Assam CM Himanta appeals to ULFA chief Paresh Baruah to come forward for peace talks

Express News Service
GUWAHATI: In his maiden media briefing as the Chief Minister of Assam on Monday, Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed to Paresh Baruah, the self-styled “commander-in-chief” of the insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) to come forward for peace talks.

“A dialogue with the ULFA is a two-way traffic. Paresh Baruah has to come forward. Similarly, we have to go to him. If both sides have the will, communication won’t be difficult,” Sarma said.

He said peace returned to Bodoland Territorial Region and Karbi Anglong after the Centre signed peace pacts with the various insurgent groups.

“Over the past five years (under the BJP government), people saw a process of peace and development in Assam. Peace returned to Bodo areas and Karbi Anglong. Our efforts now will be to bring the remaining rebel groups to the talks table for the establishment of permanent peace in the state,” the CM said.

Appealing to Baruah and other ULFA members to join the peace process, he said killings and abductions will not solve problems. He was optimistic that the government will be able to bring all groups, still wielding the gun, to the mainstream within the next five years.

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Sarma said the first priority of his government will be to contain the Covid pandemic, stating that the situation in the state was alarming.

The first meeting of the state Cabinet will be held on Tuesday and the CM said the government will try to fulfil all pre-poll promises, which include making Assam flood-free.

On the National Register of Citizens (NRC), he said the government will favour 20% re-verification of documents in the districts that share a border with Bangladesh and 10% re-verification elsewhere.

“If the old draft of the NRC is found to be flawless during the re-verification process, we will go ahead with it. But if anomalies are detected, we will want the Supreme Court to see to it,” he said.

The NRC of 1951 was updated in Assam under the direct monitoring of the apex court. Over 19 lakh people were left out of the draft.

Asked if his government will bring in a law against “love jihad” and “land jihad” (a way to force people sell off their lands), Sarma said, “The poll promises are solemn for us. We will implement each one of them.”

Stating that the state government has Rs 7000 crore in the treasury, he said Assam was one of the best fiscally-managed states in the country and there was absolutely no cause of concern.

Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdish Mukhi administered the oath of office and secrecy to Sarma. Thirteen others were also sworn in as Cabinet Ministers.

Three of them belong to two BJP allies. They are Asom Gana Parishad president Atul Bora, its working president Keshab Mahanta and former Rajya Sabha member UG Brahma of the United People’s Party Liberal.

The BJP ministers are party’s state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, Parimal Suklabaidya, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Ajanta Neog, Ranoj Pegu, Sanjay Kishan, Jogen Mohan, Ashok Singhal, Pijush Hazarika and Bimal Bora.

Brahma (UPPL), Pegu, Singhal and Bora are first-time ministers.

Neog, the only woman in the ministry, had defected to the BJP from the Congress in December last year.

Some CMs of northeastern states were among dignitaries who attended the swearing-in ceremony. Before taking the oath, Sarma had visited the Kamakhya and a few other temples.