after the unilateral ceasefire announced by the NDFB, it was also decided that there was need for preparing the ground before talks started.

Asked about the willingness of representatives of the Apunba Lup, an umbrella organisation of 32 outfits spearheading the campaign against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), to hold talks with the Centre, Mr Patil said they were expected to meet him sometime in the first week of November.

On the ongoing fresh round of talks with the NSCN(I-M) leaders in Bangkok, Mr Patil refused to divulge details.

Asked why the negotiations were not being held in India, he merely said the Centre was keen on smooth progression of negotiations than the venue of the meeting.

Mr Gogoi said the modalities of the peace process would be worked out with an NDFB representative after which tripartite talks involving the Centre, the state government and the NDFB would be held.

He said while the NDFB had offered unilateral ceasefire, the state government had not reciprocated the move but had already asked security forces to exercise “restraint” while dealing with the NDFB militants.

The Chief Minister said the NDFB would decide who would represent it in the talks with the state government for preparing the ground work for the process.

“If necessary, we will release NDFB leaders who are currently in jail,” Mr Gogoi said.

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